Classic Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken

Classic Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken

I love experimenting with fun, seasonal ingredients, but sometimes learning to make a classic is just as great. Pesto can be made with tons of different ingredients; it’s a game of mix and match. A great pesto only requires a few fresh ingredients. The most important part is using fresh basil (or your favorite herbs) and good quality extra virgin olive oil. 

This recipe is simple and delicious. Pesto is incredibly versatile - once you have a fresh batch, you can use it on way more than pasta! Make homemade pizza, eat it with eggs, spread it on bread or a sandwich, or use it as a salad dressing. This recipe is for a classic basil pesto. A quick pulse in a food processor and you have a fresh, garlicky sauce that is way better than a jar from the store. Let’s get cookin :) 

What You Need: 

Classic Basil Pesto:

- 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed tightly

- 3-4 garlic cloves 

- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste ( about ½ tsp each)

- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 

- ½ cup grated parmesan

- ½ cup pine nuts 

- optional: squeeze of lemon juice


- 1 package of pasta - I love rotini, cavatappi and gemelli because they carry sauce well! 

- handful of cherry tomatoes 


- About 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breast 

- salt and pepper to taste

- garlic powder

- extra virgin olive oil

What To Do:

- Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. 

- Wash and dry the basil. 

- In a food processor, blend together the basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and cheese. 


- Pulse the ingredients together. Slowly pour in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.

- That’s it! Pesto is so easy to make. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the food processor and blend until the pesto is well-incorporated. 

- You can add a little squeeze of lemon juice if you’d like. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly :) 

- Now that your pesto’s done, the water for the pasta is probably coming to a boil. Be sure to salt the water, and cook the pasta to al dente per the package’s instructions. 

- Season the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. For this dish, I like to grill the chicken. I usually stick to dark meat, but ever since I’ve been using a meat thermometer to cook all my protein, I’ve found that chicken breast doesn’t always have to come out dry! 

- Heat a grill on medium high heat, and drizzle with evoo. Sear the chicken breast to achieve some good grill marks. You can do this by placing the chicken breast on the grill pointing towards 2:00. To get great hashmarks, turn the chicken towards 10:00. 

- Flip the chicken once and place the probe of your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. Grill on medium heat until the internal temp reaches 165 F. The chicken should be firm but tender to the touch, and the juices should run clear when poked :) 

- Allow the chicken to rest, and then slice it in ½ inch strips. 

- Drain the cooked pasta. Toss the pasta with the fresh pesto and garnish with halved cherry tomatoes and extra Parmesan cheese. Be sure to season the cherry tomatoes with salt and pepper first! Another tip - you can roast the tomatoes for another level of flavor :) 

You’re done! Serve the pesto pasta warm, at room temp, or even chilled depending on your family’s preference. Top it with the grilled chicken and this side dish becomes a hearty entree. 

The best part about pesto is how light it is. Refreshingly bright and full of flavor. After you’ve made your first batch you’ll be using it on everything - not just for summer dishes! :) 

If you’ve cooked and recipes from Broke and Cooking, take a pic and hashtag it with #BrokeAndCooking! I love seeing what you all make :)