Cooking newbie here - would love to make a delicious chicken pesto pasta. What do I need to take it from average to amazing?

I have chicken breasts, whole wheat linguine, pesto, mozzarella, tomatoes, and dried basil. What else do I need?



Burnt O. March 18, 2011
If I read this right, you want to make pesto with dried basil? Can't do it. Pierino is right - throw it out. Real pesto is fresh basil, olive oil, Parmesan, and pine nuts. Once you've made (or bought) pesto, You could add zing to the dish by adding slivers of sun dried tomatoes and more whole toasted pine nuts. If you have fresh tomatoes, I would cut them in half, squeeze the seeds and pulp out, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and marjoram, and roast at 300' for two hours. Chop and add to the pasta dish. Whatever you do, if you make it with love - it will be amazing and above average. ;-)
healthierkitchen March 18, 2011
I don't know, Pierino, if goat cheese is good enough for Marcella Hazan, it's good enough for anyone.
ChefJune March 18, 2011
I agree with MaCollins. If the pesto doesn't taste great, the dish can't. So taste it first, and play around with it. I also agree with Pierino when he said to toss the dried basil. Imho, it's the least attractive herb when dried. If you don't have fresh, just go without.

Since you're a cooking newbie, I'll make a suggestion for any dish you are ever preparing. Taste, taste, taste! that's the best way to transform a dish from edible to ecstatic.

And Happy Cooking!
Ophelia March 18, 2011
There's really no need to be rude pierino.

As for the pasta, a noodle that held more of the sauce might be better than linguine, try campanelle or farfalle. Fresh basil would be delicious to add right before serving (it tends to brown otherwise). And serve it warm rather than chilled, pesto doesn't really do well in cold dishes, it looses some of the power of it's flavor and gets kind of clotted unless you add mayo or cream.
macollins March 18, 2011
There are a number of ways to use pesto, just as there are many variations beyond the classic basil+pine nuts+garlic+parmesan+olive oil pesto.

Taste the pesto straight. If you like it as is, go with it. If you find yourself wishing it had more of garlic, basil, cheese etc., amend it by adding more of those ingredients if you have them. Just keep tasting as you go and have fun with it.

Also, if you have time and are still looking for 'more', check out some of the recipes that are shared here, for inspiration.
pierino March 18, 2011
Throw out the dried basil. I mean do it now, straight into the hazerdous waste container---it's useless. You will also need pinenuts for a true pesto. I would also tell you to toss the chicken breasts in place of thighs but since you already have them...
Pesto goes like this; fresh basil, pine nuts, parmigiano, olive oil. You can substitute pecorino for parmigiano but I wouldn't go down the goat path to feta. And what's the mozzarella for? If it's the low moisture stuff you might as well toss it with the dried basil in the bin.
You want amazing? If you use dried basil it will turn out amazingly bad.
boulangere March 18, 2011
I usually add a bit of good olive oil to store-bought pesto, along with some of littleknitter's lemon zest. And it rarely has enough garlic for me. Your dinner sounds wonderful, tortellina, and the colors should be lovely!
healthierkitchen March 18, 2011
If you have store bought pesto, fresh basil will make it taste fresher. If you have homemade pesto and haven't already put in cheese, consider using a few tablespoons of goat cheese instead of parmesan. It makes a delicious, creamy sauce.
littleknitter March 18, 2011
I always grate a bit of lemon zest into my pesto to give it an extra kick!
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