This is my favorite and therefore named the BEST Mediterranean Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe! It’s on the weekly dinner rotation because its the perfect meal-in-one, its easy, and it’s a healthy family meal.
Fresh walnut pesto with curly spaghetti, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and toasted pine nuts, all topped with succulent seared chicken. Yum!
I write a dinner column for an international food magazine, and this was one of my first published recipes. I wasn’t going to share it at first because it seemed too easy– everyone knows how to make pesto right?
But I realized that this is exactly the kind of recipe that readers(and home cooks), love most.
A simple dinner made with fresh ingredients, using pantry staples, that tastes amazing. The kind of amazing that your family asks if you can have the same dinner two days in a row. I warned you!
COVER SHOT photographed by Shoshi Sirkis and styled by @teimonet.
Mediterranean Pesto Pasta
This mediterranean pesto pasta used ingredients native to the Mediterranean cost- kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts.
The flavors are nostalgic and bring me straight to a summer in Greece- basking in the sun, dipping my toes in the water, and resting in the shade of an olive tree.
Walnut Basil Pesto
The sauce for this dish is a simple pesto made from walnuts and basil, with garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice for extra flavor.
Why walnuts? They add that nutty taste you know and love in a good pesto, but are much more affordable than pine nuts. I save the pine nuts for garnishing the top of the dish. This is a weeknight meal and we want to keep it budget friendly!
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TIP: This recipe doubles easily and can be stored in the fridge for a week. Simply transfer the pesto to a container and pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto. This will keep the air from touching the basil and turning it brown.
Use as a salad dressing or make extra for dinner next week!
The cherry on top of this recipe is the delicious seared chicken. Marinate in a simple sauce and sear till golden, then slice into thin strips for the perfect easy bite.
Chicken Marinade: thin chicken breast(this ensures a very fast searing time for quick dinner prep), olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and chili flakes.
You can marinate the chicken the night before, or sear the chicken and store in the fridge for easy prep.
Mediterranean Chicken Pesto Pasta Toppings
A successful dish is a sum of all its parts. You have saucy pesto pasta and seared chicken, and to give each bite that extra flavor, use all the add ins:
- kalamata olives (have a specific flavor but you can substitute for another black olive you may have on hand)
- sun-dried tomatoes (sold in a jar or can, these add bursts of umami)
- toasted pine nuts (I buy regular pine nuts and toast them myself in a frying pan, see below)
- optional: cherry tomatoes, halved(searing these for a second in a hot pan softens them and brings out the juices- they are so delicious! instructions in recipe card)
TIP: If you don’t have toasted pine nuts you can toast them yourself:heat up a skillet(with no oil), add the nuts, and cook for about 3 minutes, shaking the pan every couple of seconds to prevent burning. The nuts will give off a toasty aroma and turn slightly golden. Store in an airtight container.
How to Make Mediterranean Chicken Pesto Pasta
This recipe is simple to follow and (not including the marinating time for the chicken), comes together in 30 minutes.
- Marinate Chicken. Do this 2 hours in advance for best flavor, or overnight.
- Prepare the pesto. Use a food processor or blender. I suggest doubling the recipe so you have pesto on hand for other easy dinners.
- Cook pasta and Sear Chicken.
- Add toppings, and enjoy!
Best Mediterranean Pesto Chicken Pasta Recipe
- 4 chicken breasts pounded to equal thickness as for schnitzel
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Pinch of chilli flakes
- 2 Tbs olive oil for cooking
- 3 large handfuls of basil leaves washed and dried well
- ⅛ cup walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- 7 Tbs olive oil
- 500 gram angel hair pasta or very thin pasta
- ¼ cup Kalamata olives pitted
- Sundried tomato OR a handful of cherry tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise
- Toasted pine nuts OR regular pine nuts
For the chicken:
- Combine olive oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and chilli flakes for the chicken marinade in a bag or container. Add the chicken breast and mix well to coat. Place in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours, or overnight.
For the pesto:
- In a food processor add basil leaves, walnuts, and garlic and pulse to break up the nuts. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chilli flakes and process on high. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process again. Turn the processor to low and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. You can make this up to 3 days in advance: store in an airtight container in the fridge and cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to keep it from turning colour. Feel free to double this recipe!
- Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
Cook chicken and finish dish:
- In a skillet or non stick pan, add 2 Tbs olive oil. Once hot, add the marinated chicken and cook until golden, flip and cook the second side(about 2 minutes per side).
- Remove chicken to a cutting board and slice into thin strips, keeping the shape of each cutlet.
- In the same pan, add the cherry tomatoes, cut side down, and cook until slightly charred and softened, 2-3 minutes.
- Add pasta to a large shallow serving bowl and toss with pesto. You may not need all the pesto, keep any extra for another use.
- Add cherry tomatoes/sun dried tomatoes and kalamata olives and toss. You can now dally this out into serving bowls or continue in the large bowl.
- Add the sliced chicken breasts around the sides of the bowl/each bowl. Sprinkle pine nuts around the top of the dish and serve. You can add an extra drizzle of pesto on top of the chicken for aesthetic purposes, if desired. This can be served at room temperature or warm. Enjoy!