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Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad

Preparation 20 min. 2017-08-17T00:20:00+00:00 Cook Time 5 min. (to cook tortellini) 2017-08-17T00:00:00+00:00
Serves About 9½ cups     adjust servings

Ingredients

  • 19 ounces cheese tortellini, cooked according to package directions, then rinsed and cooled (see note)
  • 3 cups cubed, cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breast (see note)
  • 2/3 cup diced, reduced-fat, sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

DRESSING

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce (such as Frank's Red Hot) (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

FOR SERVING

  • reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles, if desired (see note)
  • additional hot sauce, if desired

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine tortellini, chicken, cheddar cheese, carrots, celery, and onion.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, milk, hot sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and sugar.
  3. Just prior to serving, dress pasta salad with all but about ¼ cup of dressing, reserving ¼ cup to offer alongside the salad or to cover and refrigerate for moistening leftovers later (see note).
  4. Toss salad to mix and coat thoroughly with dressing, being careful not to damage the tender tortellini.
  5. Serve with blue cheese and extra hot sauce alongside.

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Recipe Notes

Tortellini: We used Rosetto brand in testing this recipe. We typically recommend whole-grain pasta whenever possible, but the whole-wheat tortellini available in our local stores is notably higher in fat, and we always try to balance our preference for whole-grain foods against fat content and other nutritional issues. Choose the healthiest tortellini you can find. There is a definite difference in the fat content of various brands, so read the labels carefully. We encourage you to choose higher-fiber, low-fat, organic or all-natural products whenever it’s feasible.

Chicken: Nearly any boneless, skinless chicken breasts will work in this recipe, as long as they’re not overly flavorful from spices or marinades. We recommend simply cooking a couple of extra chicken breasts whenever you’re making chicken, so you have extra cooked chicken for this recipe without any extra work. A store-bought rotisserie chicken is another easy option, although in order to yield approximately 3 cups of meat for this recipe, you'll most likely need to use the dark meat as well as the breast meat.

Hot sauce: We've tested this recipe with up to 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of hot sauce, and many of our taste testers loved it with that much heat. However, we feel it's more broadly appealing with just 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, which is why we suggest simply offering additional hot sauce on the side. If your family or picnic-goers love spicy flavors, though, then feel free to use 3 or even 4 tablespoons of hot sauce instead of just 2.

Blue cheese: Just like with buffalo hot wings, blue cheese is outstanding with this salad, and we absolutely recommend sprinkling a little on top. However, since some people don't care for the flavor of blue cheese, to make this salad more broadly appealing, we suggest serving a small dish of reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles on the side, so people can add as much or as little as they wish.

Reserved dressing: If you like your pasta salad heavily dressed, you may certainly choose to mix all of the dressing in at once. However, we prefer to reserve about ¼ cup of the dressing to offer on the side, for those who like more dressing. Alternately, if you know there will be leftovers, it's nice to have that extra dressing to add into the salad when serving it again later. Like most pasta salads, this salad tends to soak up the dressing and will be a bit dried out by the second day. We love having a little extra dressing to revitalize any leftovers.

Make-ahead tip: You can toss the tortellini with the chicken, veggies and cheese, and then refrigerate the mixture, covered, for up to a day in advance of serving. Similarly, you can whisk together the dressing up to a day ahead and refrigerate it, separately from the tortellini mixture. We don't recommend dressing this pasta salad until right before serving, however, so that the pasta doesn't absorb too much of the dressing while it sits, ending up a bit dry at serving time.

Vegetarian option: This salad is also delicious without the chicken.