My love affair with pesto didn’t come easily. For years, I avoided any dish that included the stuff. I’d even scrape it off of sandwiches, request pesto-free pastas, and eat around it if it ever made it onto my plate. A few years ago, something changed. I don’t know what it was that changed, but I think we can all agree that it was for the best.
Because pesto is freaking awesome, scientifically speaking.
Now I feel like someone who was formerly forced to live in a Hunger Games-esque arena where pesto was strictly banned for reasons I couldn’t quite understand, and the ban has been suddenly lifted. Hallelujahs! echo across the sky and the sun spills down. I have absolutely no self-control whatsoever. I want pesto. And I want it all the time. On everything.
During one of my many pesto-crazed cooking episodes this week, I was almost brought to tears when I realized that we were all out of basil and pinenuts, my two pesto-best-friends. Panic set in, of course. But then I slowly remembered that pesto is a technique, not a basil-specific food—although we see it most often with basil, since it tastes so delish.
Pesto simply refers to the method of grinding up into a paste. So I grabbed some fresh spinach leaves and sliced almonds that we had on hand. And I got to work. This Spinach & Almond Pesto Chicken Roulade was the result. And it’s a keeper.
The pesto is packed with nutty, fresh flavor, and the saltiness of the Parmesan makes it so scrumptious that I want to eat it by the spoonful. But instead, I exercise a modicum of rare pesto-self-control and spread it over thinly-pounded chicken breasts, roll them up in fancy roulades, and crisp them up to a savory golden-brown.
The result is an impressive-looking dish that looks way more complicated that it actually is. The simple pan sauce really kicks it up a notch too, adding a buttery, lemony, white wine jus to the equation. Ok, now I’m drooling. Time to go make some more…
- For roulade and pesto:
- 2 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- ¼ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2½ Tbs. olive oil
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- For pan sauce:
- 1 Tbs. lemon juice
- ¼ cup dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Lay chicken breasts on a large cutting board. Cover with plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin or meat pounder, pound each breast until very thin -- less than ¼-inch thick.
- Next, season each piece of chicken generously on both sides with salt and pepper.
- In a food processor, combine spinach, almonds, cheese, garlic clove, olive oil, and salt. Pulse until relatively smooth. Taste and season more, if needed.
- Using a small spatula or spoon, scoop pesto onto the chicken breasts, spreading the mixture in a thin layer to completely cover each breast.
- Now it's time to roll up the chicken. Roll each chicken breast lengthwise, tightly, until it's completely closed up. Take care to keep as much pesto inside as possible. Now you have your roulades made! How fancy of you.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cover pan surface with about 1 Tbs. olive oil.
- Once oil is hot but not smoking, add the roulades to the pan. Sear until lightly golden-brown on each side of the roulade, about 8 minutes total. Chicken will be seared on the outside but still uncooked within.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and add seared roulades to the sheet. Place in the 450-degree oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- While roulades bake, return to the sauté pan to make your pan sauce. Over medium-high heat, add the white wine, lemon juice, minced garlic, butter, salt, and pepper. Let the sauce reduce for about 5 minutes.
- Remove cooked roulades from the oven. Plate them and spoon pan sauce generously over the top. To serve, garnish plates with lemon wedges and sprinkle the dish with shaved Parmesan. Enjoy!
Let me know how this pesto-roulade turned out for you! I always love to hear about your cooking adventures. Be sure to leave a comment and rate this recipe using the star system below. Happy pesto-obsessing!