Each spring and summer our garden is bursting with basil, so I always try to make a large batch of pesto sauce. I like to add healthy ingredients like antioxidant and iron-rich spinach, and walnuts—a tasty, omega-3-packed substitute for the traditional pine nuts—for an extra nutritional kick. This seasonal pesto is a staple in our kitchen, a lovely hostess gift, and in the case of this recipe, a delicious compliment to Chicken Parmesan for a quick, easy weeknight meal.
Chicken Pesto Parmesan
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cups finely grated (not shredded) good quality Parmesan cheese
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
Homemade Pesto Sauce (recipe follows)
1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.) Place chicken in a large zipper-seal bag (you may need to use two bags depending on size of chicken breasts), and close. Using a kitchen mallet, pound the breasts gently until thin.
3.) Open bag and pour in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt, pepper, dried basil and garlic. Shake bag until chicken is coated in seasoning.
4.) Lay cutlets on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Place 1-2 tablespoons of pesto sauce in center of each breast, with a sprinkling of feta cheese on top. Fold over breasts and secure with toothpicks.
5.) In a bowl combine Parmesan, salt, pepper and dried basil. Sprinkle over chicken.
6.) Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until golden. Serve chicken with a drizzle of pesto sauce on top of each piece and garnish with freshly chopped basil.
Spinach Pesto Sauce
1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and patted dry
¾ cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley
¾ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves 2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup olive oil ¼ cup walnuts or pine nuts
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra olive oil to drizzle on top
1.) Combine spinach, parsley, basil and garlic in food processor. With motor running, add a drizzle of olive oil until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency.
2.) Add walnuts and Parmesan and pulse until the mixture is smooth (usually 4-5 times). For a thinner sauce, add more olive oil.
3.) Place in jar and add just enough olive oil to cover top (this prevents pesto from turning brown).
Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.
Elizabeth Kaplan is the founder of The Pure Pantry, an allergen-free natural foods company that creates nutritious, great-tasting, and easy-to-use baking mixes. She is the author of Fresh from Elizabeth’s Kitchen: Gluten-free & Allergy-free Recipes. When she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002, and subsequently her children were diagnosed with severe food allergies and gluten intolerance, she focused her passion for the culinary arts on gluten-free cuisine. Elizabeth teaches cooking classes that help others transition to a gluten-free lifestyle, lectures on topics related to gluten intolerance, and writes a lifestyle blog in which she shares recipes, nutrition tips, entertaining and travel ideas, and her first-hand knowledge about raising children with food allergies. Her husband and three children all enjoy being her official taste testers for the recipes and products she creates.