Creamy Pesto and Pasta

It’s that dreaded question… “What’s for dinner?”

Creamy Pesto and Pasta | LaughterandLemonade.com

Listen for the dramatic “Dun! Dun! Duuuun!” to follow.

I’ve been known to make things complicated before. To lean toward elaborate dishes. Impressive. Fancy. Because when I have time to blog, I usually also have time to cook. Let’s be real, I started food blogging when I quit my full time job at the end of October 2013. I had lots of time then because I intentionally took time to myself to soul search and plan my next moves. So I went for the more complicated things. Because hey, I had all day!

I think I sometimes go for complicated because I think cooking is one of the most loving, caring things you can do for someone or some group. So all my effort in cooking a special dish is really one of the ways I most easily say, “I care”.

Creamy Pesto and Pasta | LaughterandLemonade.com

Well the reality is, I don’t have all day anymore. I don’t have time on time on time. I’m a working woman who also wants to have a life and relationships outside of work. Most of you are that way too! Do any of you have time on time on time? And if so, how can I get me some of that?! (Don’t say retire. Not an option for me just yet.)

Within a busy schedule, I still want to make time for a healthy, yummy meal without hours cooking. Or sometimes more importantly, without hours of cleaning up. A lesson I’m reminding myself again and again, is that a meal doesn’t have to be complicated to say love or care. It can be a grilled cheese. And heck sometimes that’s what you really want anyways, not Salmon En Croute!!

Creamy Pesto and Pasta | LaughterandLemonade.com

I have to remind myself that complicated does not equal better. Why do you think we always go back to craving simple, comfort foods we grew up on? Also, I find that cooking “fancy” food deters those who aren’t super into cooking anyway from cooking at all! If cooking in and of itself seems daunting, throwing what looks like a fancy recipe at you isn’t going to help.  If a quick scan of the recipe lets you know you’re going to have to go to three grocery stores just to get all the ingredients I can bet my bottom dollar you’re not going to be making it anytime soon. That’s the opposite of the point of this blog. This blog is meant to inspire you to cook. Inspire you to get into the kitchen. To not be intimidated by cooking because even those who’ve been cooking for years burn nuts and think they’re ready to serve chicken only to find out it’s raw and drop lemon seeds in apple crisp filling!

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, so I’m really glad to start sharing this type of recipe. I think most people want more realistic, weeknight, dinner type-recipes. Am I wrong?? It’s my reality 5 of the 7 days out of the week; I know I’m not alone!

What do you cook on a Tuesday night when you get home at 6:30 pm and it’s PITCH BLACK dark outside because daylight savings time is a biatch and you have to go to bed early so you can get up and do it all over again the next day?!

Creamy Pesto and Pasta | LaughterandLemonade.com

This Creamy Pesto and Pasta is the second of hopefully many more easy, weeknight dinners I’ll be sharing that’s both healthy and delicious. I mean pesto and pasta? A winning combo. Now I admit, if you’re gonna make your own pesto this isn’t the easiest weeknight dish. BUT… a) you can buy it, or b) make it ahead. The other weekend I made the pesto recipe below and stuck some in the fridge, the rest in a jar in the freezer.

Having pesto on hand really livens up avocado toast, meatballs, eggs, any simply cooked seafood, and many a pesto and pasta dish like this one. You can sub in and out many veggies to a dish of pesto and pasta like sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, kale, red onion, carrot, or broccoli. Adding some toasted pine nuts would be yummy! Switch the protein up too – instead of chicken try steak, shrimp tofu, or go meatless! To make this dish gluten free, just use your favorite GF pasta! Whatever you like.

You can’t mess up pesto and pasta.  Now get cooking!

Creamy Pesto and Pasta
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 cups farfalle pasta, dry
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1¾ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, diced into 1 inch cubes (this was 6 small thighs)
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 10 oz bag fresh baby spinach
  • 10 oz container grape tomatoes
  • ½ cup pesto (recipe below, or use store-bought)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan cheese, grated, as desired for topping
Instructions
  1. Fill a medium saucepan ~3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 teaspoon salt and farfalle. Cook to al dente package instructions, or I prefer going 1 minute less than their recommendation for al dente. Drain and toss with ~2 tablespoons (of the ½ cup) pesto. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, add olive oil to an electric skillet or large sauté pan over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add evenly to pan and do not touch until one side is browned (about 5 minutes). Then toss and stir occasionally until cooked, about 10 minutes total.
  3. Remove chicken from pan, and set aside. To pan, add bell pepper, spinach, and tomatoes, stirring occasionally until spinach is fully wilted.
  4. Add the cooked chicken and farfalle to the pan with the remaining ½ cup pesto. Stir until combined and everything is heated through. Season additionally with salt and pepper as desired. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Serve, topped as desired with parmesan cheese.

Basil Pesto
 
Prep time
Total time
 
This traditional basil pest makes about 1¼ cups. I use ½ cup for the pasta recipe, then refrigerate or freeze the rest in an airtight container or jar.
Author:
Serves: 1¼ cups
Ingredients
  • 4 oz package basil, stems discarded (about 3 cups basil leaves, lightly packed)
  • ¾ cup pine nuts
  • 4 small cloves garlic
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Add the basil through garlic to a food processor and pulse about 10-20 times until everything is finely chopped.
  2. Turn food processor on, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Take off the lid and remove the blade. Stir in the parmesan, salt and pepper.

Can’t get enough quick, healthy dinner ideas??

Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie: tons of veggies with ground chorizo and turkey are topped with cheddar and a green chile cornbread. Hello! Yum.

Southwestern Shepherd's Pie | LaughterandLemonade.com

Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup with Salmon: One pot + 30 minutes = dinner. Umami, acidity, sweet, salty, sour, it’s got it all!

Thai Red Curry Soup with Salmon | LaughterandLemonade.comLime Basil Shrimp with Spinach and Bell Pepper: Shrimp sautéed in garlic with bell pepper, spinach, and jalapeno, topped with lime juice, soy sauce (or tamari) and basil. So much flavor, one little dish.

Lime Basil Shrimp with Spinach and Bell Pepper | LaughterandLemonade.com

 

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Creamy Pesto and Pasta | LaughterandLemonade.comHave you made this or any L&L recipe?? Be sure to leave a note for other readers! How did it turn out? Did you make any adjustments to the recipe? Leave a comment below!

 

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