Summer is in full swing, and that means we enjoy a lot of meals with pesto here! This Baked Chicken with Pesto and Penne recipe has been in the queue for awhile, made on a cooler evening. It’s a good option for a night you have some fresh basil but aren’t in grilling mode. If you want to grill and use some pesto, I just published a tasty Orzo, Salmon and Pesto recipe this weekend.
Baking chicken with pesto cooks some flavor into the chicken. Makes for a nice hearty, flavorful meal!
I list pine nuts in the ingredients for my traditional basil pesto. As I’ve mentioned before, I substitute toasted pumpkin seeds for the pine nuts to make a nut-free pesto.
As noted in the instructions, toss the penne with enough pesto to coat the pasta. Pass additional pesto to serve at the table. The pesto has a nice kick, and this gives people a chance to get the amount of pesto they want.
Wine pairing: I tend to think of white wine with pesto, and Sauvignon Blanc is a classic pairing. But baking chicken with pesto leads to some deeper, nuttier flavors that can set up a pairing with red wine. I went with the 2012 Contra from Bonny Doon Vineyards. The Contra was fruit forward and worked nicely with the baked chicken with pesto. Definitely a winning pairing that I’d encourage you to try! This red wine is a blend of 56% Carignange, 17% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre, 1% Cinsault. The grapes are primarily from Contra Costa County in California.
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and tightly packed
- 4 cloves garlic
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets
- 12 ozs penne pasta
- Make the pesto: Have a food processor at the ready. Put the basil into the food processor, and give it a quick whir to begin chopping the basil and make room for the other ingredients.
- Add the garlic, and hit that food processor button again to get the cloves chopped up with the basil.
- Add the remaining ingredients, and then puree to get everything well combined. Open the food processor, scrape the sides to get bits of garlic and basil that haven’t been incorporated, then give the processor a final whir.
- Pre-heat an oven to 425 and start boiling the water to cook the penne.
- Rinse and pat dry the chicken fillets. Spread 1½ tablespoons of the pesto on both pieces of chicken, then pace the chicken on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until the chicken is just cooked through.
- As the chicken bakes, cook the chicken according to package instructions. When cooked to your liking, drain the pasta and toss with a few tables spoons of the pesto sauce, so that the pasta is well coated.
- To serve, cut the chicken fillets in half. Plate a serving of the pasta, and place a piece of chicken on top of the pasta. Serve with additional pesto passed at the table.