This Lemon Pepper Chicken Pasta Salad pays homage to a long gone packaged salad that I craved, enjoyed and begged for on every family road trip to our cottage. When I think back on this coveted salad, I realize there was nothing particularly extraordinary about it; it was positively swimming in oil and the noodles were limp having taken on far too much of it. But there were two things about this strangely compelling salad that I cannot deny were great: it was unbelievably lemony and loaded with enough black pepper to bring tears to my eyes, and yes, I consider that to be a VERY good thing.
Unfortunately this gem of the Atlantic Superstore’s prepared food section was not long for this world. It was unceremoniously removed from the stores shelves one summer when I was in my mid-teens. I have been trying to recreate it ever since. This incarnation of the Lemon Pepper Chicken Pasta Salad is the most successful attempt to date.
This recipe is called Lemon Pepper Chicken Pasta Salad for a reason – favourful doesn’t even begin to cover it. I did not hold back on the lemon and my pepper grinder did not know what hit it. You can, of course, temper your pepper and lemon use to more humane levels, but then you won’t achieve the takeaway bliss that I was going for, although I’m sure you’re totally fine with that.
I added oregano to give the dish a touch of earthiness, something I’m positive the original did not have, but that’s just what happens when you grow up to be a pretentious foodie. The marinaded artichoke hearts and roasted asparagus were also absent from the original, but again, I gotta be the me I became. You can swap the oregano for any herb you have on hand, but there is one alteration I will not stand for.
As with most instances that involve cheese, it’s important not to skimp. One of the most identifying features of this salad is the amount of Parmesan cheese – it’s in the dressing; it’s in the garnish; it’s important. You can cut down on the oil if you fear for your hips, but please don’t forsake the cheese – it just wants to love you.
While it will never taste exactly like my long lost salad – mostly because I don’t have the guts to put that much oil in anything – it does come pretty close. Who knows? It might actually be better. My palette at fifteen was woefully misguided – I was all about Cool Ranch Doritos and Fun Dips at the time. But whether it satisfies my nostalgia or not is beside the point. The point is this Lemon Pepper Chicken Pasta Salad is delicious and you should probably make it.
- 2 chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4-inch thick
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled & smashed
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper (or to taste)
- 1 bunch asparagus, washed & trimmed
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 ounces dried or 16 ounces fresh fettuccine
- 1 batch Lemon Pepper Chicken
- 1 batch Simple Roasted Asparagus
- 1 batch Lemon Parmesan Dressing
- 1 (6 oz) jar of marinaded artichoke hearts, drained
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, coarsely grated
- Fresh ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 425?F
- Place flattened chicken breasts in a large ziplock freezer bag.
- Combine remaining Lemon Pepper Chicken ingredients together in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the chicken.
- Force the air out of the bag and seal. Give the bag a quick toss to ensure the chicken is coated in the marinade.
- Place the bag in the fridge and let sit from at least 1 hour or for as long as 24.
- Place all of the Simple Roasted Asparagus ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss to combine.
- Spread the dressed asparagus onto a baking sheet, ensuring there is space between each spear.
- Place the asparagus in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Set aside.
- While the asparagus is roasting, cook the fettuccine until al dente.
- Drain the fettuccine and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
- Heat a stove-top grill or large cast iron frying pan over medium high heat.
- Once smoking, place marinaded chicken breasts on the grill or frying pan and reduce the heat to medium.
- Cook the chicken 3-5 minutes per side or until the juices run clear.
- Remove the chicken from the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing into strips.
- Once all of the components of the salad have reached room temperature, whisk all of the ingredients for the Lemon Parmesan Dressing together in a small bowl.
- Place fettuccine, sliced chicken, artichoke hearts, asparagus and dressing in a large bowl and toss to combine. At this point you can either refridgerate the salad until you’re ready or serve immediately.
- When ready to serve, top the salad with coarsely grated parmesan, extra pepper and fresh oregano leaves.