Penne with Seared Chicken Breast and Green Garlic Pesto

I’m a little late on posting this recipe since green garlic season may have already come and gone (some of you might still find it), but that brings us right over into garlic scape season, so its an easy substitution to make! If all of that flew over your head, you’re missing out on something great and need to try it as soon as possible (more on that in a moment). So what did I do with this bit of tasty spring produce? I made a simple green garlic pesto to highlight green garlic as the star of the show in this pasta dish.

If you’ve never heard of green garlic before (or scapes, which are kind of similar but are in fact, different), they’re actually pretty interesting. Unfortunately, you probably won’t find them at your grocery store, but you should have better luck at a farmer’s market. Simply put, green garlic is garlic before it has fully matured into a bulb (which is then dried/cured to what we all know as the common garlic). It kind of looks like a small leek but has that distinct garlicky flavor, albeit milder and sweeter. This is the kind of garlic you could eat raw and not worry about regretting it for a full 24 hours after the fact as this is not nearly as potent/sharp as a garlic bulb–heck, be heavy handed with it, it won’t take over a dish like adding a few cloves of garlic might.

So all that being said, this dish is simple and about the green garlic. I adapted Dorie Greenspan’s garlic scape pesto. The pesto is a simple puree of green garlic, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, and lemon juice. Tossed with a fine penne and mixed with a bit more to make it more of a meal (chicken, greens, etc), this was a tasty, light, summery meal. I thought this paired fantastically with a Rhône rosé, but any semi-dry, acidic, medium bodied, lighter wine would fare nicely. This is good eat-out-on-the-deck, lazy afternoon/evening food.

  • ~8 stalks green garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you’d like)
  • About 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 lb fine pasta (e.g. angel hair)
  • ~1.5 lbs chicken breast
  • 2 red bell peppers (optional)
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard (or arugula–I used a bit of both)

Peel the outermost layer off the green garlic. Slice off the roots and the top ~25% of the leaves (assess how much you want to discard–take a bite. If its flavorless, toss it, and keep trimming a bit further down).

A bit of a tangent: I thought roasted red peppers would make a good garnish, so you should knock these out while you’re working on the rest of the meal. Rub lightly with oil and put under a hot broiler for roughly 6 minutes per side (blacken the skins). Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave these to steam themselves until you’re ready for them (ideally, 20+ minutes so you have no difficulty peeling the skin off).

Preparing the pesto is quite simple. Throw the green garlic, almonds, parmesan, and olive oil in a food processor and puree to a consistency that suits your fancy (adding more oil/cheese to taste). Set this aside.

The rest of the dish is equally simple to prepare. Dice the chicken breast to bite-sized (or nearly so) strips, season with salt and pepper, and sauté in a pan until cooked through. Meanwhile, dice up the chard/arugula (leaves AND stems if using chard) and add this into the pan roughly 5 minutes into cooking the chicken. The greens should wilt while the chicken finishes heating through. All the while, boil the penne (following the directions that come with it–probably taking somewhere around 8 minutes).

Once all the elements are done, toss everything (except for the peppers) together in a large bowl until the pasta is well coated with the pesto. Portion the pasta out, top each serving with some roasted red pepper, and enjoy!

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3 Responses to “Penne with Seared Chicken Breast and Green Garlic Pesto”

  1. bellini valli Says:

    Sigh…I have never come across green garlic Mike, but I will keep my eyes peeled:D This dish sounds incredible with the green garlic the star:D

  2. Dragon Says:

    mmmm…love pesto! Yours is gorgeous

  3. The Food Hunter Says:

    Looks delicious.

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