- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 4-6
This dish is a harmony of flavors and textures. It comes together in an instant—equally perfect for casual get-togethers or a weeknight meal. While pesto is typically made with basil, this sauce makes use of easily available spinach. It's supple and rich and stays beautiful bright green as it gets tossed onto chewy noodles. It’s the perfect backdrop for garlicky, chile-infused seared chicken thighs (or eggplant, or tofu, for vegetarian options). Choosing boneless meat means it’ll cook up in no time flat. Bright, juicy tomatoes and the crunch of crushed hazelnuts, showered over top, make the dish feel extra special. This batch makes enough sauce to enjoy for another meal to follow. If you plan on stretching the pesto out over the course of multiple days, simply pour a thin layer of olive oil to cover the sauce’s surface, then seal it in the refrigerator.
You'll also notice that this recipe calls for toasted hazelnuts. Here's how to do it: roast hazelnuts on a sheet pan in a 375°F oven until fragrant, about 7 minutes. Transfer hazelnuts to a shallow bowl to cool to room temperature, then slough off the skins. That's it! —Melina Hammer
ancho chili powder
garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated on a microplane
extra-virgin olive oil
boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 ¾ lbs)
- Pesto Pasta
toasted hazelnuts, divided
finely shredded parmesan
coarsely snipped chives
extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 - 2 cups
cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
- Make the marinade: Stir the garlic, oil, salt, and spices together into a uniform paste. Pat the thighs dry and arrange them on a tray. Spread the mixture to coat the top side of each thigh. Set aside as you make the pesto.
- Rinse spinach and toss in a colander. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the spinach, ⅓ cup hazelnuts, parmesan, chives, and olive oil and pulse until it resembles a lush paste. Taste, and season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Transfer the pesto to a pint-sized wide-mouth jar with a lid and seal. Refrigerate if not using straight away—this step can be done up to 3 days in advance.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook orecchiette according to package instructions for al dente. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pasta to a heat-proof bowl. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto the pasta, toss to prevent sticking, and allow to cool as you cook the chicken.
- Heat a large cast iron pan until hot over medium-high heat, then arrange 3 to 4 pieces marinade side down. Sear undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until thighs turn opaque around all edges.
- Turn thighs to the second side and sear for 2 minutes further or until a food thermometer reads 160°F, then transfer to a platter to rest. Repeat with remaining thighs until all have been seared.
- Toss half the pesto with the pasta to thoroughly coat, then transfer the pasta to a large serving platter. Slice chicken into ¼-inch-thick slices across the grain and arrange onto pasta, adding any accumulated juices. Scatter tomatoes around. Crush remaining hazelnuts with the flat of a chef’s knife and sprinkle them over all. Season with freshly ground pepper and flaky salt, and eat at once.