That's why this recipe from Food Network magazine seemed like a winner. I've made, bought, and eaten plenty of pesto before, but because this recipe calls for pesto made from arugula and almonds, it occurred to me that pesto is basically like a salad thrown in a blender. Or like a shot of salad. Either way, it's taking lots of the healthy stuff I haven't been eating enough of and putting it into a form that is yummy and winter-friendly. And because the recipe includes tomatoes, green beans, and pasta, it is a fantastic well-rounded meal. Obviously you could just make the chicken and pesto, and serve it with a different side dish, but the lazy side of me loved that it was a recipe for a whole, well-rounded meal and I didn't have to spend time figuring out a side dish. Plus, the extra pesto tastes great with the veggies and pasta so it all comes together nicely.
The other reason I like this arugula pesto is that it's a great way to use up arugula and almonds that you might already have sitting around your house. My issue with making homemade pesto has always been that fresh basil and pine nuts are so expensive, unless you grow your own basil. So this seemed like a cheaper alternative, and was every bit as delicious as regular pesto in my opinion.
You'll notice that I used cherry tomatoes instead of roasting regular tomatoes...that was just because I had them on hand and didn't feel like going to the effort of roasting tomatoes. But I bet the roasted ones would be yummy.
Here you go:
Chicken with Arugula Pesto (and green beans and pasta and roasted tomatoes).
(From Food Network Magazine)
6 ounces orecchiette (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into pieces
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh parsley
2 tablespoons almonds or hazelnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 medium tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons whole-wheat breadcrumbs
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs; about 3 minutes before the pasta is done, add the green beans. Drain the pasta and beans and rinse under cold water. Toss with half of the cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon zest and salt.
Preheat the broiler. Puree the arugula, parsley, nuts, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons water, the remaining cheese and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt to taste in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl.
Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet and season with salt. Rub all over with 1/4 cup of the arugula pesto and broil, turning once, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up on another baking sheet and broil 2 minutes. Spread each with some pesto and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Broil until golden, 1 more minute. Serve the chicken, tomatoes and pasta salad with the remaining pesto.