It’s no secret that I have a special affinity for pesto. There is just so much flavor packed into one little sauce. While it’s typically made with Parmesan cheese, basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts, there are actually a lot of different variations that add in green veggies. Two in particular that I’ve been wanting to try are kale and spinach.
When I came up with this recipe I knew I would use pesto, tomatoes, chicken and whole wheat pasta. And since I’m always looking for ways to add more veggies to our meals I decided I wanted to add in some chopped spinach. I figured I’d just add it into the sauce in the last minute or two and it would just blend in with the pasta. But then I remembered that I’ve been wanting to make pesto with spinach and I decided this was the perfect time to do it. So instead of adding the spinach in at the end I just add it into the pesto. I figured this would work out even better because the kids wouldn’t even be able to see the chunks of spinach since they are processed in with the pesto.
This recipe also uses pre-cooked chicken. You could use chicken from a rotisserie chicken, baked chicken, grilled chicken, or sautéed chicken. I used the latter. I had some bagged up in our freezer so I just pulled out a bag and let it defrost. It was perfect for this recipe. I added in a diced Roma tomato to add some color but you could probably add in any veggie and it would turn out great. If you make the recipe as directed you will likely have some leftover pesto. Any leftover pesto can be frozen and used the next time you want to make pasta. Or you could use it to make these pesto grilled cheese sandwiches!
My kids will eat (and love) just about any pasta recipe and this one was no different. In fact, my seven year old had 3 servings. I figured we would have leftovers. But, nope; he ate it all!
- ⅓ cups pine nuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups packed spinach leaves
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- 8 oz whole wheat pasta (I used fusilli but bowtie would be great too)
- 1 cup cooked chicken
- 1 Roma tomato, diced
- 2 T half and half (or cream or milk)
- Using a food processor, mix the nuts and garlic until finely chopped. Add in the Parmesan cheese and continue to process. Next, add in the spinach, basil, and salt and mix until the leaves are chopped. Drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running. Mix until all ingredients are blended well. Add in more oil if needed, until it becomes the consistency you want. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve some of the pasta water and put the pasta back in the pan.
- Warm a ½ cup of the pesto, the half and half, and 2 T of the reserved pasta water in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
- Once warmed through, pour the pesto sauce over the pasta and add chicken and tomatoes and cook on low for a few minutes to make sure everything is warmed through. Add more pesto if needed.
- Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.