Prep Time  30minutes
Cook Time  15minutes
Total Time  45minutes

Chicken Penne Pesto

Dave Beaulieu March 19th, 2012

I love a good chicken pasta recipe.  Both ingredients are easy to cook, and are great blank canvases that work with all kinds of other flavors.  Here I show you a recipe for Chicken Penne Pesto, which has become a staple in my house.  Pesto sauce is one of my favorite pasta sauces, for it’s great basil/garlic flavor, it’s texture, and of course the vibrant green color.  I show you how to make a fresh basil pesto in the video, but you can also use a good store-bought version, or even better, when you do make pesto, freeze some, and just pull it out of the freezer an hour before you want to use it.  You can also save some time if you have some leftover chicken from a previous meal, but even it not, you can saute a chicken breast in 5 or 6 minutes.  Hope you enjoy this Chicken Penne Pesto recipe as much as I do!

Recipe Overview & Keys to Success

To make the best Chicken Penne Pesto, just follow these few cooking techniques:

  1. I like making this recipe with penne, but you can use other pasta shapes.  No matter what pasta you use, don’t overcook it.  Start tasting the penne about a minute or two before the package's suggested cooking time, and pull it out as soon as it’s al dente
  2. As I mention above, you can certainly buy pesto, but the homemade version I show you here is going to be much better and fresh tasting
  3. Don’t cook the pesto sauce.  To maintain the bright color and flavors in the pesto, you really shouldn’t cook it.  Rather, simply combine it with the hot pasta, and toss off the direct heat
  4. Drizzle some additional olive oil over everything prior to serving.  The oil adds some lubrication that prevents the penne from clumping, and it adds additional flavors.  Also, make sure to season with salt and pepper, taste and re-season if needed before serving.


Ingredients for Chicken Penne Pasta

  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and diced
  • 1/3 lbs of penne pasta
  • 1 bunch (3 – 4 cups) fresh basil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pinenuts
  • 1 lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Chicken Penne Pesto

  • If not already cooked, sauté the chicken breast, allow it to rest and dice it into bite size pieces
  • Bring a pot of water to the boil, and drop in the basil leaves
  • Cook the basil for 20 seconds, and then remove it to a bowl filled with ice cold water to set the color and stop the cooking
  • Drain the basil and dry by squeezing between paper towels
  • Add the basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic to a blender along with a couple tablespoons of olive oil
  • Season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth. If needed, you can drizzle more olive oil (or even water) in while it blends to get the pesto smooth (I like to double or triple the recipe and freeze the leftover pesto)
  • Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add in the penne and stir to prevent sticking
  • Stir every few minutes, and drain the pasta once it becomes al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water
  • About a minute before the pasta is cooked, put a non-stick pan on the heat, and add the diced chicken
  • Drain the penne and add it to the chicken.  Season with salt, pepper and olive oil
  • Toss together and once everything is hot, turn the heat off.  Spoon a few tablespoons of the pesto onto the penne & chicken. 
  • Toss to combine.  You can add more pesto if needed, or if the penne looks thick, add some of the reserved pasta water
  • Once fully mixed, add a good drizzle of olive oil and taste.  Adjust the seasoning if needed

Wine Recommendation:  Generally speaking, I like to serve white wines with herb based sauces like this pesto.  Of course, I also really love to serve regional wines with regional foods, so if you can find an Italian white you love that would be great.  Try out Vermentino or even a simple Pinto Grigio.  Hope you enjoy the pairing with this Chicken Penne Pesto.

Chicken Penne Pesto Recipe

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