This is like weekend food with Monday health factor to make up for the OTHER weekend food you ate and are now sweating out in hot yoga.
No? Just me?
Let's not worry about that, though, let's worry about homemade BBQ Sauce and sexy chicken and healthy pasta with tons of veg. Let's worry about THAT.
Jay LOVES barbecue sauce. Mainly the brown stuff with tons of sugar out of a bottle, but now likes spicy stuff and weird flavors like curry in his BBQ sauce. But he really likes it, in a really comical way: all of his friends just kind of know this about him. It's like "oh, there's Hastings with a regular sandwich, I KNOW what condiment is dripping out of it.
So strange. It took me a while to remember this about him, because it's just so specific, and maybe also because I really don't like BBQ sauce that much? I mean, it's OK, and I like vinegary varieties, but the brown sugary stuff just ISN'T my jam at all, so I assume no one else likes it either. Clearly.
Here we have a really light and flavorful pasta salad with hardly any dressing and some SEXY barbecue sauce with spice and flavor that takes 5 minutes to make. It's perfect for meal prep too - the pasta salad and barbecue chicken keep wonderfully in the fridge for lunches all week. Take THAT, Monday!
For the BBQ sauce, you need Worcestershire sauce, Balsamic vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, cayenne pepper (skip it if you don't like spice!), onion powder, and garlic powder. Skip one or two of the ingredients if you don't have them; the main flavors here are ketchup, brown sugar, chili powder, and Worcestershire. Everything else is just a bow on top of a lovely present in the form of chicken salad.
Let's get on the sauce first: add all the ingredients to a teeny pot over medium heat. Let them gently warm through to combine, stirring every once in awhile, until the sugar is melted and the sauce is bubbly. Let the sauce bubble for 3 minutes, then turn the sauce off. Taste. Adjust seasonings. BBQ sauce! The balsamic makes this really special-tasting without taking away from classic barbecue sauce.
Now, onto the salad! For that you need the sauce you just made, olive oil, short cut pasta, a bell pepper, cucumber, some green onions, frozen or fresh corn kernels, lemon, chicken breast, and cilantro, optional but it's wonderful in this salad.
First, get some water boiling for the pasta. Boil it to al dente in salted water, then drain it and set it aside to cool with the BBQ sauce.
While the pasta is working, let's prep the veggies! Turn a skillet to medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil for the chicken, too. Dice the cucumber.
Dice the bell pepper.
Thinly slice the green onions and chop the cilantro leaves, and we're all prepped up.
Now, we should have BBQ sauce and pasta cooling and a hot pan for the chicken. Yes? Yes. Add the chicken to the pan in one layer and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. If you don't have a pan large enough for all of the chicken just do two batches - since this is a salad everything doesn't need to be hot anyway. You can also grill your chicken!
Let the chicken cook on the first side for 3-6 minutes, depending on the thickness, until the edges start to turn white. Then, flip it!
Let the chicken cook for another 3 or so minutes, just until cooked through, then drizzle some of the BBQ sauce over the whole skillet.
Toss the chicken around in the skillet for just one more minute, then remove the chicken to a plate.
To the same hot pan, add the corn kernels. They should sizzle!
Toss the kernels in the chicken drippings and sauce for 3 minutes to slightly char the corn, then turn the heat off the skillet.
Now, time to assemble the salad! Add the pasta to a bowl, and drizzle it with the remaining olive oil and lemon juice.
Then, add all the prepped veggies to the bowl, including the corn.
Stir everything together, and taste the pasta: salt and pepper to your little heart's desire.
Now, you can use this as two recipes, serve them together, a million ways to work this. You COULD chop the chicken and add it to the pasta, then drizzle the plate with the sauce. My fav method is to keep them separate with big chunks of chicken, however.
I toss it in a little extra of the sauce...
....then heap it on top of the pasta to serve.
And that, my friends, is a SALAD. But for Monday. In the summer. With grillish flavors.
Worth it, even if you don't think you like BBQ sauce. Make like my formerly fat husband and get this all OVER everything. Because healthy is important.
BBQ Chicken Chopped Pasta Salad
- For the Sauce½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- For the Salad½ pound short cut pasta
- 1 pound thin cut chicken breasts or tenderloins
- ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
- ½ cup chopped cucumber
- 1 bell pepper chopped
- 3 scallions thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- juice of ½ small lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- For the BBQ sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small skillet. Bring the pan to medium heat until the sauce bubbles; stir to combine everything. Let the sauce bubble gently for 4 minutes, then turn off the heat. Taste, and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Let cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- For the salad, cook the pasta to al dente per the package directions and let cool while you cook the chicken and prep the veggies. For the chicken, preheat a large skillet to medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook the chicken for about 4 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through, then drizzle 2 tablespoons of the sauce into the skillet. Toss the chicken in the sauce for 1 minute, then remove to a plate. Add the corn kernels to the same skillet and toss in the chicken drippings for 3 minutes until slightly charred, then turn off the heat and let the corn cool.
- To assemble, cube the chicken. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the pasta, then toss with the veggies and herbs. Serve the pasta veggie mixture topped with a heap of chicken and extra sauce. Enjoy!