Thursday, September 27, 2012

At Home: Pesto Chicken Pasta

Every year we plant basil and every year the plants do so well that we can't use it up fast enough. I often use the basil leaves for caprese salads, but another way to use up a whole bunch is to make basil pesto. Pesto is great to spread on sandwiches or mix with pasta. Keith grilled up some chicken and made easy Pesto Chicken Pasta for my next feature of What Micky Eats...At Home.

Pesto (Makes 1 cup)
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts, optional
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon zest to taste

- Combine the basil in with the pine nuts and garlic in a food processor, pulse a few times.
- Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on.
- Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.
- Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.
- Add lemon zest, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Note that pesto is always made to taste, based on the ingredients at hand. So adjust the ingredients to your liking.  Most basil pesto recipes call for pine nuts but you can easily substitute walnuts or omit the nuts all together. I didn't have any on hand at the time, so didn't use any.  To brighten it up, I added lemon zest to give that extra element of citrus. 

Pesto Chicken Pasta (2 servings)
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb pasta (any shape you desire, we used Tri-Color Rotini)
  • ½ cup pesto  
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, optional
 - Boil water to cook pasta.
- Season the chicken breasts with salt & pepper and grill on both sides until cooked through.
- Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot.
- Add pesto and mix. If too dry, a swirl of olive oil may be added to loosen it up a bit.
- Plate the pasta and serve with sliced chicken on top.
- Serve with additional Parmesan, as desired.

Such an easy, light, and healthy meal! The pesto is so fragrant from the fresh basil and lemon zest. If you have extra pesto, simply refrigerate or freeze for later use. Using Tri-Color pasta made the dish extra pretty, but again use any shape you like. Enjoy!

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