This is another favorite that I discovered on Recipezaar ages ago, "ages" here being defined as "7 or 8 months." It's easy and delicious and I have a bunch of basil plants now because I want to make pesto out of basil I grew myself. This is ambitious and may never happen, but I remain hopeful.
You can buy pesto to make this, but I much prefer to buy a bunch of basil and pine nuts and romano and garlic and olive oil and make it myself. It keeps for about a week in the fridge if you seal it, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays and have little single-portion cubes of frozen pesto to melt whenever you feel is appropriate.
RECIPE: Basic Basil Pesto
-about 4 cups loosely-packed basil leaves
-about 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
-about 1/3 cup pine nuts
-3 or 4 cloves of garlic
-about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Put everything in a blender or food processor and puree. If it's too dry, add small amounts of olive oil until you achieve your desired consistency.
Ooh, yeah--make sure to wash the basil first! I try to avoid including any stems. I'm not sure what the normal protocol on stems is.
You may find it easier to blend the basil before adding everything else, especially if you're using a blender. I used my mini-food processor and did the basil in small batches before putting everything else in the blender, but my blender is pretty lame and doesn't work so you'd probably be fine just putting everything in at once.
Once it's done, put it in a container and refrigerate until you're ready to use it! I love the bright green of a fresh pesto--you don't get that from the jarred varieties.
Okay, so that was pretty much the easiest thing ever, right? If you have the basil, it's absolutely worth it, but basil can get pretty expensive so you might want to skip the 'making pesto' step and buy pesto instead to make this chicken. Because it's SO GOOD. I call it "caprese chicken" because, well, it's tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, but I think "pesto chicken" works just as well.
RECIPE: Caprese Chicken
-6 thin-sliced chicken breasts
-3 plum tomatoes
-a ball of fresh mozzarella (or a bunch of the tiny ones)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wash the chicken and trim any excess fat off the edges.
2. Slather the pesto all over each chicken breast and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
3. Place chicken in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and grate (or slice) the mozzarella.
4. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven. Lay slices of tomato on chicken and coat with mozzarella. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes, until cheese has melted.
5. Remove from oven. Serve on a bed of pasta (with pesto!) and with some vegetables. Enjoy.
I scoop some pesto into a bowl and cover about 2 thin chicken breasts with it, then add more. This isn't properly coated--it's just to point out that this recipe does get quite messy at times.
Apparently I didn't get a good picture of how the chicken looked once it was thoroughly coated, and you shouldn't go by this because it looks less coated once it's baked. This is the 'slices of mini mozzarella' version.
The chicken comes out juicy and flavorful. I love trying to get everything in one bite--the chicken, pasta, tomato and cheese. I also tend to always serve this with asparagus, but that's just because I love asparagus!
Okay, so you can clearly see that I made 7 chicken breasts, even though I said 6. The package came with a different amount than usual. The thing here is to make a lot of leftovers--I was serving two people with this, but everything left goes to good use: it makes the best sandwiches ever! Which I'm ALSO going to tell you how to make! (In addition, the sandwiches are why I use thin-sliced breasts. If you don't care to make sandwiches, then you can use thicker breasts if you'd like, but I think this provides an awesome ratio of pesto to chicken.)
To make the sandwich, take your favorite kind of bread--I highly recommend rye in this situation, but your tastes may be different--and slather some of your remaining pesto on each slice, the same way you did the chicken in the first place. Grate some leftover mozzarella onto one side. Heat the leftover chicken, then put it on the inside, wrap in tinfoil, and toast (I use the 'dark toast' setting). Or, if you have a panini press, this would be a great time to bust it out! I, sadly, don't. These are excellent, sandwich-shop quality sandwiches that you make at home with leftovers from a really simple dinner.
Holy blurry picture, Batman. Sometimes there's nothing I can do to stabilize my camera. But you can still see this, and just look at all the delicious layers in there. The pesto gives the sandwich a super creamy texture inside, and the bread is nice and toasty.
So, there you have it: how to make pesto, what to do with it once you've made it, and what to do with the leftovers. Now I'm starving! I wish I still had some left.
I also can't help but wonder how this chicken would fare on the grill--has anyone grilled pesto before? Does it work? (Maybe I'll try it and let you know.)