Basil Pesto Penne with Chicken

Hope everybody enjoyed their holidays – I know I certainly did! I spent my time off eating lots of yummy food, collecting awesome gifts from relatives, putting away said gifts (amazing how much stuff an infant gets!), and cooking. I really enjoyed the cooking. It is so relaxing and fulfilling for me. I don’t get to do it as much as I would like being a mother to an infant so the extra time at home during the holidays is a welcome reprieve. 

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Today I bring you a fresh, lighter take on a favorite comfort food of mine: pasta. When made with this pesto sauce it tastes surprisingly refreshing and light. This dish will surely wow any dinner guest! My mother was impressed when I made it for her the other night…so there’s that. Of course, like all of my recipes, this dish is very simple, quick and nutritious. 

pesto pasta1

I used this basil pesto recipe that I have posted about before (it’s that good!) but this time I went a step further by baking with additional cheese, tomatoes and basil, mmm. You can even make a bulk prep of the pesto to freeze and use as needed. I tend to do this more often than not as I usually have more herbs on hand that I need to use up before they go bad. This is a great money saver and way to have an easy, healthy meal on hand at all times!!

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Basil Pesto Penne with Chicken

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino,  Parmesan-Reggiano, or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 package whole-wheat or brown rice penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (for topping)
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose seasoning (salt-free preferred)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Coat chicken in all purpose seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Add to medium pan on medium-high heat and cook chicken in 1 tsp. olive oil until cooked through (no pink). Set aside.
  3. In food processor, add pine nuts and garlic cloves. Process until finely ground. Add in cheese, basil leaves, salt, and pepper. Slowly adding in olive oil, pulse until well combined and consistency is to your liking.
  4. Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain.
    1. Note: You could simply mix pasta, sauce, and chicken together at this point, topping with tomatoes and basil leaves and eat as is.
  5. Add pasta, pesto sauce, and chicken to prepared baking dish. Mix well. Top with remaining basil leaves, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

 

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