Pesto Chicken and Broccoli with Penne Pasta

Because it is made from all fresh ingredients, this delicious dish rivals anything you would get at a high-end Italian restaurant but comes together in about 45 minutes, making it perfect for a busy weeknight or a lazy weekend.  If you’re looking for inspiration for dinner tonight, this is it.

Difficulty:  Easy
Time:  45 minutes to 1 hour
Cost:  Approximately $2/plate
Serves:  6-8

Ingredients

For the Pesto

  1.  1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  2.  2 tablespoons walnuts
  3.  2 cloves garlic
  4.  1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  5.  Pinch Kosher Salt
  6.  Olive oil (to desired consistency, probably 2-4 tablespoons)

For the Chicken and Pasta

  1.  1.5-2lbs chicken breasts, sliced to 1/2 inch thickness and approximately 2-3 inches long
  2.   1 medium shallot, minced
  3.   2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  4.  2 tablespoons olive oil
  5.  1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  6.  Salt and Pepper
  7.   8oz broccoli florets (save money by buying whole broccoli and removing the florets yourself)
  8. 1 lb penne pasta
  9.  3-4 whole Roma tomatoes (or 1 14oz can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes)
  10. 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  11.  Splash heavy cream

Instructions

For the Pesto

  1.  Combine ingredients 1-4 in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop finely.
  2.  With the motor running, add olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.  In lieu of a food processor, a mortar and pestle (or glass bowl and wooden spoon) and some elbow grease will get the job done.
  3. Transfer pesto to a bowl and cover; leave at room temperature.

For the Chicken and Pasta

  1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Quarter tomatoes and toss with a splash of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and a pinch of Kosher salt.  Roast in oven on a baking sheet until lightly charred, 20-25 minutes (or skip this step entirely and use fire-roasted diced tomatoes from a can)
  2.   Bring several quarts of water to a rolling boil in a pot appropriate for cooking pasta.  Add several generous pinches of Kosher salt
  3.   Blanch broccoli in  boiling water, 3-5 minutes, until bright green.  Remove from water and rinse immediately under running cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain and set aside.
  4.  In a large sauté pan, melt butter and olive oil over medium high heat.  Once foaming subsides, add chicken.  Season aggressively with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir and toss until chicken begins to brown, 7-9 minutes.
  5. Add shallot and cook with chicken until translucent.
  6. Add garlic and cook until very fragrant but by no means browned, 1-2 minutes (if it looks like things are beginning to brown too much, add a splash of white wine, chicken stock, or water to stop the browning process).
  7. Add tomatoes and continue to stir, smashing tomatoes up against the side of the pan (if you used canned tomatoes, best to drain them before adding to the pan).  Allow any liquid in the pan to reduce.
  8. Cook Pasta in boiling water according to package directions (if sauce reduces to desired consistency before pasta is done, off the heat and cover).
  9. Drain pasta and add to pan with chicken.
  10. Add broccoli to pan with chicken
  11. Add approximately 1/4 cup pesto sauce (or to taste) and stir to combine
  12. Stir in heavy cream and Parmesan cheese.  Continue to toss until a thick sauce has formed.

Serve with garlic bread and a rustic red wine.

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