Pesto Pasta & Chicken

What a fabulous meal! This was my first time making homemade pesto and the smell of it brought me back to my childhood and images of my grandfather tending to his garden. This was a great break from our usual dinners and something that I will definitely make more often. Thank you to Barefoot Blogger Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food for choosing this recipe!

I adapted this recipe a bit to suit what I could find in the store and my allergies. First things first, my allergies. I am allergic to all nuts, so I had to venture out and make my own pesto sans the nuts. Quite easy, actually. Next, I couldn’t find much basil at our store and knew I wouldn’t have enough, so I supplemented what I had with baby spinach. I thought it added a great dimension of flavor! However, since I did this I eliminated the frozen chopped spinach (as well as the mayo and lemon juice). And since I like to incorporate protein in the form of meat in most of my dinners, I added some sauteed chicken breast to the dish. So in the end you get a bow tie pasta dish with chicken and a spinach-basil pesto. Honestly, it was fabulous and I really enjoyed it!

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


3/4 pound fusilli pasta
3/4 pound bow tie pasta
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 cups pesto
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Pesto:
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan


1. Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

1. To make the Pesto: Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

(Source: Ina Garten "Barefoot Contessa Parties!" p.98 and the show Barefoot Contessa)


29 Responses to “Pesto Pasta & Chicken”

  1. Lindsey on June 12, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Looks great! I love your spinach-basil pesto(certainly healthier than regular pesto)! I was thinking next time I made this to incorporate chicken as well.


  2. Liliana on June 12, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Your pasta dish looks delicous! I added extra spinach to the salad but next time I will try to make a nut free pesto.


  3. RecipeGirl on June 12, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I’ve tried her pesto before (can you say ‘garlic??’) I’ve been wanting to try this pasta salad recipe. Glad to hear it’s good!


  4. Amber on June 12, 2008 at 9:50 am

    This looks fantastic. I probably would have had to add some chicken too.


  5. Rebecca on June 12, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Oooh, good idea–I’m adding chicken to mine for lunch. I halved the recipe, and we still have a ton!


  6. Amy on June 12, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Yum! That sounds delicious just the way you made it. I am definitely making this soon! Thanks for the idea!


  7. Meryl on June 12, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Yeah, you totally don’t have to add the nuts to make wonderful pesto. I like the idea of adding chicken though.


  8. Kate on June 12, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Your spinach pesto sounds great!


  9. Christine on June 12, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Love your spinach-basil pesto! I am going to have to try it with chicken!


  10. jesstyler on June 12, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Thanks for the recipe for spinach-basil pesto … I’ve made both spinach pesto and basil pesto, but not tother (other than with Ina’s dish) 🙂


  11. Mary Ann on June 12, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    what a great idea to add the chicken! It looks so good great pic


  12. Melissa on June 12, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I’m sure it was great with the chicken!


  13. Kelly D on June 12, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    I love spinach pesto (spinach and olive pesto is a nice alternative). Looks great!


  14. Brooke - In Oregon on June 12, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Sounds wonderful, I look forward to trying it. My MIL makes Rosemary pesto, sounds weird I know but it is really FABULOUS!!!


  15. Heather B on June 12, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    yum! It looks delicious! I was short on basil too so I subbed in some spinach as well. So tasty!


  16. Danielle on June 13, 2008 at 12:28 am

    I’m jealous. That chicken looks rockin’ with the pasta. ::sigh:: Now I think I want to try it again with some chicken. Of course, now my mind is wandering and I am thinking a grilled chicken sandwich with the pesto as a spread would be divine.


  17. Debinhawaii on June 13, 2008 at 2:14 am

    The chicken was an excellent idea and looks s great in the picture. Great job!


  18. April on June 13, 2008 at 7:44 am

    This looks really yummy! I have never tried pesto, but it looks delicious!


  19. Jaime on June 14, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    i’m glad to hear the pesto is good w/o the pine nuts as i’m not a huge fan of them!


  20. Erin on June 15, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    I love pesto, and I would really like to try it with spinach. I made pesto potato salad last night, but I went with the shortcut of store bought pesto. I don’t know if I could do pesto w/o the pine nuts, though. I LOVE them! 🙂


  21. Chrissy on June 16, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Looks delicious! What did you season the chicken with before you cooked it?


  22. Chelle on June 16, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Chrissy,

    I just seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some seasoned salt. That’s kind of our “default” seasoning for chicken unless we’re making a specific dish.


  23. tara on June 19, 2008 at 6:43 am

    looks incredible Chelle!! the chicken was a great addition.


  24. Emily on February 11, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    fyi – i found out recently from a friend with nut allergies that pine nuts are not a nut, they are a seed. who knew?


  25. Holly B on May 12, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Made this tonight along with the Ina’s Parmesan Chicken recipe you also posted. I’ve never had Pesto before and I’m glad I tried was delicious!!


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  27. Laura on November 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I love pesto and I love chicken, I should definitely try this at home!
    A couple of years ago, browsing on the web, I found a pesto cake recipe, it tastes just like the sauce, it’s just dreamy! I was thinking I should share it here 🙂
    Sorry if I have a bad grammar 🙁
    Greetings from Mexico!


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