chicken & pasta with pesto cream sauce

We got a new Trader Joe's near us (ok... it's about an hour away, but out here in the boonies that counts as 'near'!) and went to check it out last weekend.

The first thing I spotted before we even walked in the doors was a big display of basil plants.  I couldn't resist the intoxicating aroma and immediately snatched one up!

Now, what better way is there to enjoy fresh basil than in a great homemade pesto sauce?!

Well, maybe torn up all over a bowl of fresh nectarines and vanilla ice cream!!  But that's beside the point...

Anyways...  I have a great recipe for a pesto chicken penne dish already, but I loved this idea from The Pioneer Woman to toss the pesto into a cream sauce!

What we're doing is essentially combining pesto and alfredo into one dish... which is pretty much genius, in my book!  (Thanks, Ree!)

Chicken & Pasta with a Pesto Cream Sauce Recipe
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

2 chicken breasts, sauteed in olive oil, with salt & pepper
     (Or use the meat off of one 'cheater chicken' from the store!)
1 pound short pasta, cooked al dente (penne, rotini, or whatever you have on hand!)
2 cups fresh basil
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts*, divided (1/4 cup + 1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (or so) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cream
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (+ more for topping!)

Cook the chicken, set aside. Cook the pasta, drain and set aside.

In your food processor, place the basil, 1/4 cup of the toasted pine nuts, the garlic clove, salt & pepper and red pepper flakes. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. 

While the food processor is running, slowly stream in the olive oil until you have a smooth, creamy consistency.  Dump the pesto into a small bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the grated parmesan.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat up the heavy cream and butter until combined and heated.  Turn off the heat and stir in the pesto, the chicken, the pasta, and the remaining 1/2 cup of pine nuts.

Serve with additional parmesan cheese sprinkled on the top of each dish!

*To toast the pine nuts, place them in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until golden brown.  Set aside to cool before using.

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