Thursday, September 13, 2012

Make a Meal: Spinach-Basil Pesto Pasta with Caprese Chicken Stacks


For Labor Day, I had a fun little girls weekend with my two Maids of Honor. Amy and I went southbound 35 to visit Greer for a little time together, just the three of us and one thing I knew I could count on was a fun cooking night. We went to a local farmers market to find inspiration and ended up deciding on an Italian theme. We bought fresh vegetables and Italian peppers, then found a fresh pasta place where we bought three fresh pastas: a fettuccine, a spinach fusilli, and a pecorino-peppercorn cavatelli pasta. For sauces, we bought a vodka sauce from the pasta place then made our own fresh basil pesto. For toppings, we sauteed the fresh farmers market vegetables to toss with pasta and olive oil, then made some easy balsamic chicken chunks. When we put it all together, it was ahh-mazing. See below for our little pasta bar!

Fast forward to this week, Mr. Max and I were meal planning.  I was still having some serious food envy of all the leftovers that Greer had, and DVR envy from the ridiculous amount of recorded hours of The Hills, but that's another story. We may or may not have bypassed our Saturday plans to explore Austin so that we could watch 10.5 hours of that reality TV gold.

Busted. Name that scene! The "he's a sucky, sucky person" confrontation was one of the best between Lauren and Hiedi, next was the "you KNOW what you did" at Les Duex.

Back to the featured post dish, I was craving some pesto after thinking about the delicious stuff we made over Labor Day and decided to pick up some whole wheat fusilli to revamp my ever-changing chicken caprese. This recipe was quick and easy, I made it on one of my busiest work weeks of the year, meaning I was tired, maybe slightly grouchy and was ready to eat some dinner so I could go to bed. That said, this took all of 20 minutes from prep start to plated finish.

Nutritional facts can be found here.

Grocery List:
Recipe Yields 3-4 servings
For the Pesto Pasta (forgive me, rough estimates I tried to track as I went)
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 large pinches of Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1.5 cups spinach, packed
  • 2 cups pasta (I made extra for Mr. Max's appetite and a lunch portion)
For the Caprese Chicken
  • 3 chicken cutlets (4 oz. each)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 6 thin slices of part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved  
  • Balsamic glaze

To start, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Bring salted water to a boil and add the pasta noodles. Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until al dente. 

Next, combine the spinach, basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parm in the food processor and grind. Add the olive oil slowly and continue to grind until you've reached a smooth, desired pesto consistency.

Toss your tomatoes in just a splash of olive oil. Spread the halves over a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Roast in the oven for twenty minutes until puckered and slightly browned.

Take your chicken cutlets and cut them in half so you have small, slider size slabs of chicken. Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to evenly coat the chicken. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.

Place the chicken in a foil lined baking dish and place in the oven for 4 minutes to cook. After 4 minutes, remove from the oven, flip and add the sliced mozzarella to the top of each chicken. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Once the pasta is ready, drain and dry with paper towels. In a large saute pan, combine the pasta with the pesto and add the additional spinach to let wilt over low-medium heat.

Once the chicken is ready, make a bed of the pasta on a plate or bowl and then top with the chicken and scoop of roasted tomatoes, then drizzle with an ever so slight balsamic glaze. In the picture at the very top of this post, I had stacked the chicken with layer of tomatoes between and again on top. In the one below, the two chicken pieces are side by side.

Tastefully yours,
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