We started planting some of our seeds this past week for our herb garden and it started me thinking about summer recipes. I know it may seem early for some, but here in Florida spring is in full swing and my basil is already an inch tall. We grow a lot of basil each year to use in various recipes. When growing basil, you have to keep trimming it. Otherwise, it will start to flower and focus on making seeds instead of leaves. Because of this we go through a period where we pick and use a lot. This one is perfect for using all that excess.
The classic way to make pesto is with Pine nuts, but you can substitute those with any nut of your choice. The important part is using a good oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil, and a good parmesan cheese. You don’t have to, but I prefer to butterfly the chicken. This helps keep the chicken tender and juicy.
Because you butterflied the chicken you don’t need as many breasts to fill the pan. It will help you stretch a meal and serve more for less money. Now you could stop here and cook the chicken as it is. It would taste wonderful that way and be a great healthy protein option, but by adding the tomato and cheese, you create a dish that has so much more flavor.
Be sure to salt and pepper the tops of the tomato before adding the cheese. That will help the salt melt into the tomato juice instead of getting stuck in the cheese layer. I used the cheese I had on hand to make this. Feel free to use what I suggest or use your favorite cheese on top. Just be sure to allow it to brown a little after the chicken has fully cooked. Serve this with your favorite pasta or veggies and Enjoy!
Baked Pesto Chicken
- 3 each boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 lg tomato
- 1 cup shredded cheese Havarti and fajita blend (cheddar, Monterey jack, queso quesadilla, asadero)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated cheese
- 1 dash salt and pepper
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts or nuts of choice
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 tsp salt add more if desired after tasting.
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- Butterfly cut chicken and pound lightly with meat mallet to tenderize. Set chicken aside and make pesto. Pour pesto over chicken coating all sides completely. In a cast iron skillet or oven safe dish lightly rub bottom with oil and place pesto coated chicken onto surface. Layer tops of chicken with thin slices of tomato. Sprinkle salt and pepper over tomato then cover with shredded cheese and parmesan. Cook in 400’F oven until chicken reaches 165’F internally. Broil top for a minute or two to brown cheese on top.
- To make pesto clean and dry basil and place in a food processor. Add garlic, parmesan, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. Blend until completely combined and finely chopped. Taste and add any additional salt if needed. Store in an airtight container in fridge up to one week or freeze for 3 months.