Whip up this quick chicken and pesto pasta recipe with flavorful dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and artichoke hearts - it's everybody's favorite easy dinner and it may just become yours, too! Check out more Quick Healthy Recipes.
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If you're anything like me, you need a list of really good go-to favorite dinner ideas that the whole family will love. These meals usually contain simple ingredients that most everyone likes (or are big enough to pick out, a-hem) and that we have in our freezers and pantries. They also need to be quick and easy to make - preferably by anyone who can, mom, dad, or kids as they get older.
Yeah, there really aren't too many that fall into this category - right? For us this includes Creamy Pesto Pasta, Cajun Beef on Spiced Potatoes, Roasted Sausages, Peppers & Onions Sheet Pan Meal, Chicken Caesar Wraps, Chef's Salads, and Greek Style Shrimp & Orzo.
But I've been holding out on you. There's another meal that has been our extended family's go-to quick meal for years in some rendition or another. It's this Mediterranean flavored chicken pesto pasta that always includes artichoke hearts and dried tomatoes, and sometimes features olives, onions, and feta or parmesan cheese.
No matter what you include (I love to use up what's in the pantry), this is always a hit with everyone. The combination of pasta and pesto (a great way to use our frozen secret-ingredient pesto) with chicken is the comfort food base and then all the add-ins are just frosting on the cake.
Okay, weird metaphor. Sorry. Just work with me here, okay. The point is - add what you like and what you have on hand that goes with Mediterranean flavors. Only have fresh tomatoes? That's wonderful - toss them chopped at the end. Regular black olives? I won't tell if you don't. Feeling like a meatless meal? Leave the chicken out or use garbanzo beans (though you'll have to just call it Mediterranean pesto pasta, then). It's all good.
Mediterranean Chicken Pesto Pasta
Grab your ingredients. You will definitely need pasta (it is a pasta recipe after all) but the kind is up to you. Any shape or size - gluten free or not. (FYI - the pasta shown is rice rotini since my mom is gluten free and they worked great. Just cook them only 10 minutes until al dente - for some reason the package I had said 13-15 minutes and that would've been mush.)
You will also definitely need pesto. You can buy it, but it is really easy to make and keep in the freezer- and if you use the ingredient I do instead of expensive pine nuts, you will save a ton.
Chicken is a must in our house (though it doesn't have to be in yours), and using rotisserie chicken meat from the freezer makes this meal a snap. (I use rotisserie chicken meat a lot for quick meals, either made in a slow-cooker or from a store.)
Artichokes, dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and parmesan cheese round out my add-ins. Though I did sneak in some chopped onion that isn't pictured.
What makes this a 20 minute, start to finish meal is that you can prep your ingredients while the water comes to a boil and your pasta cooks. Simply chop and add to a large bowl. Sauté the onions with a little olive oil. Heat the pesto as you'd like - I usually just add it to the sautéed onions.
Drain the pasta (reserving a bit of the water), add it to the bowl of ingredients, scrape the pesto-onion mixture over it all and start tossing. I find that adding a bit of the pasta water along with the grated cheese gives a nice sauciness to the pasta, but it's optional.
Serve it with more grated cheese and a green salad. Or just plop a handful of fresh spinach on a plate and top with the pasta mixture for a true one dish dinner. We're after quick go-to meals, aren't we?
Mediterranean Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe
- 3/4 pounds pasta any shape or type
- 1 to 1½ cups prepared basil pesto
- 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 1 cup quartered artichoke hearts marinated, canned, or frozen
- ½ cup chopped dried tomatoes*
- ½ cup sliced Kalamata olives
- ½ large onion diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (garlic-flavored oil is wonderful)
- ¼ cup cheese, either grated parmesan or crumbled feta
- Start water to boil in a large pot for pasta.
- Gather your fresh ingredients and start chopping, adding them to a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients and serve from.
- When water boils, add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions.
- Saute onions in olive oil until softened, add pesto to heat through over low while pasta cooks.
- Drain pasta, reserving a cup of the water, and add it to the large bowl. Scrape the pesto and onions over the pasta and mix everything well, tossing in cheese and a bit of the reserved pasta water as you do for creaminess.**
- Serve immediately with extra cheese for garnishing.
**Adding the pasta water is optional, though it's a great way to add a bit more moisture to any pasta dish. VARIATIONS:
1. For meatless meals, substitute garbanzo beans for the chicken
2. This is also good with leftover pulled pork used instead of chicken
3. Add spinach to the bowl and let the hot pasta "cook" it as you're tossing or layer it on a serving plate for a true one-dish meal.
Other go-to dinners you may like: