Pesto sauce originated in Genoa, Italy but in the last several decades has become a favorite world-wide. It was traditionally made by hand using a mortar and pestle but thanks to the food processors of today, a home cook can easily whip up a batch in no time. This particular pesto recipe is a little different because it replaces some of the basil with spinach, increasing the depth of flavor.
To ensure your pasta has the most flavor, always salt the cooking water. For a pound of pasta, you should use at least 4 quarts of water and between 1 – 2 tablespoons of salt.
Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the tomatoes. Let them cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once. Add the salt and pepper. They should start to blister after another 2 minutes or so. Take them off the heat and set aside.
Into the bowl of a food processor, add the pine nuts, basil, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, parmesan cheese and the salt and pepper. Pulse a few times. Then, while the machine is running, slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream. You may need to stop and scrape down the bowl and then restart it. When everything is emulsified, stop again and taste. Add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if necessary.
Set the pesto aside until ready to use.
The pesto can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Spinach and Basil Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1 pound grilled chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pint blistered cherry tomatoes
Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
Cook the pasta according to its package's directions until it's al-dente.
Drain the pasta but reserve a few tablespoons of pasta water.
In a large bowl, add the pasta and the pesto. Then add the chicken and tomatoes.
Toss everything together, making sure to evenly distribute the pesto. Drizzle some of the pasta water into the bowl to help coat everything.
Add Parmesan to taste and then sprinkle on the toasted pine nuts.
Serve the pasta with warm garlic bread, a simple salad and bottle of a nicely chilled Sauvignon blanc.
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