Sometimes I really wish we lived in a location where it was possible to grill year-round. I mean, I know that's what grill pans were invented for...but using a grill pan just isn't the same as cooking on an outdoor grill. But it's hard to cook on an outdoor grill when it's 30 degrees and snowing outside. Such is the plight of Midwestern life.
I love grilling not only because it's a delicious and relatively healthy cooking method, but also because it means that half of the dinner cooking work is my husband's job. And he doesn't complain about it one bit; in fact, he loves to grill. On the night I made this, he took charge of the chicken, while I handled the simple pasta and sauce. And either we're a great cooking team or this is just an awesome recipe (I think it's both!), because this meal was amazing. Absolutely delicious. I can't believe I'd never considered adding pesto to a marinade before, but you can rest assured I'll be doing it constantly from now on. The pesto gave the chicken such a wonderful, earthy flavor, which was nice with the bright flavor of the lemon. The chicken paired perfectly with the creamy tomato sauce. This was a hit with the entire family, and I'll be making it every grilling season from now on for sure!
Grilled Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Penne
adapted from Plain Chicken
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup Italian dressing
1/4 cup prepared pesto
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pound penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a plastic bag or sealable container, mix together Italian dressing, pesto, and lemon juice. Add chicken and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to overnight (the longer, the better). Grill the chicken until cooked through.
2. While the chicken is cooking, cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente; drain.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Heat to boiling, then add tomato sauce and heavy cream. Add sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in the pesto and heat through.
4. Gently stir the pasta into the sauce. Top each serving with sliced chicken.