Italian Pesto Chicken

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With just a few simple ingredients, Italian Pesto Chicken instantly transports you to your favorite Italian restaurant. Made with tomatoes, mozzarella, and homemade basil pesto, this dish is packed with flavor and guarantees to be a crowd-pleaser.

337 CALORIES5g CARBS17g FAT37g PROTEIN
5 Comments

I would be completely happy eating this Italian Pesto Chicken every day if I could. Quite frankly, I don’t think my family would be opposed. All you really need is a food processor, an oven, and some basic key ingredients. In under an hour, you’ve got a restaurant-quality dish with a smell that brings the whole family running to the kitchen.

We start off with a lean boneless chicken breast that gets slathered with our homemade basil pesto (full of fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, lemon, almonds—the works). Then, we top it off with some tomato slices and melted mozzarella cheese. Just like that, you’ve got a mouthwatering dish you can feel great about.

This tasty dinner recipe is easy to make and bursting with fresh, savory flavors. Personally, I love pairing it with some garlic spaghetti squash for a super satisfying Italian meal. You won’t be disappointed! That is until you realize it was so good that you forgot to save leftovers.

Pesto chicken with tomatoes, and melted mozzarella cheese with balsamic vinegar being drizzled on top.

Key Ingredients

To make easy chicken dinner, you will need the following key ingredients:

  • Chicken Breast: I always start with a lean and protein-packed chicken breast. If you’d like to cook a bit faster and/or create more (albeit smaller) servings, you can halve the chicken breasts.
  • Basil Pesto: This homemade basil pesto is fresh, fragrant, and so incredibly delicious. You can swap it out for store-bought pesto, but I’m convinced that the tiny bit of extra effort is worth the flavors.
  • Tomatoes: This recipe calls for Roma tomatoes, but you could substitute any rioe, sliced tomatoes if you prefer. Instead of placing a slice on top, simply halve the cherry or grape tomatoes and sprinkle them around the chicken. Don’t worry, it will still be delicious!
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Italian food and mozzarella go hand in hand. This cheese is fantastic for melting and tastes divine in combination with our other flavors.

How to Serve Italian Pesto Chicken

You can serve this mouthwatering dish in a variety of ways. It’s fantastic on its own for a super low-carb dish or alongside your favorite side dishes. Here are a few of my favorite ways to serve this healthy dinner recipe:

  • With pasta. The good ol’ Italian way would be to serve your pesto chicken over your favorite pasta. Spaghetti seems to be my family’s favorite, so that is normally what I use. Feel free to use any pasta shape you like!
  • With rice or quinoa. Try serving this dish over a bed of rice. I am a brown rice addict, but you could use white rice or quinoa as well. To keep this dish low carb and grain-free, try serving it over cauliflower rice.
  • With veggies. To keep this dish low carb, try serving it alongside your favorite green veggies. Some of my top choices include broccoli, asparagus, green beans, and zucchini.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Here are some of my top tips and tricks to help you make this dish:

  • Double up on the amount of basil pesto you make and save half to use as a pasta sauce. It tastes delicious and when it’s mixed into a bowl of spaghetti squash, my girls don’t even realize they’re eating vegetables.
  • Make it low-carb: For a low-carb option, try serving this pesto chicken on a plate of zucchini noodles or mashed cauliflower. The cauliflower will soak up some of that delicious basil pesto, making for a delicious low-carb meal.

How to Keep the Chicken Moist

Nobody likes dry chicken, so it’s important to do what you can to keep this chicken nice and moist. This means being generous with the homemade basil pesto, topping the chicken with juicy ripe tomatoes, and making sure not to overcook the dish.

Overcooked chicken is dry chicken, so make sure to keep an eye on your oven during the cooking process. Chicken should be cooked to exactly 165 degrees. If you’re worried about overcooked (or undercooked) chicken, I recommend using a meat thermometer to help you gauge when your chicken is done.

How to Store Italian Pesto Chicken

I typically like to make extras of this dish so I can enjoy a quick and delicious lunch the next day. This is especially helpful if you’re going into the office and know you won’t have time to whip anything up in the morning before you go. To save this dish for later, transfer it to an airtight storage container and store it in one of two ways:

  • In the fridge for up to 2-3 days.
  • In the freezer for up to 3 months.

Pesto Chicken breast baked with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese on a plate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you can find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this dish:

Is pesto healthy?

Like almost every other good thing in life, pesto is healthy in moderation. Although pesto is fairly high in fat and calories, it also contains tons of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. This pesto can also be made without cheese to accommodate dairy-free and vegan diets.

Can I marinate the chicken?

Yes! If you’d like, you can use olive oil and lemon juice or a balsamic vinaigrette dressing as a marinade. For best results, let the chicken marinate for at least an hour, however as little as 30 minutes will still add some extra flavor.

How do I know when my chicken is done?

The easiest way to know when your chicken is fully cooked is to use a thermometer. Chicken should always be cooked to 165 degrees. Normally, this takes about 30-35 minutes when cooking full chicken breasts, but it depends on your oven and the size of the chicken breasts.

Is pesto dairy-free?

This homemade basil pesto is originally made with Parmesan cheese. However, you can easily prepare it without the Parmesan and it will still make a delicious pesto sauce. If you’re opting for a dairy-free dish, make sure to leave out the mozzarella or swap it out for a dairy-free substitute.

Baked chicken with pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese on top on a plate with a white napkin.

More Delicious Pesto Recipes

If you liked this Italian Pesto Chicken, try these next:

The Recipe
Italian pesto chicken baked with sliced tomatoes and melted cheese with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Italian Pesto Chicken

PREP TIME: 15 Min
COOK TIME: 35 Min
TOTAL TIME: 50 Min
5 Comments
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Ingredients

USMETRICS
  • 1 cup fresh basil, packed
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. almonds (or pine nuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1.33 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

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Instructions

(Hide Photos)
1

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the basil, water, Parmesan, almonds, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Pulse until combined to make homemade pesto. You can also swap in store-bought pesto.

Chicken breast on a baking sheet with pesto and Parmesan cheese.
2

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Place the chicken in the dish and season with salt and pepper. Spread the pesto on top of the chicken. Then top with sliced tomatoes and ¼ cup cheese per chicken breast.

Chicken breast covered with homemade pesto, sliced tomatoes, and shredded mozzarella cheese on a baking sheet.
3

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Baking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken.

Pesto chicken with cheese and tomatoes baking in the oven.
4

Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar on top before serving.

Pesto chicken breast being served on a plate.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 6 oz. chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 337
Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 17g
24%
Saturated Fat 3g
17%
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 84mg
27%
Sodium 262mg
11%
Total Carbohydrate 5g
2%
Dietary Fiber 1g
4%
Sugars 2g
Protein 37g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the authorMeet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
5 Comments
On Italian Pesto Chicken
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Gayle Carlson
June 18, 2020 - 04:27
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5
We love this recipe! It’s so easy & tastes fabulous! Love the fresh pesto too! This is a family favorite!
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Mimi Lewis
January 17, 2019 - 14:21
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5
Yum!
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Megan H
March 24, 2016 - 17:10
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5
This dish is absolutely delicious! It's a must try. It's very easy and hands down our new go-to chicken dish!
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Christine Catone
March 5, 2016 - 06:53
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5
This was a fabulous meal!! and nothing beats fresh pesto!!
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March 8, 2016 - 00:33
Fabulous idea for lowering the calories in pesto using more water; I actually substitute the oil completely with low cal yogurt, slight difference in taste but it works for me. Thanks for another great idea and anything with pesto is wonderful!
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