Spinach Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Life around the table is slowing down a bit these days. It’s a temporary thing but it’s allowing time for some good meals!

This weekend, the Boy fixed dinner for his girlfriend, the Hubs and I! He’s NEVER done this before so we didn’t quite know what to expect, but apparently he’s picked up a thing or two by hanging around me in the kitchen!

He started by selecting something from my FAVORITE cookbook Cheap. Fast. Good. by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. This is made for the novice cook as well as the seasoned veteran and it’s one of my go-to gifts for weddings and bridal showers and even for young men and women setting out on their own. My #2 son had a tried and true recipe in this very cookbook that he would make for every girlfriend he had. 🙂 I like that the recipes are simple but they taste good and many are worthy of serving guests. They’re not just dump recipes. That they are frugal as well is just a bonus feature!

His choice was Spinach Pesto Pasta With Chicken and it was delicious. I asked him if he knew what pesto was? He said no. Since he can be a fussy eater sometimes I decided I’d just tell him it was good. I mean, he had the recipe in front of him so he could see what was in it anyway right? He served it with bread and some of Momma’s fresh canned peaches! YUM!

He did a great job with it. He even tasted it before he served it to make sure it didn’t need anything. He, in fact, determined that it needed more pepper and might have over compensated with that ingredient. Whew! He also has a completely different of what it means to cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces! HE may be able to stuff half a chicken breast into his mouth, but his chunks were a bit much for the rest of us! Nothing a knife couldn’t handle though!

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Here’s that recipe, if you should be interested in making it yourself:

Spinach Pesto Pasta with Chicken – From Good. Fast. Cheap. by Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross

Salt for cooking the pasta

8 ounces short pasta, such as rotini

5 plum tomatoes (for about 1 2/3 cups pieces)

1 small can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced black olives (he left these out because the girlfriend didn’t like them)

2 cups cooked chicken chunks (see, this might be where the recipe failed us)

1/2 cup Spinach Parsley Pesto (recipe follows)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Bring 3 quarts lightly salted water to a boil in a covered 4 1/2-quart or larter pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the pasta and cook uncovered until just tender, following the package directions.

2. Meanwhile, core and chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Put the pieces in a 3-quart or larger serving bowl. Drain the olives and add them to the bowl.

3. If any of the chicken cubes are larger than bite-size (there we go), cut them in half. If they are cold, microwave, uncovered, on high power until just warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken cubes to the bowl with the vegetables.

4. When the pasta is done, drain it well and add it to the serving bowl. Stir the pesto to mix in any oil that may have separated. Add the pesto to the bowl and toss until the pasta is well coated. Season lightly with salt and black pepper. Serve at once, passing Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.

Spinach Parsley Pesto

Makes about 1 2/3 cups

1/2 cup walnut pieces

2 cloves fresh garlic

1/2 bunch parsley, preferably flat-leaf (for about 1 cup packed leaves)

3 cups (5 ounces) packed fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Place the walnuts on a microwave-safe plate and microwave uncovered, on high power until fragrant and lightly toasted, 2 to 4 minutes, stopping halfway through to stir. Set aside to cool.

2. While the walnuts are toasting, peel the garlic. Turn on a food processor and drop the cloves through the feed tube; process until finely chopped.

3. Rinse the parsley leaves and pat dry. Remove the tough stems and discard them, but do not worry about the smaller, upper stems. With the motor running, drop the parsley into the processor and mince it finely. Stop the machine.

4. If the spinach is gritty, rinse it thoroughly and dry it in a lettuce spinner or with paper towels. (There shouldn’t be any tough stems but if there are, discard them. Do not worry about the tender stems.) Add half of the spinach to the processor bowl. With the morot running, drizzle a tablespoon or so of the oil through the food tube; process until the spinach is finely minced, about 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat with the remaining spinach, drizzling in another tablespoon or so of the oil through the feed tube; process until the spinach is finely minced, about 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat with the remaining spinach, drizzling in another tablespoon or so of the oil. (You do not need to remove the first batch of spinach from the processor bowl). Add the walnuts and process until well chopped, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse the motor 3 times.

5. Add the lemon juice to the bowl, pouring it through a strainer to catch the seeds. Add Parmesan cheese and salt. With the motor running, drizzle the remaining oil through the feed tube. As soon as the oil is incorporated, turn off the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pulse 2 more times. Serve at once or store for future use.

Storage Notes:

The pesto can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. To freeze the pesto for up to 2 months, line the cups of a muffin tin with plastic wrap and scoop 1/4 cup pesto into each cup. Twist the plastic wrap to close around the pesto, secure the bundle with a twist-tie, and then freeze the bundles in the muffin tin for 48 hours. Once they are frozen, remove the pouches from the tin and drop them into a zipper-top plastic bag. To defrost, let the pesto sit on the counter (still int he plastic wrap) at room temperature for 30 minutes. Or defrost the pesto in the refrigerator overnight. Before using defrosted pesto, stir it ti mix in any oil that may have separated.

Best of all, he put the book back on the shelf when h e was done AND cleaned up the dishes!

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