I love creamy pesto sauces over pasta dishes but hate the little two digit and sometimes even three digit numbers attached to them! And I’m not just talking calories. It’s the other things like fat, sodium, etc. that I rather not be consuming in one meal. Creamy sauces are definitely rich and yummy and I do just go for it when I’m feeling it because how can you ever replace cream and butter in alfredo sauce? Certain things just deserve to be eaten as is. Occasionally, I do like to take on a dish and make it a little healthier by simple substitutions.
There are many, many, different ways to make a pasta salad but I think it’s safe to say, classic pasta dishes normally call for mayo. Nothing beats mayo BUT since we’re healthin’ things up a bit today, I skipped the mayo and went for Greek yogurt instead. I combined the yogurt and sour cream with homemade basil pesto to give this chicken pasta plenty of creaminess. I added fresh lemon juice and zest to add lightness to the garlic packed yogurt pesto. It’s my favorite way to “lighten” the taste of creamy dishes!
Simple raw veggies add just enough of crunch and you can really substitute any of your favorites! You can keep this vegetarian or add some protein, like I did. Cooked chicken meat is a perfect fit and an all around favorite. Leftover chicken works great or even store bought rotisserie chicken if you don’t want to mess with raw meat.
It’s a quick and easy dish you can put together for the whole family to enjoy and pack the leftovers for lunch the next day. Serve this warm or cold but it’s meant to be eaten cold. It stores easily and tastes great the next day. Just give it a couple stirs before serving.
- 3 cups penne pasta, uncooked
- 1½ cups fresh basil leaves
- 4 Tbsp. pine nuts
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or store bought shredded)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 (7 oz.) container Fage Total 2% Greek yogurt or any other brand of 2% Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 Tbsp. minced red onion
- 1 cup diced cooked chicken
- 3 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp. lemon zest
- salt and pepper
- Cook penne pasta al dente according to package directions in a lightly salted water; drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, in a bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil; process until smooth.
- In a large bowl, mix the cooked pasta with pesto, Greek yogurt, and sour cream.
- Add red bell pepper, celery, red onion, chicken, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes or serve warm immediately. Give it couple stirs before serving.
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