This homemade pesto pasta with grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes and arugula is everything that a springtime and summer dishes should be about! Loaded with fresh flavours and nutrients, it takes no longer than 40 minutes to prepare!
For more simple pasta recipes, check out my Pasta with Smoked Salmon.
As soon as there is even a glimpse of sunshine, I want my dinner to go along with summer loveliness.
And for me it’s all about bold taste, vibrant colours and loads of vitamin packed vegetables like this Pesto Pasta.
This pesto pasta dish is all SUMMER!
Its fresh taste delivered by impossibly green homemade basil pesto, bursting with juicy red and yellow cherry tomatoes and peppery rocket.
Served with grilled basil chicken it’s a perfect protein+veg+carb combination that is light and filling!
How do I make homemade pesto?
Traditional pesto is blend of fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and oil.
I have used almonds in place of pine nuts and Grana Padano instead of Parmesan in this pesto recipe.
If you have a food processor or a blender, you are all set for making the freshest and the best tasting pesto at home. To achieve the the right balance of flavour, you will have to rely on your own taste and cooking instincts.
This recipe provides you with the basic ingredient ratio, however, it is very important to always taste the final product and adjust the seasoning like salt, garlic and lemon juice for the best results, that are pleasing to your palate.
What vegetables can I add to my Pesto Pasta?
Pesto has a predominantly basil taste, and the combination of basil and tomatoes is absolutely classic. Cherry tomatoes of various colours add so much flavour and sweetness, not to mention the vibrancy to this pesto pasta.
I also love adding arugula to my pasta dishes, or as it is known in the UK, rocket. Arugula is loaded with vitamin C and is an important antioxidant. Apart from its nutritious benefits, it brings a pleasant peppery taste to balance out creamy dishes.
If you are not a fan of arugula, spinach is a perfect alternative.
What pasta shape is best for pesto?
While Italians will argue about very specific pasta being paired with various sauces, I believe even they will agree that pesto goes with almost any shape of pasta. The ones that have a hole in the middle are especially recommended for the sauce to climb inside!
I like using short pasta like rigatoni when I make a dish that has many elements since it’s easier to toss everything together without breaking up delicate pastas like spaghetti or linguine.
Originally published in 09/2016, rewritten and updated in 04/2019.
More pasta recipes:
- Creamy Pasta with Pancetta and Peas
- Pasta Cream Sauce
- Shrimp Penne alla Vodka
- Mediterranean Pasta with Zucchini
For the pesto
- 50g/2 ½cups fresh basil
- 50g/1/3cup blanched almonds
- 50g/1/3 cup Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese plus extra for serving
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 1 clove garlic
For the Pesto Pasta
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 lbs short pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 10 cherry tomatoes plus a handful more for serving(optional)
- 20g/1cup rocket/arugula
- In a food processor or blender combine the fresh basil, almonds, Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese, pressed garlic clove and the juice of one lemon. Process until smooth. With the motor of the food processor still running pour in the olive oil through a chute and process for 10-20 seconds longer. Turn the food processor off and taste the pesto, add a pinch of salt if necessary.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, preheat the grill and grill the chicken breasts seasoned with salt, pepper and dried basil for 5-7 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the breast. Remove to a separate plate and keep warm.
- A couple minute before the pasta is fully cooked, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan, then saute sliced garlic cloves over low heat for 10-20 seconds. Do not allow the garlic to brown, then add cherry tomatoes and arugula and cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes.
- Drain the pasta while reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Add the pasta and pesto directly to the pan with garlic, cherry tomatoes and arugula, toss everything gently to combine, add a splash of reserved water to loosen the sauce. The dish should be saucy and not pasty. Keep adding the pasta water until you reach the desired consistency. Taste and add more salt if needed. Slice the grilled chicken and top the pasta with it. Serve with additional grated Grano Padano or Parmesan and a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes for extra texture and freshness.