Barefoot Bloggers: 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, my allergies, and the inability for us to eat a meatless meal. 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, and Nick said that it tasted no different than the traditional pesto he has eaten. 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 we like to incorporate protein in the form of meat in most of our 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!

See how the other Barefoot Bloggers liked this dish here.

The original recipe as well as my spinach-basil (no nut!) pesto after the break…

Spinach-Basil Pesto

2 cups packed baby spinach
1 oz. (or small handful) basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic (depending on the size you may want just 1 – ours was pretty strong)
1/2 cup olive oil (approximate – drizzle until you get desired consistency)

Combine spinach, basil, parmesan, and garlic in a food processor or blender. With the machine still running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until it has reached desired consistency.


Ina’s original recipe for the dish is below – please note how many servings it yields, so you can scale appropriately should you want to try the recipe and not make it for a small army!

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas
(Source: Ina Garten “Barefoot Contessa Parties!” p.98 and the show Barefoot Contessa)

Yield: 12 servings

3/4 pound fusilli pasta
3/4 pound bow tie pasta
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below
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

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.

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.

1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (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

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.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

Yield: 4 cups


23 Responses

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

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

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

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

  8. Your spinach pesto sounds great!

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

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

  12. I’m sure it was great with the chicken!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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