If you’re looking for a fast, easy meal on the go then look no further than my recipe for chicken pesto bake. You may be a busy parent, like me, a student or you may not enjoy spending hours in the kitchen. The time for making this dish can be cut in half if you buy the ingredients from your local deli… in fact it takes 10 minutes to prepare if you have all the ingredients at your disposal. If you like making your own pesto and chargrilling your own peppers then allow more time but they can be made in advance to speed up your preparation time.
I have now joined the mums waving their eldest goodbye as they head off to university. Luckily I know first hand how hard it is to suddenly find yourself in your student accommodation faced with cooking for the first time. I recently met a mum who cooks 5 meals a week to send back every Sunday with their student child….. yes it’s tempting, as you know they’ll be eating properly but in the long run you’re not doing your child any favours. I was known as the Lasagne Queen at uni simply because my mum taught me how to cook lasagne … so it was lasagne parties, lasagne suppers, lasagne lunches… until the novelty of eating lasagne wore off and I had to find something else to cook. Luckily for my son he has gone to uni prepared with at least 10 different menus in his head. Along with my recipe for nut crusted salmon this dish is one of his favourites…..
You can buy your pesto and chargrilled peppers in a good deli …or make it yourself. These are usually freshly made in the deli so you can guarantee that the quality will be much better than buying it in a jar at your local supermarket. Here I use my homemade coriander and sun-dried tomato pesto but any pesto tastes delicious in this dish.
I prepare this chicken pesto bake by first chargrilling the red peppers. Half the peppers and remove the seeds. Press them down with your hand until you feel the crunch on a grill pan or a baking tray. This flattens the pepper so that it allows the skin to blacken evenly.
Brush them with olive oil and grill until the skin is blackened. Leave to cool and peel off the blackened skin. Slice into strips and reserve.
Next cut the chicken into bite sized pieces or strips and place them in a casserole or lasagne dish. Toss in half the pesto until well coated.
Add the crushed garlic, cherry tomatoes and pepper to the dish and half the mozzarella. Now about the mozzarella. You may use the small mozzarella balls but I prefer to buy a creamy mozzarella and cut or tear it as I’m using it….
Fresh mozzarella melts beautifully when this dish is cooked enhancing the flavour of the bake.
Add the rest of the pesto sauce and mix thoroughly through the dish. Add the vine cherry tomatoes and mix them into the dish evenly. Top with the remainder of the mozzarella and torn basil leaves. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through. If desired, 10 minutes before the end of cooking remove the foil so that the top of the bake turns golden brown.
Enjoy with a glass of wine and some homemade pasta.
- 8 chicken breasts
- 250g fresh basil or coriander pesto
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 large roasted red peppers
- 200g mozzarella cheese
- 150g vine cherry tomatoes
- 1 large handful basil leaves
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
- Prepare the ingredients. Cut the chicken breasts into strips. Crush the garlic. Peel the roasted red peppers and cut into strips. Make the pesto if making yourself. Cut or tear the mozzarella.
- Add the chicken pieces and half the pesto to a lasagne dish or oven dish. Mix thoroughly until the chicken is well coated with the pesto.
- Add the garlic, peppers, cherry tomatoes and half the mozzarella to the dish. Add the remaining pesto and torn basil leaves and mix thoroughly.
- Add the remaining mozzarella to the top of the dish. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Delicious served with homemade pasta, pesto and parmesan cheese.
- You may season salt and pepper, however, bear in mind that the pesto is salty so I find it is not required.