Lime Chicken and Pasta Salad with Cilantro Pesto

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Lime Chicken and Pasta Salad with Cilantro Pesto

Back in the ’90s, the American-Statesman did a story on chic chicken salads. Food stylist Carol Johnson created this salad, which can be served warm or cold. I usually opt for cold because it can be made the night before and taken to potluck occasions or to people recovering from an illness or bereavement. The cilantro pesto is a snap to make in a food processor, but, if pressed for time, can be purchased in the refrigerated case. Sgt. Pepper’s and TexaFrance are two local companies that make it.


  • 4 boneless chicken breast halvesMarinade:
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • Cilantro pesto:
  • 1 large bunch cilantro
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 to 8 oz. bow-tie pasta
  • Grilled tomato halves


Combine the lime juice, olive oil, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and brown sugar in a glass bowl or casserole. Add the chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours, turning once during that time.

To make pesto: Combine cilantro, walnuts, ground pepper, garlic, olive oil and salt in a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Cook pasta to al dente stage. While pasta is cooking, grill or broil chicken until done, about 10 minutes. Slice into short strips.

Combine the warm pasta and warm chicken with the pesto. Toss until well coated. Serve with grilled tomato halves, if desired, and crusty bread. (This recipe could be made ahead and served cold.) Serves 4.

– Carol Johnson


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