Friday, February 15, 2008

Chicken Pesto Pasta


The first time I had pesto (circa 1985, before its rise to popularity on the American table) it had been made for my dad as a gift by an Italian colleague. Having no clue what to do with it, he heated it up in a small saucepan before tossing it on pasta. I think it might have turned brown.

Pesto is something we enjoy year-round in our house. It's easy to stockpile pine nuts (well, Trader Joe's makes it easier than many purveyors); buy the raw ones so you can roast them yourself) and parmesan and I try to keep fresh basil on hand at all times since I use it for a variety of foods.

Pesto is sort of an à la minute preparation.You don't have to leave it for the absolute last moment, but don't make pesto ahead of time. It loses it's verdant luster pretty quickly.

I'm often asked my pasta preferences. After years of experimentation, I now only buy Barilla penne and thin spaghetti. You really can't go wrong there.

Makes enough for about 12-16 oz pasta, serving four
Print recipe only here.


Morning Prep:
1. Marinate a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts in olive oil, garlic, lemon or whatever else you like in there.

Evening Prep:
1. Preheat Grill and oven or toaster oven to 350.

2. Boil water for pasta, adding a spoonful of kosher salt to the water. A cooking school teacher once told me that pasta cooking water should be as salty as the sea. That seemed extreme, but I do remember each time I cook pasta.

3. Roast a scant ¼ cup pine nuts in the oven or toaster oven for about 1 minute or until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

4. While the water is heating, trim haricots (top and tail). Fill a medium sized bowl with ice and water.

3. Grill chicken breasts.

4. When the pasta water comes to a boil, throw haricots in and blanche - no more than a minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon and toss in the bowl of ice water. (Honestly, I usually just put the beans in a strainer and run cold water over them.)

5. Get chicken off the grill and allow to cool slightly.

6. Put pasta in boiling water and prepare pesto:

In a cuisinart:

* 2 oz fresh basil
* pine nuts, cooled
* 1-2 cloves garlic (pressed through the Susi)
* 1/2 t kosher salt
* 1/3 cup grated parmesan (I use Grana Padano)

Pulse cuisinart until throroughly blended, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary.

With motor running, add through the tube:

* ¼ cup good olive oil

7. Slice chicken
8. Drain pasta and put in a serving bowl. Add chicken, haricots vert and the pesto and toss to coat.

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