I lived in Chicago for almost a decade and ate this amazing salad from Portillo’s several times a month – so it’s no wonder that during my most recent salad and veggie kick, my craving for this salad kept coming up. It’s filling thanks to the pasta and double protein of bacon and chicken, it’s flavorful thanks to the sweet yet tangy dressing and perhaps my favorite part, it’s all uniform bite-sized pieces, thanks to the chopped aspect, allowing you to get a little piece of everything in every bite. The slightly sweet Italian dressing is the closest I’ve come to something that tastes like my grandmother‘s dressing.
It takes some prep with all the chopping, but several ingredients can be made ahead of time and it can be assembled in advance, making it the perfect salad to serve guests (make-ahead tips are below). In case guests won’t be joining, this recipe yields plenty for leftovers and it keeps nicely overnight.
As always, this salad can be customized to your liking, swapping in and out ingredients you may or may not love (or may or may not have on hand). Let this recipe serve as an inspiration to get your creative salad ideas flowing! Enjoy!
Total Time: 45 min
Makes: 4 as entrée, 6-8 as a side
- 1/3 CUP WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR
- 1/3 CUP OLIVE OIL
- 2 CLOVES GARLIC, MINCED
- 3 TSP. HONEY
- ½ TSP DRIED OREGANO
- SALT + PEPPER, TO TASTE
- 1 CUP SMALL SIZED PASTA (I LIKE DITALINI PASTA), COOKED
- 1 LB. BACON, COOKED + CHOPPED
- 2 CUPS CHICKEN, COOKED + CHOPPED
- 2 HEARTS ROMAINE LETTUCE, CHOPPED
- 1 CUP RED CABBAGE, CHOPPED
- 1 CUP TOMATOES, CHOPPED
- 5-6 GREEN ONIONS, WHITE + GREEN PARTS CHOPPED
- ½ CUP CRUMBLED GORGONZOLA CHEESE
- Make your dressing. Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid or medium bowl. Shake or whisk together. Taste for flavor and adjust salt, pepper, and honey as desired. Set aside.
- Prepare all of your cooked ingredients. Boil water and cook pasta. Grill or bake chicken. Cook bacon. Chop chicken and bacon into bite-sized pieces.
- Chop all remaining ingredients – romaine, red cabbage, tomatoes, green onions, and gorgonzola cheese (if necessary).
- Mix all ingredients and dressing in a large bowl when guests are seated. Plate and serve.
- Steps 1 + 2 can be done up to 2 days ahead. Store in separate, air-tight containers in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before assembling and serving salad
- Ditalini pasta can be a bit hard to find. Any small cut will do, I used elbow pasta this time
- A trick to making chopping tomatoes easier is to use a bread knife. The serrated edge better cuts through the tomato’s skin, cutting down on time and “push back” from the tomato.
- Regular balsamic vinegar can be used if that’s what you have on hand although you may want to add more honey if using. I bought white balsamic a few months ago for another recipe and absolutely love it – it’s a bit sweeter and more mellow. It adds an acidic pop while letting the other ingredients shine more.
- It may feel like this isn’t enough dressing for the amount of ingredients but toss it well, it will be just the right amount to coat but not soak the salad.