Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pesto Chicken and Green Bean Pasta

I love basil. It has so many uses and pesto is one of my favorites. I made pesto pasta with chicken and green beans and want to submit this to Presto Pasta Nights which was created by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast and is being hosted by Melissa at The Cooking Diva this week. Check it out on Friday to see everybody else's great entries! Happy early Halloween by the way!

Anyway, my basil plants flowered quite a while ago, and apparently (though I haven't tried it), after it flowers, the leaves become bitter. Does anyone know how to keep basil from flowering besides pinching them on a regular basis? Pinching is just way too labor intensive for a lazy girl like me...

Before the leaves got bitter, I took them all and made a big batch of pesto and froze it to use throughout the year. Usually, I use my food processor to make my pesto, but I decided to minimize the mess and try using my immersion stick blender. Even though it still tasted great, it made the pesto too smooth. I like a bit of chunkiness to mine, so next time, I'm switching back to my tried and true food processor method.

I also substituted chicken stock for most of the olive oil. Yes, it changes the taste a bit, but it's still good. Plus I've always found pesto sauce to be too oily anyway, so I prefer it this way. And it's healthier! Everybody wins! Yay!

As far as putting the pesto with chicken and green beans, that's something I learned from Paolo, the Italian grocer/restaurateur I met in Hong Kong who also taught me spaghetti bolognese and many other Italian goodies. According to him, the traditional way to eat pesto in Genoa is spaghetti, potatoes and green beans, and lemme tell you, it is dee-lish that way! But I figured with the pasta, I don't really need any more carbs, so I left out the potatoes and added some chicken to make a more well-rounded meal. It may not be as traditional, but it's still just as yummy.

Pesto Sauce:
(as usual, I don't actual measurements because I just eyeball things, sorry)
- Basil leaves (about 3-4 handfuls)
- Pine nuts (about 1 small handful)
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- Chicken stock/Olive oil
- grated Parmesan cheese (a healthy handful)
- Salt and pepper

This step is optional, but I like to toast my pine nuts in a dry pan to give it a bit more color and bring out the flavor and aroma.

Put the basil, pine nuts, garlic cloves and cheese in a food processor and pulse it a bit. Slowly add the chicken stock/olive oil while pulsing until it reaches the desired consistency. Try not to over-process it and leave it slightly chunky - unlike mine =(. It's less of an issue with a food processor than an immersion blender though.

Salt and pepper to taste (don't worry about this part too much because you can always adjust it when you actually use it).

Put them into small containers and freeze for future use. I find muffin tins to be a good size to freeze them in, and then transfer them to a ziploc bag after they've hardened.

Pesto Chicken and Green Bean Pasta:
- Chicken (I prefer boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this)
- Green beans
- Pasta
- Pesto sauce
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese (optional)

Salt and pepper the chicken and grill until cooked through and nicely browned. Let it rest for a few minutes and then cut it into bit size pieces. Set aside.

Boil the green beans until cooked through and drain. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package and drain. Set aside.

Mix the pasta, chicken, green beans and pesto sauce over low heat. Salt and pepper to taste and feel free to add a healthy dose of parmesan cheese on top too!


That Girl said...

I'm going to have to try your healthier pesto!

tigerfish said...

You reminded me. Been a long time since I had pesto pasta.

Ruth Daniels said...

Looks great. Thanks so much for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights. Hope to see you back often.

I've added this to the Temporary Presto Pasta Night 87 Roundup.

gaga said...

That Girl - I hope you like it!

tigerfish - yes, I don't have pesto nearly often enough either!

Ruth - thanks. I love the event and will continue to participate whenever I get a chance!

Colleen said...

I love when pesto is used as a sauce on pasta - this looks great! Thannks for stopping by my blog - I have had yours in my reader for awhile now!

Shirley said...

Paolo is right about pesto in Genoa. My BF's mother is from Genoa and she makes it this way often. Her pesto is to die for. She uses young basil leaves for the freshest flavor.

I don't know any other way to keep the basil from going to seed except to pinch it. Sorry.