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Mom On The Run: Presto Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Roasted Peppers

Categories: Cooking, Food


Do you ever see those recipes in magazines that say they will be done and on your table in ten minutes or less. And you laugh because you know it will take longer than that just to chop up whatever it is that needs to be chopped, or to find the ingredients in your cabinets?

I won’t promise ten minutes. But this delicious recipe takes only as long as your pasta takes to boil. That I will promise.


Step One: Get out your ingredients.

Chicken breast

2/3 cup roasted red peppers, drained
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts ( I used walnuts)
1 cup fresh basil, packed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Step Two: Pasta
Fill your big pasta pot up with water. Add some oil to the water so the pasta doesn’t stick to itself. Turn it on to boil.

Step Three: Chicken

Is your chicken breast still in the freezer? No problem. Take it out. I store mine in ziploc bags in the freezer. When I forget to defrost in advance I fill the sink with hot water and toss the bag in.

The chicken doesn’t need to be completely defrosted, you just need to be able to get a knife through it.

When you can break the breasts apart from each other, run them individually under the hot water for a couple minutes.


They are still partly frozen here. But I am able to fillet them and then slice them into strips. This makes cooking them thoroughly easier.


Put them in your skillet. Pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet with them. Brown the chicken.

You don’t need them to cook all the way through, you just want them to be browned.


Pour about 1/2 cup of water in to the pan. I usually give it a few cranks of the sea salt also at this point.

Put the lid on. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer away.

Step Four: Pesto

Get our your food processor.


Pack the fresh basil in there.


You want the extra virgin olive oil. Made from the pure, chaste olives who just said no. I used walnuts in place of pine nuts, because I could never find pine nuts in my grocery store. I could not tell the difference.


Garlic! No vampires coming around here, I tell you.


Roasted peppers are yummy. You will want a whole one from the jar . I know the recipe says 1/3 of a cup but how are you supposed to measure that?


Blend it all up.

Step Five: Killing time
Waiting for the pasta to finish boiling. Don’t cook it too much. You want it to be al dente not mushy.

Check the chicken and make sure it isn’t burning. It should be done cooking by now. Cut open one of the chicken breast strips and see if it is cooked. Remove from heat and set aside.

If you are like my husband you will use this time to clean up the kitchen, make a few spreadsheets, contemplate the perfect vacuuming schedule. If you are like me, you can use this time to read a few blogs.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and pour back into the pot. Pour the pesto sauce from the food processor into the pot. Stir well to coat. Shred the chicken breast and toss it into the pot also. Stir it up.

Step Six: Serve.

You can skip the wrinkly tablecloth if you would like.


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20 comments so far...

  • The pine nuts are in the produce section. No idea why.

    Chris says: Not at my grocery. There literally aren’t any.

    EG  |  March 18th, 2008 at 3:25 pm

  • Sounds very yummy - I think “I feel like chicken tonight”…

    Eva  |  March 18th, 2008 at 3:55 pm

  • I like all your recipes because because I can count on them being something my daughter can eat. she is allergic to dairy, eggs and beef. This looks great!

    Jennifer  |  March 18th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

  • Are you anti-already-made-pesto? Fresh is awesome but cleaning up is as much fun as [insert favorite hassle to moan about].

    I’m thinking mixing in roasted pepper with prepped pesto? No?

    Chris says: I really don’t think it is hard to clean up after. Also you would would have to put it into the processor with the roasted peppers anyway.
    I am pretty much anti anything premade.

    QueenAlpo  |  March 18th, 2008 at 4:37 pm

  • The best value on pine nuts that I’ve found is at Costco - a large 1 1/2 pound bag for around $10. Compared to what you get in the grocery store, it’s about 5 times as much for 1-2 times the price.

    I love pesto - this dish is making me very hungry!

    Jamie AZ  |  March 18th, 2008 at 5:26 pm

  • Chris, what kind of pasta did you use here?

    Chris says: Hmmm, I threw away the packages so I don’t know what it was called.

    Mom Nancy  |  March 18th, 2008 at 6:18 pm

  • For “Mom Nancy” commentor above - those look like orecchiette pasta, I think.

    Probably spelled wrong, but I think it means “little ear”.

    Ears and chicken, what kid wouldn’t want to try that???? Just kidding, looks and sounds good and easy.

    Chris says: I think you are right about the name of the pasta!

    Jean  |  March 18th, 2008 at 7:22 pm

  • This looks soooooooo good.

    Ashley  |  March 18th, 2008 at 7:34 pm

  • Trader Joe’s has pine nuts at a reasonable price too. I buy them ahead and keep them in the freezer.

    And I think Jean is right. Orecchiette is what it looks like to me and it does mean “little ear”. They are good for holding the sauce.

    Deb Finch  |  March 18th, 2008 at 7:49 pm

  • Our regular grocery store sells pine nuts in teeny weeny jars near things like “capers” and “cocktail onions”. I got a giant bag at BJs instead and keep it in my freezer, but walnuts are good too!

    Brigitte  |  March 18th, 2008 at 8:17 pm

  • That looks really good. And I LOVE your Susan Scale. To me, 1 means I don’t have to really think or care while making dinner; 5 means pay attention (don’t make on a bad day). To dumb it down even more, I am thinking I may even use the canned chicken breast (on a bad day).

    Heidi  |  March 19th, 2008 at 12:02 am

  • This looks great! I’ll have to try it soon.

    Natalie  |  March 19th, 2008 at 12:22 am

  • Love the recipes! Keep them coming…

    kirsten  |  March 19th, 2008 at 12:41 am

  • I usually find pine nuts in the bulk section of the grocery stores here. They are yummy :)

    Also, for those that just don’t have the time, get a roast chicken from the deli section. :)

    Nicole  |  March 19th, 2008 at 2:49 am

  • can’t wait to try it, the last recipe was delicious Chris! Keep them coming. You should publish a cook book.

    mandi  |  March 19th, 2008 at 3:28 am

  • Mmm…. looks yummy!

    Jaime  |  March 19th, 2008 at 5:33 am

  • Mmm…it won’t hurt to roast my own red bell pepper for it, will it?

    And do you think I could substitute dried basil for fresh? Obviously not ideal but I’m not sure if I can find it fresh. Any idea how much I would need to use?

    Chris says: NO, you need to use fresh for this recipe. Don’t even try using dried.

    Shannon  |  March 20th, 2008 at 6:40 pm

  • I am dying to try this but I have no food processor…will a blender work? Or do I just have to suck it up and buy a food processor (I’ve been putting it off)…

    Chris says: I think that a blender would work fine.

    Nadia  |  March 31st, 2008 at 4:45 pm

  • Nadia,

    Definitely buy a food processor. Not just for this recipe, but for so many others as well. Last summer I made fresh corn and tomato salsa pretty much every day with stuff from my garden:

    The food processor is also great for homemade pizza crust!

    E. Peevie

    E. Peevie  |  April 4th, 2008 at 5:06 pm

  • This comment is a bit late! I just wanted to let you know that my family and I love this recipe. I’ve made it regularly since I found it here last year. I’d never even tasted pesto before and now I’m planning on planting basil once I get a garden just to keep me supplied for this tasty dish! Thanks Chris.

    Suzanne  |  July 14th, 2009 at 4:04 pm