Summer Pasta Salad

My oldest son, standing in for his sister and taking a crack at cooking and blogging, is not in the least bit interested in light or vegetarian recipes.
“Where’s the beef?” was the refrain I often heard from him and his brother if I tried to offer meat-free dinners when they were growing up.
However, I did come up with some dishes the boys came to love, including this summer pasta salad, a take on a caprese salad, made with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves — and, of course, a hearty helping of sliced grilled chicken for the meat-eaters.
This started, as many favorites do, as a thrown-together recipe, when there was leftover grilled chicken in the fridge and pasta in the pantry. With a pot of basil growing on the back porch, and tomatoes and mozzarella weekly grocery staples at this time of year, you can see how easily this came together.
It’s honestly not something that even requires a recipe, but for the beginning cooks in my family, everything requires a recipe.
The bonus is that you can put this dinner on the table in 30 minutes, even if you are grilling the chicken. Just let the chicken rest for five minutes before you slice it and toss it with the rest of the salad and the lemon vinaigrette. The fresh-squeezed lemon juice really brightens this salad, so please don’t even think about using that stuff from a bottle.

Tim's Favorite Pasta Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 or 3 boneless chicken breasts
1 pound pasta (shells, ziti, or fusilli)
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½- to 1-inch dice
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin strips
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat grill to medium high.
2. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
3. Fill large pot with water for cooking pasta. Add a pinch of salt and bring water to a boil.
4. When water boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions, usually 9 to 13 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
5. Meanwhile, when grill is hot, oil the grates with paper towel, and grill chicken breasts, about 6 to 10 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Remove from grill and let rest for about five minutes, then slice into thin strips.
6. Slowly pour the olive oil into the lemon juice, stirring constantly, to make the vinaigrette.
7. Combine pasta, chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
8. Slowly drizzle about half the vinaigrette over the salad and toss. Add more to taste. (I like to save a little to revive leftover salad the next day.)
9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Per serving: 551 calories, 39 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 16 grams fat, 74 milligrams cholesterol, 213 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber