- 1 lb penne pasta (or any other pasta)
- 8 chicken tenders
- 1 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs (I use this recipe)
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 3 Tablespoons light olive oil, divided
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 – 1 cup pasta water
- finely grated Parmesan cheese, to garnish, optional
- 1 cup basil
- 1 cup spinach
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Make the pesto sauce first, or use store bought pesto.
- In a dry skillet, toast the pine nuts along with the unpeeled garlic cloves. The pine nuts will toast much faster than the garlic cloves, so take them off the heat once they are golden and continue toasting the garlic cloves until they are golden and spotty. Cool the pine nuts and the garlic slightly.
- Peel the garlic cloves and place them into a food processor along with the pine nuts, basil, spinach and Parmesan cheese. Pulse in the food processor until finely chopped.
- With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. This recipe will yield about 3/4 cup of Pesto Sauce. I usually make a double batch and freeze the second half. When you have pesto on hand, you have so many options for quick and really flavorful dinners on a busy night. Of course, you can use store bought pesto sauce.
Pesto Pasta With Chicken Tenders, Shallots and Cherry Tomatoes:
- Dip the chicken tenders in the beaten egg and then dredge in the seasoned breadcrumbs. Make sure to pack the breading on with your hands so it would adhere better.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Prep all your ingredients while you are waiting. This meal cooks so quickly, you want to have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go. Cook the pasta according to the level of doneness that you like. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil on medium high heat. Add half of the breaded chicken tenders and cook on medium heat until golden on both sides, 2-4 minutes per side. Take the chicken tenders off the heat and set aside on a plate, tented loosely with aluminum foil or a clean kitchen towel to keep warm. Repeat with the second half of the chicken tenders. Instead of breading the chicken, you can simplify it by just seasoning it with salt and pepper and sautéing it. I’ve done it this way plenty of times and it tastes great too.
- In another deep skillet, heat the remaining Tablespoon of oil and add the sliced shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes, until tender.
- Add the halved cherry tomatoes, minced garlic and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook on medium heat for about 1 minute.
- Add the pesto sauce and cook for about a minute, just until heated through. At this point, you can also add a large handful of spinach to the dish. it will wilt really quickly and is a great addition to this pasta dish.
- Pour in the heavy cream and mix to combine.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet, mix to combine. Gradually add the reserved pasta water, as much as you think it needs. The hot, starchy pasta water is a great way to loosen the sauce without making it too watery.
- Serve immediately along with the breaded chicken tenders.