Let’s start today out with a bossy command why don’t we:
Get this on your menu plan. Like, now.
A happy accident when my parents came to town a few weeks ago, my intention of making this pesto marinated grilled chicken for them didn’t happen thanks to about three million soccer games, family birthdays, and just generally loads of poor planning.
After hanging my head in shame for being a very poor representative for what I preach all the time here (execute the menu plan already!), the pesto was lovingly repurposed into this delectable baked chicken dish, along with a few other ingredients, and it was amazing. Totally amazing.
I generally keep this homemade, easy marinara sauce on hand in the freezer, and that’s what I used when I made it, but you could very easily use your favorite storebought marinara for an even simpler (which is hard to imagine) meal. As for the pesto, homemade, I’m sure, would totally knock it out of the park – I tend to really love Costco’s refrigerated pesto which is what I employed here.
I know I harp on this a lot, but for super melty, gooey, mozzarella goodness, make sure to slice it off the block yourself (or shred your own). Preshredded cheese is coated with a powdery substance to prevent caking which makes it less heavenly when it melts.
All the saucy, cheesy goodness served over whole grain noodles makes for a perfect after-soccer, weeknight, worthy-of-company meal. We’ll be making this again and again, that is for sure.
It would also make a superb take-in meal if you dare give it away. Even better, just double it for your family, too. It’s easy enough you could feed the whole neighborhood and still have time to whip up a batch of cookies to really impress (you little overachiever, you).
One Year Ago: Sweet and Spicy Pork and Pineapple Tacos
Two Years Ago: Whole Wheat Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Three Years Ago: Pretzel and Toffee Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies
Frozen chicken won't work well here - it will add too much extra liquid to the dish. I have a feeling this dish is super adaptable which means you could probably increase the amount of chicken to three pounds for heartier portions without changing anything else.
Remember, if using shredded mozzarella cheese in place of the sliced - grating your own mozzarella will make it extra melty and gooey (preshredded cheese is coated with a powdery substance to prevent caking which makes it melt less well than freshly grated cheese). As noted in the post and the ingredient list, I like to keep this classic marinara sauce in the freezer to use for dishes like this; you could definitely use your favorite storebought version in place of the homemade. My favorite storebought brand of pesto is Costco's refrigerated pesto.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup pesto
- 4 cups (32 ounces) marinara sauce (my favorite homemade version here)
- 8 thick slices mozzarella cheese or freshly grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 to 2 cups)
- Hot, cooked noodles for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch (or slightly smaller) baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel and lightly season all sides with salt and pepper. Spoon the pesto into the baking dish and toss the chicken with the pesto until evenly covered, arranging them into a single layer.
- Pour the marinara evenly over the top of the chicken. Top with mozzarella slices (or with shredded cheese, if using).
- Cover the dish with lightly greased foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes longer until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is hot and bubbling.
- Serve over hot, cooked noodles, if desired.
Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe