Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe
Dec 27, 2017, Updated Jan 25, 2024
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My chicken pesto pasta recipe is made with linguine, grilled chicken, freshly sliced mozzarella cheese, homemade basil pesto, and sweet cherry tomatoes sautéed in olive oil. It’s a delicious and fresh dish that is bursting with so much authentic Italian flavor. Up this recipe even more with my easy homemade pasta.
What sets this recipe apart from the rest is the melted finish of fresh mozzarella cheese. The final dish is baked to create a cheesy touch. Another reason to make this dish in a cast-iron skillet. The best pesto pasta is made with fresh homemade basil pesto. I highly encourage you to make your own pesto—anything jarred will never compare!
Table of Contents
Fresh Basil Pesto
Fresh basil pesto is a way of life. I consider myself a pesto aficionado and I’m here to tell you that you should be making your own pesto from scratch. My pesto recipe is really simple and only requires a few basic ingredients. Fresh basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, fresh garlic, parmesan cheese (or pecorino romano), salt, and pepper is all you need to make your own pesto that is SO MUCH BETTER than anything you can buy in a jar.
Sometimes small grocery stores or local farmer’s markets will have fresher locally made pesto that is usually better than brand-name pesto sauce. You can usually tell how fresh pesto is by how green it is. Old pesto will take on a duller and deeper dark green color.
Tips for Making Homemade Basil Pesto
- Pesto is best made in a food processor, however, I’ve been making it in a single-serve smoothie blender for a long time. The key is to pulse the blender so as to not overblend the pesto and turn it into slime. Shake the contents to help mix as needed.
- Pesto should be thick and slightly granular in appearance. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil to help thin it out a bit. Pesto can be adjusted in a bowl by simply stirring in extra olive oil.
- Always use extra virgin olive oil and FRESH ingredients. Do not substitute canola or vegetable oil.
- Do not use dried basil! Always use fresh basil leaves.
- If your pesto is too thin or runny and you’ve run out of fresh basil, you can add some baby spinach. You can also stir in a little cornstarch. This will help to thicken the sauce without adding any flavor. I would merely consider this a last resort but it works in a pinch.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust pesto with additional salt afterward. The salt helps to bring out the flavor and really makes pesto pop.
- Fresh garlic is best, but you can substitute garlic powder.
- Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts. I prefer pine nuts, but walnuts work in a pinch. You can usually find pine nuts in the baking aisle with the other nuts.
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Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe
- 1 pound linguine, spaghetti, or penne
- 2 chicken breasts, sliced into strips
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls, or cubed ball
- 1 cup basil pesto
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved lenghwise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Extra chopped basil as garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
Homemade basil pesto
- 3 loosely packed cups of basil leaves, about 2.5 ounces
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- salt, to taste
For the pesto
- For the basil pesto, combine all pesto ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend/pulse until mixed and smooth. With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until combined. Pesto should not be too soupy or fine. Set aside. Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a standard blender or single-serve blender instead. Just don’t blend the ingredients too aggressively or it will turn into a creamy paste
For the pesto pasta
- Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add a big pinch of salt and cook pasta al dente. Once the pasta is done, strain well and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Slice the chicken into bite-sized strips, season liberally with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 3 additional minutes.
- Turn the heat off and add the strained pasta. Stir in one cup of pesto and toss until fully coated. Add more oil as needed if the pesto is too thick. Top with fresh mozzarella pearls and serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.