With the heat of the summer we’ve been grilling a lot and eating lighter salads, light sandwiches, fruit and fresh vegetables, grilling chicken breasts and using them on salads. Our new favorite is a pesto marinated boneless chicken breast.
This pesto chicken breast is easy to make and low on calories and low in fat. I grill these ahead and refrigerate them, chop them up and use them for protein for a great lunch salad. Pesto, which is a basil based spread originated in Italy, specifically Genoa. Pesto in Italian is pronounced Pestare which means to pound or crush. The original way to prepare pesto was to grind or crush using a marble stone and a wooden pestle. Grinding all the ingredients until you created a paste used in many recipes. Basil the herb, was first domesticated in India and brought to Italy. It grew heartily in Liguria on the outskirts of Genoa. The Liguria’s modified the dish using several ingredients plentiful to the region. Garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil, which became today’s Pesto.
Pesto was first mentioned in cook books in mid-1800s in the U.S. and the New York Times reported an imported canned pesto in 1946. Pesto did not become popular in the United States until the 1980s and 90s.
My recipe today is for a simple pesto sauce/spread. It uses fresh ingredients to make a delightful and tasty ingredient used in many recipes.
I recommend using the pesto to marinate chicken breasts to grill. When done grilling, try a chicken pesto sandwich with bacon and provolone cheese on fresh sourdough bread. You can do as I have, and cook a few extra pieces, chop and use for a salad the next day. Either way, this is a simple and delicious way to flavor up your chicken.
3 cups fresh basil loosely packed
3 cloves garlic
2⁄3 cup parmesan cheese grated
1/2 cup pine nuts (try roasting them first for a bolder flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the basil, pine nuts and garlic into a food processor and pulse 5-6 times. Add the cheese and pulse a few more times.
While the food processor is on, gently pour the olive oil into the mixture. Scrap the sides from time to time to equally process the pesto mixture. Add the salt and pepper just before you finish processing.
Refrigerate after use. Pesto should last several weeks covered in your refrigerator.
To marinate your chicken, apply the freshly made pesto liberally on the chicken. Put in a zip top bag and let sit for 2-3 hours before grilling. The longer, the better to introduce the flavor. Remember when cooking to not stray far from the grill as the oil in the marinade tends to flare up.
Also try the pesto over any pasta dish, or on a toasted baguette.
If marinating the chicken seems to long a process, we offer pre-marinated pesto chicken breast in our case all summer.
David Theiss is a long time resident of Carson City and the owner of Butler Gourmet Meats.