Happy 2017! As of next week I'm back into work, but instead of wallowing in the post-NY blues I'm feeling really excited about the year ahead. I'm still working across community and clinical nutrition, however this the first year I'm dedicating solid recurring time each week to the blog - up until now it's been a total passion project, where I've fit it in around full-time work. At times this has meant squeezing blogging into every spare nook and cranny of available time, which has (at times, just) succeeded as I truly love the creative process of creating recipes and writing posts, and then seeing others benefit from them. But now that the blog is getting a little bigger and more opportunities are popping up, creating regular space each week actually during working hours is the right move (although still feels a little indulgent). Exciting times ahead - but for now onto this recipe...
Are there any dishes more irresistible than a bowlful of creamy pesto pasta? Subjective I know, but it really is so ridiculously good. This dish is a nice change from the more traditional tomato sauce-based varieties, and is a speedy dinner idea that'll be on the table and ready to eat in less than half an hour.
Pesto is a sauce originating in Italy, which consists of basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese. It's traditionally mixed and eaten with pasta, to give - voilà - pesto pasta. The flavours of basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan work so wildly well together, producing a delicious creamy sauce that really is such a pleasure to eat. For a quick and easy option I've used pre-made basil pesto in this dish, which can be purchased from the supermarket. When looking for pre-made pesto, make sure to pick one a high quality version made with olive oil opposed to other vegetable oils. Making your own pesto is ideal, as the fresher the better, and if you'd rather do that here please do (homemade pesto is excellent for getting through copious amounts of basil leaves...) - but if not, a high quality store-bought pesto will also do the trick.
I've added cooked chicken and peas to this dish to help bump it up into more of a meal, and it's great served alongside a big fresh green salad for dinner.
Chicken Pesto Pasta
1 tbsp oil
1 brown onion
2 free-range chicken breasts
400g penne pasta (regular, gluten-free, brown, rice, quinoa pasta...- I've used brown rice pasta here)
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
150g basil pesto (or more/less to taste)
1 handful fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts
Optional: grated parmesan cheese, to serve
1. Boil enough water in a large saucepan to cook pasta.
2. Peel onion, cut in half and then slice each half into half-moons. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces.
3. Place pasta into boiling water and leave to cook.
4. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over a frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté for five minutes or until soft. Turn up heat to medium, add chicken breast and cook until white all the way through.
5. Add frozen peas to the pasta water in the last few minutes of cooking time. Leave for a few minutes, and then drain pasta and peas together. Add pasta and peas back into the saucepan.
6. Add cooked onion and chicken to the cooked pasta and peas and mix through. Stir through basil pesto. Finely slice fresh basil and stir through, along with pine nuts.
7. Serve pasta garnished with parmesan cheese (to taste) and fresh basil leaves, alongside a fresh green salad.
- For a vegetarian option take out the chicken and add a 400g tin of drained (and washed) butterbeans. They'll help bump up the protein content.
- Switch up the pasta to suit your need - you could do regular, gluten-free, rice, quinoa pasta, or even courgetti (courgette noodles made with a spiraliser - good low-carb option)
- You may need to adjust the pesto to pasta ratio if you change the pasta type - go to your taste buds!