Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pesto Chicken Pasta Bake

Happy weekend, everyone! I meant to get this post out last night, but I must confess that I got seriously distracted by Pinterest. I don't know if that has ever happened to any of you, but it is a truly delightful way to spend what was meant to be about 15 minutes but somehow became about 2 hours!

So this morning I got up, rarin' to go, and I am going to share this really great recipe with you before I get sidetracked by something else!

I found a recipe that sounded really good on Picky Palate (one of the umpteen blogs I follow... and yes... "umpteen" is a real number) for a Cheesy Chicken and Pesto Pasta Bake, but I discovered that Pesto is one of those things that is not normally stocked in my house. I have no idea why... I am a big fan, and even though it is green, Mike seems to be okay with it too. In any case, the pesto had to be made before the rest of it. And I figured, if I am making basil pesto, I might as well throw some of that fresh spinach that I have in there, too!



So I put about a cup of spinach leaves in with around 2 cups of basil leaves (stems removed), a handful of shredded parmesan, 4 cloves of garlic (I really love garlic) and one lemon, zested and juiced, into a food processor. I pulsed it until it started to look "pesto-y", and then drizzled in about 1/2 cup of olive oil until I found the consistency that I like. Then I put in a little salt and pepper until it tasted JUST RIGHT. Very scientific, I know, but that is mostly how I cook.

Next thing I noticed was that the recipe called for shredded chicken. I didn't have shredded chicken. But I did have some frozen chicken breasts, so I poached those and then shredded them. I don't know if you have ever shredded your own chicken, but there are many theories on this. Most people say to use a food processor, but I find that my chicken gets "gummy" and sticks together, so I do it the old-fashioned way: two forks and a lot of patience.

Once the chicken was shredded and the pesto made, we were ready to rock! I cooked up a package of spaghetti, drained it, and mixed in the pesto, some garlic salt, milk, a little more salt and pepper, and the shredded chicken.



Then I put half the chicken and pasta mixture in a lightly greased 9x13 pan, then layered fresh mozzarella in, and topped with the remainder of the pasta. Then some shredded mozzarella cheese on top (because there is no such thing as too much cheese), and baked it at 350 for about 25 minutes.

Super-tasty, and many thanks to Picky Palate for the recipe! It is shared below, as it appears on their site:

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Cheesy Pesto Chicken Spaghetti Bake
Makes 8 servings
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 1 cup prepared pesto
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups mozzarella balls (ciliegine)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water. Place noodles back into pot. Add pesto, milk, chicken, salt, garlic salt, and pepper, stirring to combine. Transfer half of the spaghetti to baking dish then add mozzarella balls. Add remaining spaghetti then top with shredded mozzarella. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted.