I first stumbled on to this recipe for Easy Baked Pesto Chicken when I was looking inThe South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook for a recipe my friend Bonnie had recommended. At my house there’s fresh basil on the counter, I’m freezing basil for winter, and I’ve now made two batches of Basil Pesto with Lemon, so it’s not really surprising that a recipe using pesto would catch my eye.
If you don’t have any basil growing, you can certainly make this ultra-easy main dish with purchased basil pesto, which is what the recipe in the book called for. If you have more fresh basil, or more basil pesto left in your jar after you make this, look after the recipe for some other ideas using pesto.
Then lay the chicken strips over the top of the pesto and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Baked Pesto Chicken
(Makes 4 servings, recipe adapted slightly from The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook.)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and fresh ground black pepper for seasoning chicken
1/2 cup basil pesto (I used my homemade Basil Pesto with Lemon, but you can use purchased pesto.)
2 oz. (1/2 cup) grated low-fat mozzarella cheese
Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (or use a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid) and bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes, just until chicken is barely firm and cooked through. (Don’t cook too much at this point, or the chicken will be overcooked by the time the cheese is melted and browned.)
When chicken is barely cooked through, remove foil and sprinkle chicken with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese. Put dish back into the oven without foil and cook 5 minutes more, just until cheese is melted. (If your broiler is separate from the oven, start preheating it when you take the chicken out.) After I melted the cheese for 5 minutes I switched my oven to broil and broiled for 5 minutes more, just long enough to get the cheese lightly browned.
Serve hot. There will be some flavorful juice in the bottom of the dish when this is done, so you may want to serve with rice, couscous, or quinoa to soak up the juice, but if you’re eating this for phase one, just spoon the juice over the chicken.