This Basil Pesto Chicken Pasta Recipe is healthy, light, full of flavor and over-the-top delicious! It's made with fresh ingredients and can be prepped, ready and on the table 30 minutes or less!Recipe can be scaled up or down by using the slider if you hover your mouse over the number of Servings.
½tspCrushed Red Pepper Flakes, plus more for garnish
PESTO: (yield - roughly 1 cup)
2CupsBasil Leaves, packed plus more for garnish*
½CupParmesan Cheese– freshly grated, plus more for garnish
1/3CupPine Nuts, plus more for garnish
½CupExtra Virgin Olive Oil
Optional for Serving: Cherry Tomatoes, Lemon Wedges
Marinate the chicken: In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, vinegar, basil, 1 tablespoon shallot, 3 cloves of the minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Transfer to a large zip-closure bag and add the chicken. Toss to coat. Place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, and up to 12 hours to marinate.
Make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, basil, cheese, pine nuts, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the processor running, slowly add in the olive oil in a steady stream. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cook chicken: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the remaining shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add remaining clove of minced garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove chicken from marinade (discarding marinade) and add chicken to the skillet*. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is browned all over and cooked through, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.
Heat zucchini noodles (OPTIONAL)*: Return skillet and reduce heat to medium. Add the zucchini noodles to skillet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Cook, stirring, until noodles are just warmed through, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and add in ¾ cup of pesto. Toss gently to combine. IF NOT HEATING NOODLES: Toss zucchini noodles with 3/4 cup of pesto to coat. Set aside.
Serve: Transfer noodles to platter or bowls and top with chicken. Garnish with fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, tomatoes and lemon wedges. Top with a dollop of pesto or serve remaining pesto on the side. Enjoy!
I cut my chicken into bite sized pieces roughly ¾ - 1’’ small. You can cut yours larger or smaller if you like, you will just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
I marinated my chicken overnight, which is what I recommend for optimal flavor. However, if you are in a pinch, you can marinate it for less time. But, I wouldn’t recommend any less time than 3 hours.
When cooking the basil garlic chicken make sure you are using a large sauté pan, or cook the chicken in batches. You do not want to overcrowd the pan. If you do, your pieces of chicken won’t get a nice golden brown color.
If you want your pesto to be a bright green color, you can blanch your basil. This is step is completely optional, and I only blanch basil for my pesto if I plan on keeping it for a few days in the refrigerator. Blanching the basil will prevent the pesto for turning a muted green color if stored for a couple days. To do so, simply place the basil leaves in gently boiling water for 5-10 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to remove the basil leaves and transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the leaves in a colander and then transfer them to paper towel to dry completely.
You can either sauté the squash and zucchini noodles or serve them raw. I actually prefer them raw. Once the pesto thoroughly coats the noodles, it softens them and gives them a "cooked" taste. Just make sure you do NOT salt the zucchini noodles until ready to serve. Salt draws moisture out of the noodles and will cause them to get watery.
The Basil Garlic Chicken & Pesto Zucchini Noodles are really delicious with fresh, burst cherry tomatoes! Recipe as follows.
Burst Cherry Tomatoes recipe - Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place tomatoes on a parchment paper (or non-stick foil) lined pan. Lightly drizzle tomatoes with oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Roast for 18-20 minutes or until slightly burst.Nutritional information is an approximation based upon 4 servings. Exact information will depend upon the brands of ingredients and precise measurements used.