Pesto Chicken Over Chunky Tomato Sauce
|June 9, 2011||Posted by Cheeks under Main Course, MEAT, Recipe, Side Dishes|
Sometimes, I don’t have the energy to write. Like when I’m editing rambling opinion essays and need a brain break. Days like those….which may or may not be today….I prefer to think of greener pastures.
Like this low-carb, summer-flavored bit of heaven I baked up the other day. Gifted with a bag of frozen garden tomatoes from the late 2010 stock, a thawed batch of homemade arugula & basil pesto from the 2010 CSA share, and a craving to taste the warm season (even though its was raining its butt off outside) I invented this little dish.
Basically, I was at a loss for what to do with frozen tomatoes. Their texture shot, I knew they’d need to be cooked, so into a pan they went, along with some garlic and onion and spices. Once they started to cook down a bit, I threw in a big handful of spinach to amp up the vegetable factor. A little water helped bring these elements together, and a 30 minute simmer unified them into a chunky, bright sauce, brightened still by a splash of balsamic vinegar.
The pesto was used to marinate some chicken tenders, which once seasoned were nestled atop said chunky sauce in a baking dish. What better to top these healthy, lean elements than a blanket of cheese! (Although, to be fair, I did use low-fat mozzarella.) Baked until bubbly and deliciously melty, I spooned the chicken and sauce over garlicky white beans – although feel free to cook up some linguine or any pasta and use that instead.
Simple to throw together, cooking the sauce in the oven with chicken in it really deepens its flavor. The pesto chicken stays moist in its wet, braise-like environment, and cheese just makes everything better.
Would I make this again if I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand? You betcha.
Pesto Chicken with Chunky Summer Tomato Sauce
- 1/4 cup pesto (homemade or jarred)
- 1 lb chicken tenders or breasts, sliced into 1″ strips
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp basil leaves
- 4 cups roughly chopped tomatoes (a good way to use up over-ripe ones!)
- 1 cup frozen spinach
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
In a large bowl, toss chicken with pesto until evenly coated. Allow to marinate at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make tomato sauce. Heat olive oil in a medium-to-large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, season, and saute 5 minutes, or until browned and fragrant. Add tomato paste, fennel seeds, and basil, and stir well. Saute for 2 minutes or until paste begins to darken in color and spices start to become fragrant.
Add tomatoes, spinach, and water to saucepan; stir rapidly to release browned bits from bottom of pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, mashing tomatoes slightly with a spoon, until sauce comes together. The sauce will be chunky and taste of fresh, not cooked, tomatoes. You want most of the water to be evaporated, leaving a chunky, loose sauce.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour sauce into a 11″x7″ baking dish. Place uncooked, marinated chicken strips onto and slighlty into sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until sauce is bubbling, cheese is starting to brown, and chicken is cooked through. Serve over cooked pasta or Garlicky White Beans.
Garlicky White Beans
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 can cannelini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat; add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant and garlic is just beginning to brown. Add beans and toss with the garlic oil. Cook until heated through.