Here’s a recipe that’s deceptive in the best possible way. It looks, smells – and even better, tastes – just like a fancy dish from your favorite Italian restaurant, but this semi-homemade version comes together quickly, thanks to premade pesto and store-bought rotisserie chicken.
With those two ingredients on hand, all you need to do is preheat the oven for tomatoes and boil some water to get the pasta started. As an added bonus, cooking tomatoes increases the availability of nutrients such as lycopene, an antioxidant known for its many health benefits. Additionally, chicken is a great way to add lean protein to any dish.
For a vibrant pasta sauce, you can’t do better than pesto, the gorgeously green, herb-forward creation that’s said to have originated in Genoa, Italy. Made with crushed basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, salt and Parmesan cheese, pesto offers endless opportunities to switch things up and get creative. Not only is pesto versatile, but it’s also nutrient-dense, as it provides omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and phosphorus. Creative cooks can substitute some or all of the fresh basil leaves called for in the recipe with kale, mint, tarragon, cilantro or parsley.
While it’s traditionally made with Parmesan, other cooks use Romano, Asiago cheese, cheddar, crumbled feta or goat cheese. Cheese, especially hard varieties like feta and Parmesan, contains higher amounts of sodium, so moderation is key. The traditional pine nuts known as pignoli are rich in vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, iron, magnesium and manganese. All nuts are nutrient powerhouses, as they contain healthy fats, dietary fiber and plant-based protein, so feel free to swap out with raw or lightly toasted almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios or pecans.
How to Serve
This garlicky pasta sauce works well with a hearty noodle that has some nooks and crannies for those delicious ingredients to nestle into. While this recipe specifies the bowtie shape of pasta known as fusilli, another good option is bucatini, a thick, spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center, which allows savory sauce to drizzle down the inside as well as the outside. Other pasta options to use with pesto include gemelli or cavatappi, the longer, two-twist version of macaroni.
Try Homemade Pesto for More Leftovers
If you have a favorite pesto recipe to use instead, it’s a great idea to whip up a larger batch in your blender or mortar and pestle. You can even toss in an extra handful of tomatoes to the roasting pan as you get started. Together, the pesto and tomatoes can make great next-day sandwiches or stir-ins to your favorite Buddha bowl. Or take a note from the residents of Liguria, the region that invented this sublime sauce. There, pesto is not only served with pasta, but it’s also drizzled on fresh fish, stirred gently into rich vegetable stews, and spread thickly on freshly baked focaccia.
Roasted Tomato Pesto Pasta with Chicken
Prep Time: 20 min.
Cook Time: 10 min.
Total Time: 30 min.
Serves: 4 | Difficulty: Easy
- 3 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 8 oz. fusilli pasta
- ½ cup basil pesto
- 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread tomatoes in an even layer and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Roast 15-20 minutes, until softened.
- Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup cooking liquid from pasta water.
- Place pasta back in the pot used to cook pasta and add pesto, chicken and reserved cooking liquid. Toss to combine.
- Serve pasta and chicken topped with roasted tomatoes and Parmesan. Refrigerate leftovers.