Chicken, Pasta & Bean Salad With Basil Pesto
Originally pesto was a sauce from Liguria in northern Italy made in summer, in a pestle and mortar, from basil leaves that would last until winter if it was sealed with oil. Lightly toast the pine nuts in the oven or in a dry pan to make their presence stronger – although it’s fine to leave them raw – and never heat pesto; simply stir it into hot, drained pasta. To store the pesto, pour it into a sterilised jar and top with a little olive oil. This way, it will last for up to three weeks in the fridge. The salad will also keep in the fridge for up to two days.
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125g of spelt penne or other short pasta (optional)
300g of green beans
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
600g of cooked chicken, torn into strips
200g of cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
A few basil leaves, to serve
For the Pesto
50g of basil leaves, torn from their stems
1 small garlic clove
50g of pine nuts, lightly toasted
125ml of mild extra virgin olive oil
25g of Parmesan, finely grated
Put the basil leaves into a mortar and bash them with the pestle until they become a rough pulp. Add the garlic and nuts and bash repeatedly. Using a metal spoon, stir in the olive oil, followed by the cheese. Add salt to taste, if necessary, but bear in mind that the Parmesan is salty. Alternatively, put all the ingredients into a small food processor and blitz until you have a roughish paste.
Cook the pasta, if using, in plenty of well-salted water in a large pan until al dente. Steam or boil (in the pasta water) the green beans until tender. Drain the pasta and beans and put into a mixing bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil to stop them sticking. Allow to cool.
Stir in the chicken, tomatoes and pesto. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve with a few basil leaves.
Recipe courtesy of The Low Carb Italian Kitchen by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, published by Kyle Books, March 2023, Hardcover £20. Photography by Susan Bell
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