A trip to the farmer’s market today inspired me to make this chicken broccoli penne with walnut pesto. This is how it happens most of the time. When I see beautiful fresh produce it makes me create wonderful food.
So with two bunches of broccoli and fresh walnuts, here is the result. For the pesto, fresh walnuts definitely make an alternative for pine nuts which are not always available. There was no need to buy basil as I grow them in the garden. As for the broccoli, I cut them into small florets so it cooks faster.
For a protein boost, I added chicken to the dish. You could use skinless breast, thighs or tenders. And of course, freshly grated parmiggiano is the best. You can use a few more basil leaves for garnish at serving time.
What I love about this tasty chicken broccoli penne pasta is it can feed a whole family and it’s ready in 12 minutes. It requires very little cooking, just boiling the pasta and broccoli, quickly cooking the chicken and then mixing the sauce. And you know what? You could cook this on weeknights or weekends.
Slice the chicken thinly to about 1/8 inch thick. Then cut it into 1 inch pieces. Season it with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Set aside.
Make the walnut pesto: Use a blender and blend together garlic, walnuts, basil leaves, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 3 grinds of pepper, and 1 tiny pinch of salt. Add 2 Tbsp grated parmiggiano and blend again for 5 seconds. Set aside.
Boil some water in a big pot for the pasta. When it starts to boil, add the pasta and some salt. Stir pasta a few times. Cook pasta until al dente, about 11 minutes. At the 6-minute mark, drop the broccoli florets with the pasta and continue cooking for 5 more mins. Save 1/2 cup of pasta water. While pasta is boiling, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a sauté pan or skillet on medium/high heat. Cook the chicken in the pan for 5-6 minutes, turning once, until slightly golden brown.
While chicken is cooking, drain the pasta and broccoli when cooked. Turn down heat to low and add walnut pesto, broccoli and pasta to the chicken in the pan. Add 1/4 cup of pasta water and toss it together. Sprinkle grated parmiggiano cheese on top. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add more pasta water if dry. Serve with chopped fresh basil leaves and grated parmiggiano on top.