July 23, 2013

Pesto Chicken Pasta with Homemade Pesto {recipe}

Posted by Ethne~

The other night we were cooking with leftover chicken.  We often do this, and our go-to is quesadillas or fajitas, but the girls advised me they weren’t interested in Mexican.  O-KAY.

So I Googled “what should I cook with my leftover chicken?” and got some great results.  [Much improved from when I asked my phone to find the phone number for suburb’s city offices the other day and it had no idea what I was talking about.]  One of the recipes was minty pesto-pasta, that you make with fresh mint and a box of fresh peas, neither of which I had.  I did have fresh (frozen) basil, a ¼ cup of fresh (frozen) peas and fresh (frozen) spinach – along with the rest of the required ingredients.  DECISION DONE.  (Sorry I didn’t save the original recipe.  If you find what I’m referring to, feel free to let me know the link in the comments.)

So here’s how I made Pesto Chicken Pasta.

I chopped up the equivalent of about one pre-grilled/cooked chicken breast pretty small.

I steamed my frozen fresh basil (about 2 handfuls of fresh leaves), frozen fresh peas (1/4-1/2 cup) and frozen fresh spinach (about 2 handfuls) with a little water in a frying pan over medium heat on my stovetop.  Watch very carefully.  These will cook very quickly – just a few minutes.  You really only want to thaw them, not cook them.  I immediately put them into a colander immersed in ice water to stop the cooking process.  [Note: you can use these things fresh and un-cooked if you have them un-frozen, but I needed to thaw mine, hence the quick steam.]

Frozen stuff into the pan with a little water

In the meantime, I boiled up some spiral pasta in salted water until it was my desired tenderness.  We prefer ours slightly past al dente.  Once drained, stir with just a little olive oil and the chicken and set aside with lid on to keep warm.

My pasta have sneaky veggies in them too.

As the pasta boiled and greens cooled, I grated ½-1 cup of parmesan cheese (whatever kind you have is fine), measured out 2 T water and 2 T olive oil.

In my food processor, I placed the parmesan cheese, drained greens and ¼ t salt and pureed it.  When the mix was smooth, I stopped, pushed down the sides with the spatula, started things up again and through the top of the lid, slowly poured in the water and olive oil.

Green = Healthy!

That’s it.  Super easy.  You couldn’t taste the spinach or peas at all.  They pretty much just made the consistency right since I didn’t use pine nuts, which are what help with the consistency of traditional pesto sauce.  (Good to know for anyone out there with nut allergy concerns.)  Plus, of course, a sneaky vegetable!

I did not use all of the pesto in my pasta dish.  Probably ¾ of it.  I just spooned it into my pasta and stirred it around until it tasted good.  Then I put the lid back on the pasta pot and set the dish aside for a few more minutes to let the pesto warm up.  I refrigerated the rest of the pesto and plan to use it this week as pizza sauce.  Yum!!!!

KD's green grin of approval.

The girls, particularly Easy Mac, thought this was EXCELLENT.  I recall specific “oh my gosh’s” and “this is amazing’s”.  Rock on crouton.

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