This pasta salad is so full of deliciousness it's actually a complete meal. This makes a perfect lunch or light supper. It's also a great recipe for potlucks or family reunions, because this makes a lot of pasta salad. If you like broccoli salads and you also like pecan chicken salad, you will love this, because it's like combining the two in one dish. Here is what you will need:
8 oz. bow tie pasta
1 large head of broccoli
1 cup sweet onion, diced (I used Vidalia)
2 cups seedless grapes, sliced in half (can use green, red or black)
2 cups white meat chicken, diced
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1 cup pecans, chopped (lightly toasted makes them really good)
7-8 slices of bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tsp. celery seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of black pepper
Cook pasta al dente or about 1 minute less than the package directions in salted water. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and drain well.
Cut the broccoli florets into bite size pieces. In a large mixing bowl combine the broccoli, diced onion, and sliced grapes and add to the bow tie pasta. You can use another type of pasta like penne or rotini if you prefer, but I think the bow tie looks really pretty in this.
Add in the cheese, diced chicken, dried cranberries or raisins and pecans. You can use left over chicken breasts you have grilled or broiled or use the breast meat from a rotisserie chicken for this.
To make the dressing for the salad, in another smaller bowl, combine sugar and vinegar until the sugar is dissolved. Mix in the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, celery seeds, salt and black pepper. Whisk all of this together well.
Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss together. Cover and chill for 2-3 hours to allow flavors to blend together.
Right before serving, sprinkle the bacon over the top of the salad and serve. I like to reserve the bacon to add just before serving, because the dressing and refrigeration makes it not as crisp.