The Best Pesto Recipe: Pesto Pasta With Chicken & Roasted Tomatoes

4 servings
28 min

This is the Pesto Recipe you've been looking for! My kids totally dig our so-called 'yummy green sauce' and we think yours will too!

We made this Pesto Recipe several times over the summer and it was always a hit. Seriously, bookmark this pesto recipe! I'm not kidding when I say that everyone in my family loved this. And that includes a professional chef, a super picky preteen, a 7 year old and a 4 year old. It was lovingly called "the dinner with the yummy green sauce." This is a pesto recipe that I picked up a million years ago and modified over time 'til it was perfect. 

In terms of seasonality, I'd say this pesto recipe is a late summer type of dish. We were able to use our own basil from the backyard and had we followed through with all our springtime gardening plans, we could have used homegrown tomatoes as well.

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The sauce is the pinnacle of this pesto recipe, and it's easy to make in a blender or  Vitamix. What I like is that you can just throw everything in and blend, while slowly adding the  olive oil. The amount of olive oil is up to you. I just keep pouring it in until there's enough liquid for the pesto to blend evenly. While a pesto hand-ground with mortar and pestle is, I'm sure, the best...I don't have time for that. And I'm guessing you don't either. So, purists beware...we're blending this green sauce.

The traditional ingredients for pesto seem to be basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and olive oil. But what I like to do is swap half of the basil for spinach. That way I can tell myself that we are all getting extra nutrients. Haha. So, really the only ingredients I'm adding to those traditional five are parsley and salt.

There are several other ingredient swaps one can make for their own pesto recipe. For instance, almonds and walnuts are often used instead of pine nuts. Toasted or raw is a preference, as well. I've heard that you can sub some water for the oil, if you're looking to cut down on the fat content, but I've never tried it. Some people like to add other greens, i.e. mint. And to make the pesto vegan, some use nutritional yeast instead of parmesan. So many ways to do this!

The Best Pesto Recipe: Pesto Pasta With Chicken & Roasted Tomatoes
Recipe details
  • 4  servings
  • Prep time: 13 Minutes Cook time: 15 Minutes Total time: 28 min
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  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 lb pasta (we used rotini)
  • 1-2 cups pre-cooked chicken, cut or hand separated
  • 1/2 cup spinach, packed firmly
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed firmly
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, de-stemmed
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated (plus extra for plating)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic, quartered
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. [And take a second to start heating water for pasta]. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix together tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread tomatoes on parchment paper, cut side up. Roast for 10-15 mins. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to instructions on package. Drain pasta in a colander and return to pot or large bowl.
Combine all pesto ingredients (except olive oil) into a Vitamix or blender. Turn machine on and off several times, scraping sides with spatula in between. Turn machine on low and slowly add in olive oil, stopping to scrape the sides as needed.
Stir chicken and pesto into pasta. Mix in roasted tomatoes. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled atop, as desired.
  • Cut your tomatoes length-wise. When you cut the tomatoes length-wise, they hold their juices in better while being roasted.
  • Get a good olive oil. If you can splurge a bit on any one ingredient, choose a great olive oil. The olive features pretty strongly in the pesto. Moreover, I would go with extra virgin olive oil, either Italian or Spanish, stored in a dark glass bottle.
Marcie and Julie at Platein28
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