After years of following food blogs, I have learned at least this: some people hate cilantro. AKA coriander. AKA Chinese parsley. I love the stuff, but evidently there are those who can’t stand it — not even a decorative sprig atop their plate.
So, if you are one of those people who think that cilantro AKA coriander AKA Chinese parsley tastes like soap/dirt/other-nonfood-item, then please, for goodness’ sake, do not try this recipe. Oh. And also, do not try this recipe if you do not like vinegar.
Now if you are like me and have no qualms about cilantro or vinegar, please DO try this recipe. It is most definitely a yummy. At least it is for me. And maybe for you, too!
There is a teeny tiny story behind this recipe: Apparently, my mom was a very hungry lady during her pregnancy (as are most, I hear) and one day while she was pregnant with me, she threw together this pasta salad. She loved it and ate it all the time … 22 years later, and I still crave it every few months. I would probably have a hankering for it more often, too, if one batch didn’t result in a giant bowl that lasts for nearly a week. Ready-made lunch!
The recipe can be tweaked all kinds of ways to suit your own tastes — these are just approximations of what I happened to toss into the bowl this time.
My Mom’s Pasta Salad
2/3 of a 1-lb. box of macaroni (bowtie works well, too)
1 chicken breast, skinless
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
2 big handfuls of cilantro (again, if you don’t like cilantro, be very afraid)
shredded Parmesan cheese
For the vinaigrette (make at least 1 cup total)
equal parts vegetable oil (or your favorite salad oil) and white vinegar (I used ~ 1/2 cup each)
1 T tarragon (I used dry and crushed it up)
1 heaping T sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Boil the macaroni in salted water until al dente. When it’s done, drain and rinse with cold water — this will keep the pasta from sticking together.
2. While the macaroni is going, boil the chicken breast in water with some salt and pepper. If you don’t flavor the water a little, the chicken breast will have zero flavor. I am a huge fan of my instant-read thermometer, which keeps me safe from food-borne illness. Chicken should read ~165F. Do it or be sorry.
3. Dice your bell peppers to a small-to-medium dice. While you’re at it, finely dice the onion. For me, this means smaller than however the peppers turned out.
4. Rough chop the cilantro.
5. Once the chicken breast has cooled, dice it into fairly small, bite-sized cubes. Remember, chicken is not the main attraction in this salad.
6. To make the vinaigrette: combine oil, vinegar, tarragon, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir it up! This part is to your own tastes, but then again, it’s difficult to gauge what a vinaigrette will taste like on the salad by how it tastes on a spoon. You could try swishing a piece of pasta in there as a sample, if you like.
7. In a large, large bowl, combine the pasta, chicken, bell peppers, onion, cilantro, and about a cup of vinaigrette. Toss it all together and taste. If you think it needs more sugar or vinegar, mix it up with the extra vinaigrette first, and then add to the bowl.
8. Depending on your love of parmesan, toss in a handful (or more) to the salad. Mix everything together well.
9. Eat! Or, cover it up tightly and leave it in the fridge overnight. It tastes even better the next day (or later) as the flavors all come together.
- If you are an efficient kitchen-maven, then you will have time to chop up all your veggies whilst other things boil! I am not an efficient kitchen-maven. I waited for all the boiling to be done, then started chopping.
- I’m over-analytical, so I can tell you that my bell peppers were approximately 7.5 mm square. Or just over 1/4 inch square. Scientific precision makes me feel secure — but do whatever makes you happiest. For the sake of my dignity, I will not mention what a 5 mm square onion dice is equal to in inches.
- The salad shouldn’t be swimming in dressing, but the pasta will soak up some overnight. That said, I would err on too much dressing instead of too little.