Hi my name is Jessica and I am freaking out over pistachios.

Pistachio Pesto Chicken with Whole Wheat Spaghetti I howsweeteats.com

So pretty! So green! So salty!

I’m easily amused. Also, aggressive exclamation points.

It all started with pistachio gelato. Cannot get enough. At all. Which is insane because who the heck wants nuts in their ice cream? Not I. It then warped into some weird infatuation with wanting pistachios inside of other things, like even baked goods. And you know that I hate nuts in my treats. I stand firm that nuts belong in a cute bowl on your coffee table. Not in your cookies.

Pistachio Pesto Chicken with Whole Wheat Spaghetti I howsweeteats.com

Oh but you know what? In the midst of my pistachio freakout a few months ago, I made these killer pistachio chocolate chip cookies over Easter weekend – like I ground the pistachios into a pretty green powder so they flavored the cookies but didn’t give you the unfavorable nut crunch. (I am five years old and am now giggling.) No one wants that in their cookies. Right? So I did that. Ummm yeeeeah. Incredibly delicious and made even the nuts-in-cookies haters happy.

Then I forgot the recipe. Didn’t write it down. Well, maybe I did write it down but in my sea of paper scraps – it is lost for good. My own kitchen needs a lost and found. It’s seriously pathetic. I have lists on my phone and scattered in notebooks all over the house. I much prefer to write my lists with pen and paper (because, well, I just love to physically WRITE) but sometimes the phone is all I’ve got. The Notes section of my iPhone is a jumbled mess of meaningless nothings. My car is trashed with little scraps of paper that I like to call grocery lists and forget on my front seat when I go to the store. It’s like I am physically incapable of removing those little paper pieces from my car. Those and water bottles.

My backseat is where half-full and very empty water bottles go to die. This may be grounds for divorce.

Pistachio Pesto Chicken with Whole Wheat Spaghetti I howsweeteats.com

So pesto. You know, I am weird about this stuff. My favorite version is made with arugula but I thought that may overpower these cute little green nuts. A few months ago I made a triple herb kale pesto that just made me feel excellent since it contained about four days worth of my vegetable consumption. But then again… I feel that way about anything that is green.

I seared some chicken to the point where it was almost caramely. Super golden and even a little crispy on the outside. I cover the chicken in the pesto, but also tossed just the tiniest bit into the pasta with some red pepper flakes. I don’t suggest adding a ton to the spaghetti – you don’t want to get pesto-ed out. This way you have just a hint of it in your noodles and a lot of extra room for inappropriate amounts of cheese.

As it should be.

Pistachio Pesto Chicken with Whole Wheat Spaghetti I howsweeteats.com


Pistachio Pesto Chicken with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

Yield: serves 4

Total Time: 35 minutes


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese

1 cup shelled pistachios
10 large basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, torn
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring water for pasta to a boil.

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large oven-safe skillet on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes each.

While the chicken is cooking, add pistachios, basil, parsley, garlic and cheese to a food processor. Pulse and blend until the nuts are coarsely chopped, then with the processor on, stream in 1/3 cup of olive oil. Add a little more if necessary, depending on how "spreadable" you want your pesto to be. Finish by adding in salt and blending once more. Spread a thin layer of pesto on top of each chicken breast in the skillet, then place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

While chicken is baking, boil pasta and prepare according to directions. Once finished, drain pasta and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, about 1/4 cup of pesto, the red pepper flakes and grated pecorino. You just want a very light coating of pesto on the noodles. Once chicken is done, remove and spread a little additional pesto on top. Serve together!

Pistachio Pesto Chicken with Whole Wheat Spaghetti I howsweeteats.com

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65 Responses to “Pistachio Pesto Chicken with Whole Wheat Spaghetti.”

  1. #
    Arthur in the Garden! — May 14, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

    How could you go wrong? Shrimp and pesto! Yum!


  2. #
    Alison — May 14, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

    I just made this with cashews since that what I had already. It looks and smells fantastic!


  3. #
    Nutmeg Nanny — May 15, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

    Oh goodness, I seriously love pesto! This looks wonderful!


  4. #
    Karen @ The Food Charlatan — September 18, 2013 @ 2:39 am

    This was so fabulous!! I made this on my birthday and it was just perfect. Thanks so much for an awesome recipe! I blogged about it here: http://thefoodcharlatan.com/2013/09/18/pistachio-pesto-chicken/ Oh and PS, I am SO going to make chocolate chip cookies with ground pistachios now. That sounds amazing!!


  5. #
    Joseph — September 30, 2014 @ 10:26 pm

    What might also work in this recipe is a trick I recently learned. I learned that in most (but not all) cooking and baking you could substitute the fat with Greek yogurt. You’d still be saving a lot of fat even if you were using full milkfat Greek yogurt (4% milkfat). So that could be something to try in the recipe for the pesto. If the Greek yogurt makes it too thick you could always thin it out with a little water :-)


  6. #
    Joseph — September 30, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

    Oh and you could probably also skip baking the chicken and probably cut the chicken into chunks (or buy frozen diced cooked chicken breast if you’re lazy like me LOL) and throw the chunks of chicken into a crockpot along with the pesto and make it something you could serve over pasta instead of alongside it :-)



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