Pesto Chicken Penne with Tomato

This pasta is prepared with a ready-made pesto in a jar.  It might cost you some street cred in the slow-food cooking movement, but it’s well worth it for the time saved.  Besides, ready-made pestos are low on the list of bad-for-you-packaged-foods.  Just keep an eye on the ingredients when you select one; most jarred pesto sauces only contain the same ingredients as its fresh counterpart.
What I love about this quick and simple recipe is that it can be served hot, or made ahead of time and then enjoyed cold as a pasta salad.  This is an ideal dish to make for lunch, dinner, picnics, or potlucks.  Enjoy!
serves 6-8
– 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
– 1 lb penne pasta
– 1 lb grape (or cherry) tomatoes
– 1 cup pre-made pesto sauce
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
1.  Cook the penne pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until “al dente,” about 10 minutes.  It should be firm to the bite, but not hard.
2.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare the chicken and sauce.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season both sides of the the chicken with salt and pepper, then cook until just done (about 3-5 minutes each side, depending on the thickness of the chicken).  Remove from pan and set aside.
3.  Discard any excess fat from the skillet.  Reduce heat to medium.  Toss the pesto and tomatoes together in the skillet and cook until the tomatoes have just begun to burst.  Cut the chicken into 1/2 inch slices and return them to the skillet.
4.  Drain the pasta once it is finished cooking, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water.  Toss the pasta together with the pesto chicken and tomatoes, adding any of the reserved pasta water as needed if the pasta is too thick.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve hot or at room temperature.
5.  Wasn’t that easy?  Now go eat!
*  Give this pasta an even greater Italian flair by tossing in some bocconcini (small fresh mozzerella balls).

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