Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hearts Afire!

Walnut Pesto with Chicken and Artichoke Hearts
As many of my food adventures began, this one started with an overabundance of ingredients in my pantry and fridge. I had quite a bit of fresh basil sitting around in need of a home, but wanted to pull a little twist on a classic pesto recipe. This was a very quick dinner that made plenty for two with leftovers. It's a great weeknight meal to try. Double the recipe for families! Dinner on the table in less that a half hour.

- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 c. marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
- 12 oz. dried spaghetti noodles
- a splash of dry white wine
- salt and pepper
- a small handful of fresh basil leaves
- juice from one lemon plus 1 tsp. of zest
- 1/4 c. walnuts
- 1 c. shredded pecorino romano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
- olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
- 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled

Pesto is a snap to whip up in the food processor! Pulse the garlic cloves to a fine mince then add the basil, Italian parsley, and walnuts and run machine until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Add shredded pecorino romano and lemon juice and zest. Let the machine run and slowly drizzle about 1/4 c. of extra virgin olive oil until the mixture is creamy and to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add dried spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 c. of the cooking water. Set pasta and water aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and saute until they are nearly cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add artichoke hearts and white wine and bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 5 minutes for sauce to thicken. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
While chicken and artichoke hearts are simmering, toss together the warm cooked spaghetti with the prepared pesto, add a little of the hot pasta cooking water at a time to thin out the sauce. The texture should become silky. Plate the pesto-covered pasta, then spoon some of the chicken mixture and the juices on top. Sprinkle with extra pecorino romano. Eat up! It's good!

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