Smoky Chicken Pasta Salad

This is a deliciously hearty pasta salad.

Smoky Chicken and Pasta Salad
1 1/2 cups (dry) small pasta, cooked (I use high fiber seashells or a twist)
2 cups diced or shredded smoked chicken (roasted or rotisserie chicken will also work)
3-4 green onions, sliced thinly
15-20 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
1-1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (halved grape tomatoes are perfect for this)
1 roasted red pepper, diced (or 3/4 of a jar of roasted red peppers, drained well)
1/2 can black beans (optional)
4-6 ozs smoked gouda cheese (optional)
Grated sharp cheese for garnish
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk or cream
2-4 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground sweet smoked paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
Several grinds black pepper
Spinach or lettuce leaves (optional)

Combine all dressing ingredients in the bottom of a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth and well-combined.  Taste and adjust seasoning - dressing should taste smoky, with a hint of heat.
Meanwhile, cook pasta.  While pasta is cooking, prepare the chicken, green onion, peppers, tomatoes, gouda (if using) and basil.  Layer into the mixing bowl with the dressing, but no need to mix yet.  Drain and rinse the pasta, ensuring that nearly all the water is gone.  Pour into the bowl with the other ingredients.  Add black beans and tomatoes.  Fold salad together gently (to avoid breaking up the tomatoes or beans) until well combined.

Salad can be served on spinach or lettuce leaves to pack more veggies into your life.


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