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Pesto Chicken Penne Pasta

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Pesto Chicken Penne Pasta is an amazing combination of flavors and a complete meal in a bowl. Grilled chicken, pasta, and loads of veggies are coated in a luxurious homemade pesto sauce for a meal your whole family will love

This post and recipe card updated July 10, 2020
overhead shot of finished chicken penne pasta in a white bowl with a green/yellow napkin on the side

When I first learned to cook, I relied primarily on dry herbs. Most recipes called for dry and, quite honestly, I didn’t even know you could buy fresh herbs in the grocery store.

A couple of years ago I tried my hand at growing fresh herbs…and killed everything for 2 years straight. Once I figured out how to keep them alive, I stuck with the basics: rosemary, oregano, parsley, and basil.

My basil plants grow like crazy, way faster than I can use them. I add fresh basil to my Homemade Marinara Sauce. And basil is the final touch on my Tomato Basil Braised Chicken.

I also love pesto because of the bold flavor it adds to dishes. And one of my favorite pesto recipes is Pesto Chicken Penne Pasta

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
  • You can use your favorite vegetables
  • This dish is on the table in 30 minutes
  • It’s perfect as leftovers
close up shot of finished penne pasta in a white bowl
MAKE YOUR OWN PESTO!

Before I grew my own basil I used store-bought pesto because I thought pesto was difficult to make. And, just like other kitchen fears, I realized this one was totally unfounded.

Pine nuts are traditional for pesto, but they’re also expensive. So you could substitute walnuts, almonds, or pecans.

Raw or roasted garlic? Raw is traditional in pesto…but it is also STRONG. Roasted garlic is sweet and has an incredible depth of flavor. I use them interchangeably, and will sometimes even make roasted garlic just to make pesto.

If you’re using raw, then a Garlic Press is your friend. The press minces the garlic incredibly finely.

I use Avocado Oil or Olive Oil. I’ve tried to use only a little bit of oil, but it’s just not the same. You lose the gorgeous, silky texture. Sometimes, you just have to splurge.

Red Pepper Flakes add a little bit of heat, but too much will overpower the pesto. You can start out with just a little, and add more at the end.

I highly recommend splurging on Parmigiano Reggiano. You can buy a chunk and, stored properly, it will last several months in the fridge. Don’t use the parmesan in the can, because there’s no comparison in flavor.

overhead shot of finished chicken penne pasta in a white bowl offset to the left with a fork and napkin on the side
INGREDIENT TIPS FOR PESTO CHICKEN PENNE PASTA

I use grilled boneless/skinless chicken thighs for this dish. If you prefer chicken breast, you can certainly use that. You could also saute the chicken in the same skillet as the vegetables rather than grilling.

When it comes to the vegetables, I probably go a little overboard. Then again, there’s no such thing as too many veggies! Slowly sauteed onions is a critical first step. Asparagus and green beans add crunch, portobello mushrooms, and peas add more texture and flavor.

overhead shot of finished pesto chicken penne pasta in a white bowl
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Rinse the basil under running water. Transfer to paper towels to dry.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Add pine nuts to a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toast for 3 minutes, tossing occasionally until just golden. Remove pine nuts and set aside.

Heat a grill or Grill Pan over medium heat. Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper and cook until done. When cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces.

While chicken cooks, melt butter and add onions and a pinch of salt to the skillet. Saute for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.

Add asparagus and green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Next, add peas and cook for 1 minute.

overhead process shot: vegetables cooking in a black skillet

Transfer vegetables to the bowl with the pasta and chicken.

While vegetables cook, make the pesto

overhead process shot: pesto ingredients in separate bowls on a wooden board

Add basil, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, and red pepper flakes to a food processor. Add oil 2 Tablespoons at a time, mixing well each time until you get the desired consistency.

overhead shot of pesto in food processor
overhead process shot: ingredients in separate bowls on a wooden board

Add pasta, chicken, vegetables, and pesto to a large bowl. Combine well, adding a little more cheese if desired.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How about leftovers? Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, it will last up to one week. To reheat, I divide it into portions and microwave for 3 minutes at 80% power.

Do I have to use penne pasta? Absolutely not, but I do recommend a short-cut pasta for this dish

What other vegetables can I use? The choice is all yours. I recommend cutting them all about the same size so they cook evenly.

overhead shot of finished pesto chicken penne pasta in a white bowl with a napkin on the side
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overhead shot of finished pesto chicken penne pasta in a white bowl

Pesto Chicken Penne Pasta

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Pesto Chicken Penne Pasta is an amazing combination of flavors and a complete meal in a bowl. Grilled chicken, pasta, and loads of veggies are coated in a luxurious homemade pesto sauce for a meal your whole family will love

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 ounces penne pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup yellow onions, cut into 1/2" slices
  • 1/2 cup raw asparagus, cut into 1/2" slices
  • 1/2 cup raw green beans, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 cup portobello mushrooms, quarterted
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas

PESTO

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or avocado oil

Instructions

  1. In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Add pine nuts to a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toast for 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove pine nuts and set aside.
  3. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper and cook until done. When cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  4. WHILE CHICKEN COOKS: melt butter and add onions and a pinch of salt to the skillet. Saute for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.
  5. Add asparagus and green beans to the skillet and cook for 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Next, add peas and cook for 1 minute.
  6. MAKE PESTO WHILE VEGETABLES COOK
  7. Add basil, pine nuts, garlic, red pepper flakes, and cheese to a food processor. Add oil 2 Tablespoons at a time, processing until desired consistency is reached. Pesto should be smooth and creamy, but not swimming in oil.
  8. In a large bowl add chicken, vegetables, and pasta, and stir to combine. Add pesto and mix until fully combined

Notes

PESTO TIPS

Raw or roasted garlic? Raw is traditional in pesto…but it is also STRONG. Roasted garlic is sweet and has an incredible depth of flavor. I use them interchangeably, and will sometimes even make roasted garlic just to make pesto.

If you’re using raw, then a garlic press is your friend. The press minces the garlic incredibly finely.

Pine nuts are traditional for pesto, but they’re also expensive. So you could substitute walnuts, almonds, or pecans. 

I highly recommend splurging on Parmigiano Reggiano. You can buy a chunk and, stored properly, it will last several months in the fridge

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How about leftovers? Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, it will last up to one week. To reheat, I divide it into portions and microwave for 3 minutes at 80% power.

Do I have to use penne pasta? Absolutely not, but I do recommend a short-cut pasta for this dish

What other vegetables can I use? The choice is all yours. I recommend cutting them all about the same size so they cook evenly.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 589Total Fat: 48gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 35gCholesterol: 87mgSodium: 628mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 23g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, etc

Adapted from Sweet Anna’s

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