There is only one word I can use to describe my Basil Pesto and Chicken Baked Pasta, and that is delightful. Whimsical creamy garlic filled layers of Alfredo sauce, chicken, and basil pesto, then top it all off with cheese. What’s not to love?! For anyone out there that is like us, how can you say no to…well almost any form of pasta really, I know we cant!
To say we love basil pesto would be the understatement of the year! My mouth starts to water when we grab it off the shelf at our grocery store, and my mind runs wild with ideas Every. Damn. Time. For those of you thinking, “why doesn’t she just make her pesto at home?” Well the short answer is, I would be broke and premade just saves time. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good homemade pesto, but the ingredients are outrageously priced, and we eat A LOT of it. So, I found the next best thing, and it really is the best!
We buy the Kirkland Basil Pesto from Costco. Take my word for it, its worth it! I also like the fact that its already made, and that gives me time to focus on other things, and to know it is just as good as I could make myself. But feel free to use which ever Pesto sings to you, weather it is homemade, or store bought!
Anyways, back to the pasta! This dish took a WHILE to get it just right. First it was too oily, then too dry, and so on and so on. I went through 6 or 7 versions of this basil pesto and chicken baked pasta and was greatly underwhelmed. Then I landed on this one, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait!
Pasta Water a.k.a Liquid Gold
One of the great secrets to the sauce (or any pasta sauce) is the reserved pasta water. This stuff is LIQUID GOLD. If your sauce is too soupy the pasta water will help thicken it up, or if it is too thick, the pasta water will thin it out. Its like magic! And it adds some serious flavour. Now regardless of the pasta sauce I am making, after the pasta has cooked, I will always save a cup of pasta water, just in case the sauce needs a little something to make it just right!
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Basil Pesto and Chicken Baked Pasta
- 2 Chicken Breasts, diced and cooked
- 500 g Pasta, bowties, penne, rigatoni, medium shells cooked, strained, and 1 cup of pasta water reserved
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 medium Red Onion, diced
- 6 cloves Garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons Flour
- 2 cups Chicken Stock
- ½ cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 cup Heavy Cream, 33%
- 1 cup Reserved Pasta Water
- ½ cup Basil Pesto
- 1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- In a large deep skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Sauté the red onions and garlic until they are fragrant, and the onions just begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes.
- Keep over medium heat and sprinkle the flour over top of the onions and garlic. Stir until lumps form, this is called a Roux. Continue to cook for 30 seconds. Whisking consistently pour in the chicken stock into the roux and continue to whisk the sauce until all the lumps have incorporated and the sauce has thickened.
- Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and heavy cream. If the sauce is still too thick and you would like to thin it out, add some of the reserved pasta water (see above). Add the pasta water in small portions and stir well to reach the desired consistency. * I use about ½-¾ cup of the reserved pasta water*
- In a large casserole dish add the cooked noodles and cooked chicken. Stir to combine. Pour the Basil Pesto over top of the noodles and chicken, and roughly stir to just incorporate. Next pour all the prepared sauce over top of the noodles and top with shredded cheddar cheese.
- Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is melted.