Words by Christie Spitler
My greatest workplace contribution to date has got to be the co-creation of the greatest Lunch Club our company has ever seen. Sure, it’s the first and only Lunch Club ever to be seen at our office — but it has maintained its status of the highest lunchroom respect and admiration.
A few months ago Katie and I cooked up this silly idea at the lunch table that shook our little lunchboxes: What if we took turns each week bringing in lunch for the whole table to share? Less individual cooking + more food variety + awesome excuse for committed community = perfect master plan. What started with just 4 members of the marketing team has grown to more than 8 colleagues participating each week. Each Wednesday we take turns cooking a meal and serving it to the rest of our crew. It’s truly become the most exclusive inclusive club in town. The designated hostess cooks a meal of their choice to serve that must follow two simple guidelines: whatever you bring must follow all attendees’ allergies and dietary restrictions and it must be enough to feed all.
And before you could say “Ham + Cheese Hot Pocket”, Wednesdays became my favorite day of the workweek. Why? Because for eight consecutive weeks I don’t have to lift a finger on Wednesdays — only a fork! When it’s finally my turn to host, I get to cook whatever I want for my friends and host my own mini lunch party in an otherwise mundane lunch room. The last time I wore the proverbial LC hostess apron I decided to cook my favorite warm-weather meal: chicken bowtie pasta salad.
This pasta salad featuring savory crunches, soft noodles, and sweet grapes is a main dish masterpiece best served cold.
It’s truly unfair how simple this meal is; easily made all in one sitting or broken up into different prep stages leading to the most delightfully simple assembly. The best part of all is the delayed peak ripeness which leaves this dish tasting better a day after it’s prepared. Why? Because it gives all the components time to cool down, and really hang out together in a chill environment — much like the mission statement of Lunch Club. (Sorry that was so cheesy, my lactose-intolerant self can barely stand it, but I just had to!)
This recipe came from my mother who adapted my grandmother’s recipe for a tuna noodle casserole dish she makes each summer. Something about the cold crunch of the celery combined with the soft slippery bowtie pasta made this meal a household staple I frequently requested. After moving away from family, it’s no surprise this dish has become a staple of my own. It was the first meal I shared with my new roommates in Florida and the last meal I shared with my new colleagues. It’s humbly simple but terrifically tasty, perfect for sharing and if I’m lucky enough to have any left, it’s the type of leftover that proudly maintains my lunchroom street cred.
To make the mayo:
- Beat the first 8 ingredients at high speed with an electric mixer, for about 15 seconds.
- With mixer running, add oil in a very slow, steady stream, mixing until smooth and thickened. (If the mixture doesn’t begin to thicken, and remains soupy, your eggs are probably bad.)
- Add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to thin as desired.
This will last in the fridge for up to 3 days.
In a large bowl combine mayo, onion, green onion, and celery. Add chicken. Add bowtie pasta + toss to coat. Sprinkle in grapes and nuts, and toss. Add kosher salt + freshly-ground black pepper to taste. Chill + serve.
Tips + Tricks:
- For all cold pasta dishes: after draining the cooked pasta, run the hot pasta under cold water to stop the noodles from cooking further.
- Short on time? Use store-bought mayo or canned chicken (just be sure to drain the chicken!)
- Err on the side of under-seasoning and then bring salt and pepper when serving; Allow your guests to then season to their preference.
- This dish lasts for several days in the refrigerator, but can dry out after a few days. Just before serving, add a dollop of mayo to restore the moisture of the pasta salad.
- Don’t like mayo? Maybe this recipe will change your mind. Hating on mayo may seem like the cool thing to do, but you’re negating yourself from one of the simplest condiment/dressing staples. I challenge you to at least make homemade mayo and try it before you decide this recipe isn't for you.