A few weeks ago, I was browsing through my Facebook feed and a post from one of my favorite food bloggers, Faith of An Edible Mosaic, popped up. Faith and Alyssa of Everyday Maven were hosting a food blogger cookbook swap … and since we all know I’m a cookbook junkie, I signed up immediately.
The premise of the Food Blogger Cookbook Swap is simple. Send a gently used cookbook from your collection to a fellow food blogger and get one in return.
I carefully selected a cookbook from my collection (Almost Vegetarian by Diana Shaw) for my assigned swap partner (Alyssa, our cookbook swap host herself!), wrapped it up, mailed it off, and then waited patiently for my cookbook to arrive … and when it did, I was beyond excited.
My new best friend, Susan of Create Amazing Meals, sent me a cookbook that was at the top of my Amazon wishlist: Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, by food bloggers Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Susan!
Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese is truly a work of art. Filled with gorgeous food photography and extremely well-written and organized, Melt thoroughly reinterprets the meaning of macaroni and cheese. While you won’t find many recipes for “traditional” mac and cheese in this cookbook, the recipes it does contain take pasta and cheese to a whole other level — in both savory and sweet ways. I feel pretty confident that there’s something in this delicious cookbook for everyone.
And after perusing Melt for just a few minutes, I knew exactly which recipe was for me: a pasta salad with dolcelatte, concord grapes, walnuts, and a vinaigrette dressing. Why this recipe, you ask? Because it reminded me of my favorite chicken salad from a local specialty food shop The Chef and I occasionally frequent. Also made with grapes, walnuts, and a vinaigrette dressing, I immediately knew I could combine these recipes for an extra fabulous pasta salad … and that I did.
Meaty chicken, sweet roasted grapes, crunchy toasted walnuts, and pungent blue cheese — all mixed together with the tart kick of balsamic vinaigrette — I know this combination sounds a bit odd, but trust me … it works. Served hot or at room temperature, this unique pasta salad will have you asking for seconds before your first serving is done!
Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad with Walnuts, Blue Cheese, and Roasted Grapes
- 3/4 cups walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes
- 8 ounces spiral or tubular shaped pasta
- 2 cups diced, cooked chicken
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 ounces dolcelatte or other mild blue cheese, crumbled
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the chopped walnuts in a single layer on one half of the baking sheet, then place the grapes in a single layer on the other half of the baking sheet.
3. Roast the grapes and walnuts in the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until the walnuts are toasted; watch the nuts carefully to ensure they don’t burn. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, place the toasted nuts in small bowl, then return the baking sheet to the oven. Allow the grapes to roast another 10 to 15 minutes, or until they become soft and start to release their juices. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside.
4. While the nuts and grapes are roasting, cook the pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the pasta thoroughly, then place in a large bowl. Add the walnuts, grapes (along with any juice), and chicken to the bowl of cooked pasta.
5. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey until thoroughly combined. Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture, then stir together until everything is evenly mixed and dressed. Stir the blue cheese into the pasta mixture, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and allow the flavors to marinate for at least an hour.
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