*Here is another recipe from my Sunday Mercury Column
During the warmer months I grow 1-2 basil plants in my kitchen window. I just buy a living plant from the supermarket, then with a little love it grows and grows giving me enough basil for most of the year. In fact my basil was getting far too big for my window ledge, so I decided it was time to make some home-made pesto; it’s easier than you might think! The combination of the sundried tomatoes inside the tortellini, the creamy wine sauce finished with a splash of pesto will delight your senses. The chicken underlines this as a main course dish and the crispy skin gives it the wow factor!
This recipe serves 2-3
Homemade Basil Pesto
100g (4oz) Large unbruised Basil Leaves
50g (2oz) lightly toasted pine nuts
75g (3oz) Grated fresh parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic roughly chopped
200ml extra virgin olive oil
Chicken and Pasta
2 x 150g (6oz) Chicken breasts skin on
100ml (3floz) whipping cream
50ml white wine
300g pack of Sun-dried tomato tortellini
2Tsb Olive oil
- In a large mortar and pestle, grind up the pine nuts and the garlic until you have smooth paste.
- Then slowly add a few basil leaves at a time and pound them into a silky smooth mixture.
- At this point, we are going to transfer the mixture to my food processor to finish the pesto off.
- Of course we could have done the whole process in the food processor, but we would never get it as smooth that way. Using this old fashioned method, it also bring out a richer greener colour.
- If using a food processor, add the parmesan cheese on a high speed; then begin drizzling in the olive oil on a lower speed, a little at a time. When you have finished adding all of the oil your pesto should be quite thick. Then season lightly.
- Preheat your oven to 200 C/gas mark 5,
- Remove the skin from each breast in one piece and rub with olive oil, then lay the skins stretched out on a non stick baking tray, season and the place another same size tray on top of it.
- Bake the chicken between the two trays which keeps it flat for 15-20 minutes; then check if it is brown, if not remove the top tray and cook for a few minutes more then remove from the oven.
- Cut the breasts into even sized pieces and cook in a hot sauté pan with 1 Tbsp of olive oil.
- When cooked remove the chicken and keep warm.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine, turn the heat down to low and add the cream, add 2-3 Tbsp of pesto and stir.
- Cook the tortellini pasta in boiling salted water per instructions and drain well.
Stir the drained pasta into your sauce, check the seasoning and spoon into pasta bowls. Top with the pieces of chicken and break the crispy skins into “shards” and decorate.
You can half the pesto recipe if you wish or spoon any remaining pesto into a re-sealable glass jar and refrigerate. Sometimes I thin the pesto down further with more olive oil, then I can pour into a salad oil bottle and use it as a salad dressing. The chicken is of course optional, but it does add a great contrast to the dish. You can of course buy your own pesto if you don’t have time to make one. You can also oven-dry a few small tomatoes halves in a cool oven (100 C) 1/4 gas mark to add further colour to the presentation.
Chicken with Pasta and Pesto Sauce (serves2) © Kevin Ashton 2008