– To celebrate the end of summer, here’s a simple spinach pesto recipe that sings alongside tender chunks of chicken. –
When I was a kid, I had a neighbor that I loved to visit around 5pm, which was her dinnertime. This sweet, little old Italian lady was a pesto master and I loved to watch her pound basil and pine nuts in her mortar and pestle. Despite her slight frame, she pounded that pesto with gusto and verve, more so than I saw her display at any other time of day. Within minutes she had reduced the greens, nuts, and garlic into a sauce that was creamy and chunky – that perfect texture for pesto that slides coyly across your palate while still giving your tongue a little structure to play with.
And, you can make salad out of almost anything green, like this lovely parsley pesto recipe (great for using up all the leftover parsley in the fridge).
It would be years before I learned to make my own pesto, and decades beyond that for me to perfect my mortar and pestle technique (still working on that, thanks). These days, though, I find it a lot faster to use my food processor to make pesto. Sure hand-pounded pesto makes for a special touch, but on those days when you want something healthy and tasty with a minimal energy investment, pesto in the food processor is a godsend.
After years of experimenting with pesto, I’ve learned that I can use all sorts of ingredients for fun flavor combinations. The greens can be anything from arugula to spinach, which you’ll see below in this quick spinach pesto recipe, and you can change up the nuts to use whatever’s hiding in your pantry. Here I’ve combined spinach with pistachios and heady pecorino cheese, making a delightfully savory topping for chicken and pasta. This simple Italian dish is hearty and satisfying, yet still only takes 20 minutes to make. Not too shabby.
What are your favorite quick dinner recipes, when you’re too beat to pull out a ton of pots and pans?
Easy Chicken and Pasta with Spinach Pesto Recipe
- 2 cups packed spinach leaves stems removed
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup pistachios shelled
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- 1 1/4 pound chicken breast chopped into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups cooked spiral pasta
- To the pitcher of a food processor add spinach, basil, pistachios, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Pulse a few times until the spinach leaves are broken up a bit.
- Add cheese and continue pulsing until it's your preferred texture; some people like chunky pesto, others enjoy a creamier experience - both are wonderful. Add a little more olive oil if the pesto gets to be too thick, but dribble in just a teaspoon at a time so you don't overdo it. Feel free to add more basil, salt, or lemon juice if you prefer. There's no rules here! Just follow what tastes best to you.
- Lightly salt and pepper the chicken cubes. Heat butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and cook chicken on all sides until cooked through but still tender; the juices from the cubes should run clear when pierced with a fork.
- Fill 4 bowl with an equal amount of cooked spiral pasta, then divide the chicken evenly between each bowl. Drop a generous dollop of pesto into each bowl and serve immediately.
This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.