As much as I love to plan a big dinner party on the weekend or invite friends over for an epic happy hour after work, I have learned over the years that so many of my favorite meals with friends end up being the totally spontaneous ones. You know, those that begin with the last-minute text, or the impromptu knock on the door. The unexpected, “Hey, I’m in the neighborhood and wondered about stopping by!” Or, “Are you free? I really need to someone to talk to.” Or, “Hollaaaaaaaa, it’s wine-o-clock!!!”
I’ve gotten much better about being the spontaneous texter myself over the past few years. But I’ll admit — the super-planner in me still hesitates for a split second in those moments when I’m the one on the receiving end, especially since I have this crazy habit of trying to squeeze 7.1 million things into my days and always have a very clear idea of how I’d like to spend my next hour or two. But when spontaneity literally comes a-knockin’, experience has taught me again and again to keep an open mind and let my heart make the call. And more often than not, the choice is a no-brainer:
“Come on over!”
I may or may not have ingredients on hand to whip up a gourmet meal. But my friends all know that there’s always a box of Bota in the fridge, and plenty of popcorn in the pantry. And on a lucky day, there just might be enough random ingredients on hand to cobble together some semblance of a meal…like I did last week with this yummy Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad. :)
This meal was what I like to call a delicious surprise.
I’ve been obsessed with Caesar salads all year, and have whipped up dozens of batches of my lighter Greek Yogurt Caesar Dressing to keep in the refrigerator for when the cravings hit. But when a friend dropped by for an impromptu happy hour, I was suddenly craving some pasta to go with my salad. I thought about whipping up something tomato-y. But then the idea occurred to me — why not combine the two and have the best of both worlds?!
I had leftover Caesar salad ingredients already in the fridge…
…and also happened to have some leftover baked chicken breasts on hand. (<— Which, by the way, I’ve taken to cooking in triple batches now, since this chicken makes the best leftovers!)
So I tossed them all together with a pound of pasta, poured on the dressing, and gave it a good toss.
I’m pretty sure Caesar himself would have given this one a thumbs-up.
Turns out that Caesar dressing makes a perfect pasta sauce. And since I rinsed the pasta with some cold water to keep it chilled, the Romaine stayed nice and crisp and fresh, and it balanced perfectly with the hearty noodles and juicy tomatoes and crispy croutons. I couldn’t resist throwing on a little extra Parmesan as an extra garnish, and next time would probably toss in some toasted pine nuts as well. But this simple meal stood well on its own.
What’s that they say? Winner winner chicken dinner…? :)
Of course, it also happened to pair perfectly with the crisp Pinot Grigio BotaBox that I had waiting in the fridge. And you know what? The great thing about Bota’s boxed wines is that it also paired perfectly the next day when I ate the pasta leftovers. And the day after that, when another friend stopped by for a glass of wine after work too.
I always used to say that boxed wines were great for single people like me, when it’s sometimes hard to make it through an entire bottle myself before the wine turns. But this summer specifically, I feel like it has become the drink of spontaneity for my friends and I. Because it’s always easy to keep on hand in my fridge, it’s always fresh, and it’s always so good.
Perfect for raising a glass to summer, spontaneity, and special friends.
Cook pasta al dente in a large stockpot of generously-salted water, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta into a colander, then rinse throughly with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain pasta completely, then return it to the stockpot.
Add remaining ingredients, and toss until combined. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
This post is sponsored by BotaBox. I am excited to be partnering with them to bring you recipes that pair perfectly with their eco-friendly boxed wines, and all Bota-loving opinions are 100% my own as always. Thanks for continuing to support the brands that help make this site possible.