This mozzarella stuffed chicken marinara is a lot like a healthier baked chicken parmesan without the breadcrumbs and pan-frying. Sure it’s a little different but it’s loaded with flavor and even has an extra bonus of being stuffed with mozzarella and basil pesto!
My stuffed chicken is filled with shredded mozzarella cheese and homemade pesto sauce and then topped with marinara and more mozzarella cheese. It’s baked for about 35 minutes and ready to serve. Simple, cheesy, and delicious.
Fresh Basil Pesto
Basil pesto consists of mostly basil and olive oil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. You essentially lightly blend everything together until a smooth, yet slightly granular sauce is formed. If you don’t have a blender, you can use a Ninja blender or NutriBullet in a pinch, just don’t over blend and turn to slime.
Homemade pesto is easy to make and so much better than store-bought. Sometimes small grocery stores or local markets will have fresher locally made pesto that is usually better than the large brand name pesto sauce. You can tell how fresh pesto is by how green it is. Old pesto will take on a duller and deeper dark green.
The Mozzarella Filling
I use a ratio of 4-1 mozzarella to pesto ratio in this recipe. 1 cup of mozzarella to 1/4 cup pesto. You are free to adjust and use more pesto if you’d like, you just don’t want the inside to be too soupy and melt away. Mix the mozzarella and pesto in a bowl beforehand and then stuff the chicken.
Slicing the Chicken
The only real tricky part is slicing an even pocket inside each chicken breast. Your best bet is to start with an 8-ounce chicken breast and use the tip of a shape knife to slice an even pocket into the thicker side of the chicken.
- Start with the smooth side (top) of the chicken breast facing up. It helps to place your palm flat on top when slicing. Pro tip: be mindful and don’t slice through your hand.
- Be sure not to cut all the way through the chicken and leave the edges intact. Picture a pita pocket.
- Don’t cut too close to the bottom of the chicken or it may not be even or split apart. You’re better off slicing closer to the top of the breast to ensure a more even slice.
- If you slice too low and the bottom half has a hole or is flimsy, it’s OK, do not panic. Simply make another cut higher up and you’ll be fine.
Rao’s marinara is my go-to for recipes like this. It’s simple, delicious, and easy to use. I highly recommend
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My stuffed chicken is filled with shredded mozzarella cheese and homemade basil pesto and then topped with marinara and more mozzarella cheese. It’s baked for about 35 minutes and ready to serve. Simple, cheesy, and delicious.
- 4 8 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 8 ounce bag shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup marinara
- 1/4 cup basil pesto
- 3–4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
homemade basil pesto
- 3 cups basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
For the pesto
- Combine all pesto ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor or blender. Blend 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.
For the chicken
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Combine 1 cup mozzarella and pesto in a small bowl. Mix until incorporated. Set aside.
- To slice the chicken: Start with the smooth side (top) of the chicken breast facing up. Use the tip of a sharp knife to carefully slice a pocket into the thicker side of the chicken breast. See note on tips for slicing chicken.
- Divide pesto mozzarella filling evenly and stuff each chicken breast. Be sure to pack tightly so the filling is not overflowing or falling out. Place stuffed chicken in a cast iron skillet or baking dish. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Spoon 2-3 heaping tablespoons of marinara over each piece. Top evenly with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes or until internal temp reads 165°F. I like to broil the chicken in the last 2-3 minutes to give the cheese a golden crisp. Serve topped with fresh basil!
On slicing the chicken: It helps to place your palm flat on top when slicing. Be sure not to cut all the way through the chicken and leave the edges intact. Picture a pita pocket. Don’t cut too close to the bottom of the chicken or it may not be even or split apart at the bottom. You’re better off slicing closer to the top of the breast to ensure a more even slice and pocket. It also helps to ensure the knife is held FLAT or parallel with the cutting surface and not angle up or down.
- Serving Size: 1 chicken breast
- Calories: 504
- Sugar: 2.1g
- Sodium: 792mg
- Fat: 25.2
- Saturated Fat: 10.1g
- Carbohydrates: 5.1g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 62.2g
- Cholesterol: 193mg
Keywords: mozzarella stuffed chicken breast, stuffed chicken breast, healthier chicken parmesan, chicken marinara