Baked Spinach Pesto Chicken

This easy Baked Spinach Pesto chicken will be a new favorite recipe for your family for a variety of reasons. Among my personal top three reasons why I love this dish are:

  1.  I can sneak in lots of spinach and my picky eater never notices! Shh don’t tell her!
  2.  I can easily mix up bags of this chicken, all ready in the marinade, for quick fix weeknight dinners.
  3.  Cleaning my food processor is the most difficult task when making this dish.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a farmer,  or at least, grow some vegetable in pots on my back deck.  We were very ambitious and planted peppers, 2 different kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, and basil.

The “garden” looked beautiful for a few weeks.  The plants were producing and then I went to harvest.  This is when I noticed the problem.  Our zucchini all had soggy bottoms.  Our big tomatoes were completely eaten through by some sort of bug.  YUCK!!!  The birdies loved my strawberries and didn’t want to share.  Of all of those beautiful plants that we started out with, we were only able to yield jalepeno peppers, grape tomatoes, that had sprouted up under the deck (the ones in the planter died), and basil.

We had lots and lots of basil.

Because we had so many disappointments with all of the other plants, I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting any of the precious basil that I had grown and cultivated, with my hot little hands.  It went into everything from my omelets to my flavored water jugs (the kids were not at all fond of this use!).

Finally, I got the bright idea of turning all of that basil into delicious freezer packs of frozen pesto chicken. As mentioned earlier, since the whole dish was already green; I got the bright idea to make this a spinach pesto chicken.  This allowed me to sneak A TON of vegetables into my picky eaters belly, but all she could taste was the amazing basil that she had lovingly helped water.  We all walked away from the table happy!

Whenever I find spinach or basil on hand, I whip up a batch of this Spinach Basil Pesto Chicken to tuck away in my freezer for a night when I need a good meal for my family, but only have like 5 minutes to think about it.

Putting It All Together

Step 1:  In a food processor or blender, combine basil, spinach, parmesan cheese, nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic.  Process until smooth and creamy.  (As you go, if the pesto is not as loose as you’d like; just add more olive oil in until you reach your desired consistency.)

Step 2:  Pour 1/2 your pesto onto the bottom of the baking dish.  Lay out your chicken in a single layer and then top with the remaining pesto.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top like a beautiful layer of Italian fairy dust.  When I am making this as a freezer meal, I prepare this dish in a disposable pan.  I hate it when I go for a baking dish only to remember that it is in the freezer.  Plus, on the night I pull this out for dinner, not only is dinner already done for me, but so is clean up.  AHHHH, doesn’t that sound heavenly??

Step 3:  Bake in a 375° oven for 25-30 minutes, covered.  After it has been baking for 25-20 minutes, remove the cover, top with mozzarella cheese, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until your chicken is completely cooked through and the cheese is melty and bubbly.

If you are looking for a creative way to sneak veggies into your family, or have a no fuss dinner that is full of amazing flavor; you really need to give this dish a try.  It is DELICIOUS!!!!  With a capital D.

Baked Spinach Pesto Chicken

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 40-45 mins

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken
  • 2 Cups Basil leaves
  • 2 Cups Spinach leaves
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Walnuts, Pecans, or Pine Nuts (your choice, they are all delicious)
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil (approximately, continue adding until your pesto reaches your desired consistency)
  • 2 tsp. Garlic
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 Cup Mozzarella Cheese (Reserved to top the casserole at the end of baking)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F
  2. In a food processor or blender, combine basil, spinach, parmesan cheese, nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using). Process until smooth and creamy. (As you go, if the pesto is not as loose as you'd like; just add more olive oil in until you reach your desired consistency.)
  3. Pour 1/2 your pesto onto the bottom of the baking dish. Lay out your chicken in a single layer and then top with the remaining pesto. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top like a beautiful layer of Italian fairy dust. When I am making this as a freezer meal, I prepare this dish in a disposable pan.
  4. Bake in a 375° oven for 25-30 minutes, covered. After it has been baking for 25-20 minutes, remove the cover, top with mozzarella cheese, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until your chicken is completely cooked through and the cheese is melty and bubbly.

Additional Info

If making this dish as a freezer meal, prepare according to directions in a disposable pan. Cover well with both cling wrap and aluminum foil to avoid freezer burn. Take out of the freezer to thaw before baking.

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