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Pesto Chicken Fettuccine

Pesto Chicken Fettuccine

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Makes 4 to 6.
By Dennis W. Viau; an original recipe.

During the summer, when the farmers’ markets have their best produce, I look for the best basil. When I can find it, I buy the plants with the roots still on. The basil used in this recipe was displayed by the farmer with the roots in water. You can’t get much fresher. When I got it home I placed it in water until I was ready to use it for this recipe, which is an excellent way to serve mild chicken breast with a bold sauce.

Ingredients:

For the Pesto:
5 ounces (140g) pecans, halves or pieces
4 cups packed (about 4 ounces/113g) fresh basil leaves (discard the stems)
5 to 8 cloves garlic
1 cup (3 ounces/85g) shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese
½ cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil, more added later (up to 1 cup/240ml)
Salt to taste
For the Dish:
2 large chicken breasts, about 12 ounces (340g) each, or 3 if small
Oil for frying, such as pure olive oil (save the extra virgin for flavoring)
About 1 pound of fettuccine noodles or other pasta, such as egg noodles or penne

Directions:

Heat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet and roast in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Place the basil, garlic, and pecans in a sturdy plastic bag and use the smooth side of a tenderizing mallet or other hammer to crush the ingredients in the bag. Crushing the basil leaves releases the juices, which will give the pesto a richer flavor.

Transfer the crushed ingredients to a food processor. Add the cheese and oil. Process to a smooth texture.

Transfer to a bowl and add additional oil, up to 1 cup, to make an oily pesto that will coat the pasta well. Taste for salt, adding a good pinch of salt if desired.

Start cooking the fettuccine or other pasta according to package directions.

Cube the chicken breasts. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chicken only until white and just cooked through. Do not brown, as overcooking chicken breast can make it tough.

Add plenty of pesto to the pan, stir well, and remove from the heat.

Arrange the cooked fettuccine on a plate and spoon the chicken–pesto mixture on top. Garnish with additional cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.