This pesto grilled chicken recipe isn’t as restrictive as the title implies. It can be barbecued, air fried or roasted. It’s a simple two-ingredient recipe, but homemade pesto, which uses more ingredients, always wins.
What is Pesto?
Traditional Genovese pesto is an uncooked sauce made with a marble pestle and mortar. As its name suggests, pesto originated in Genoa, the capital of an area in Italy called Liguria. Liguria is also the home of focaccia bread. Pesto consists mainly of pounded basil, garlic, parmesan, coarse salt, and olive oil. Its name may come from the Italian verb “Pestare”, meaning to crush. The Italian word comes from the same Latin root word which gave English “pestle”, as in pestle and mortar.
3 Ways to Cook Pesto Grilled Chicken
The traditional pesto works well as a marinade and, much to my surprise, keeps its green colour, despite basil usually turning brown when exposed to high temperatures. The high parmesan content, however, helps give the chicken a rich caramelised crust through a process known as the Maillard reaction.
The Maillard reaction describes the process of sugars in protein caramelises when they reach a specific temperature. This reaction gives roasted, grilled, or barbecued meats characteristic-rich and intense flavour. Unfortunately, with pesto comes the risk of burning fragile ingredients such as olive oil. Therefore, I recommend cooking these Pesto grilled chicken breasts on medium heat.
This pesto-grilled chicken breast will work perfectly roasted in the oven at 180C, seared in a hot griddle pan, or placed under a hot grill. The recipe will also work in the air fryer, using the same settings as for grill or roast. During the summer, they can also be thrown on the barbecue, however, cook them at a lower temperature first or butterfly (cut them in half to open the chicken breast like a book) to make them thinner and thus cook quicker. Serve with plenty more Pesto and Italian bread.
Pesto Grilled Chicken with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- 4 Skinless Chicken Breasts
- 70 g Basil Pesto Preferably Homemade
- 240 g Vine Ripened Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt & Black Pepper to Taste
- Preheat the oven to 170C, 150C for a fan-assisted oven, 350F, or Gas 4. Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes begin to blister. Keep warm.
- Mix the chicken and pesto in a small bowl and set aside for at least twenty minutes.
- Preheat an overhead grill to medium, and line a tray with foil.
- Place the chicken breast on the grill tray and place under the hot grill for 10-12 minutes, until brown, then turn and cook for another 8-10 minutes.
- Serve with roasted cherry tomatoes, pesto, and plenty of bread.