When the school year gets busy, it’s hard to find time for things like laundry, cleaning, or cooking. Healthy eating often gets pushed aside in favour of comfort food and fast food; there’s a reason for the term “freshman 15.”
So when my friend told me about this baked pesto chicken recipe, I got very excited. All you need for this dish is chicken, mozzarella cheese, pesto, and, optionally, tomatoes. Truly, the best part of this recipe is you can craft it to fit you. Extra cheese, no cheese, less pesto, extra tomatoes, it is completely flexible. Due to the flexibility of this recipe, it’s great for picky eaters.
You’ll want a baking pan with raised edges because the pesto sauce can get a little messy, and you’ll want to use parchment paper or aluminium foil underneath as well.
When I made this recipe, I bought two chicken breasts and cut them both in half, butterfly style. It fed me for a week. One full chicken breast seems too large, and having it cut in half reduces cooking time.
I always like to make extra and freeze it for later. If you aren’t a fan of eating the same meal twice in a week, you can cut up the chicken and put it into some pasta. You can add some leftover pesto sauce to the noodles for extra flavour, some broccoli to get your vegetables, top it off with parmesan cheese and you’ve got yourself a whole new tasty meal.
2 – 4 chicken breasts
1 jar of basil pesto (or homemade pesto)
Mozzarella cheese (enough to cover the chicken)
Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the chicken breast in half, butterfly style. Place foil or parchment paper on your baking sheet.
Sear chicken on both sides (optional) and then place onto the baking pan. Some people like to sear the chicken for a few minutes before they place it in the oven to get a nice golden brown colour and to lock in moisture. I don’t bother because I’m lazy and that would mean an extra dish, so feel free to skip this step if you’d like.
Spread pesto on top of the chicken. Use a spoon to scoop a good amount of pesto (homemade or store-bought) onto the chicken. Remember to avoid touching the spoon to the chicken and then putting it back into the pesto to avoid cross-contamination. After you have the desired amount of pesto on each half-breast, you can spread it out. If you have an allergy to pine nuts, you can always make pesto without the nuts (it tastes different, but the sauce is still nice) or you can use marinara instead.
Add the mozzarella cheese (optional) on top of the pesto. I just use pre-sliced mozza, but it’s really whatever you want.
Finally, you can put a couple of thin slices of tomato on top of the mozza if you’d like. I usually don’t, but that’s due to personal preference.
Place in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until cooked all the way through.