Basil. If there’s one thing I think is worth planting in your garden, a mulch bed or a pot, basil is it. I use it on pizzas, pasta dishes, in marinades, but most importantly in PESTO. In fact, my husband calls pesto my other lover. For those who have the pesto-loving gene, you know the robust and addicting flavor. Maybe, like me, you salivate just at the name of
your lover pesto.
Now, parents, let’s discuss kids and pesto for a minute. Reality is that pesto is green. And green foods are automatically suspect to little people. Last week was one of the first times I’ve made it with my 3, 5, and 7-year-olds. Then I daringly offered green pasta to them for dinner. Oh, I’m crazy like that. Low and behold, though, Chicken Pesto Pasta was a great success with all but my pesto-repulsed (maybe just jealous?) husband. I shall not speak his name here.
If you want to get your kids to delve into the world of pesto, here’s how it worked in our house:
a) The kids helped me plant our garden. They’ve been an active part of watering our basil and other plants for a few months already this season. By gardening with me and my mom over the years, the children have felt ownership over our produce. And they have tried so many new foods as a result. It really does work.
b) I had my kiddos pick the basil and help me measure out all the ingredients. We also all taste-tested the pine nuts, which they actually liked. This is one of those other tricks you’ve probably heard a million times, but getting the kids to cook with you often results in an expanded palette.
c) We nicknamed the Chicken Pesto Pasta “Green Alien Pasta” and my kids thought it was hilarious. I’m not suggesting you trick your kids, but this just made the dinner fun.
Honestly, though, this simple Chicken Pesto Pasta recipe is delicious without all the fanfare. If your kids will give it one try, I think they’ll be hooked. And so will you.
One last point that you know I have to slip in is that pesto is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat this summer. Healthy fats from the olive oil and pine nuts and antioxidants from the basil and garlic make pesto a winner. So eat up…in moderation!
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 lb whole wheat rotini pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 2 seasoned and grilled chicken breasts, diced
- Combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese in a food processor or high-speed blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Toss the pesto with the cooked pasta and grilled, diced chicken. Top with more Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.