Basil and Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Basil and Pistachio Pesto with Chicken. Mom's Kitchen Handbook

For many families, mine included, the weeks between Spring break and summertime are the toughest of the school year. Churning out meals on a schedule feels harder in May than it did in September. It’s the time of year when you might find yourself agreeing with your middle schooler that leftover cake is indeed the breakfast of champions, when the convenience foods you passed in the market in the fall start to creep into the shopping cart, and when prepping one more dinner feels like one dinner too many.

Enter hope on the horizon for those of us steeped in suppertime burnout: a terrific new book from one of my favorite writers, Sally Kuzemchak. Her cookbook, Dinnertime Survival Guide, is just the little boost of inspiration needed to put some groove back into your meal-making routine.

dinnertime-survival-guideThe book is broken out into 10 “Dinnertime Dilemma” chapters, with recipes and real-world solutions for each. Here are a few examples that may resonate:

Dinnertime Dilemma #1 I have Zero Time

Dinnertime Dilemma #3 I Can’t Afford Healthy Food

Dinnertime Dilemma #5 I’m Not a Short-Order Cook

Dinnertime Dilemma #7 I’m on a Diet, They’re Not

and my personal favorite…

Dinnertime Dilemma #10 Frankly, I Don’t Feel Like It

Sally is down-to-earth, funny, and smart. Her book is packed with practical strategies, tricks, and inspiration. I especially love the “Top 5” series featured in every chapter, notably, “Top 5 Tips for Raising Veggie Lovers” and “Top 5 Issues Never to Stress Over.”  The fact that Sally is a registered dietitian means the recipes have a mind to health. Standouts so far have been shrimp tacos with apple slaw, crispy salmon cakes with a lemony sauce, a dessert of apple wedges dipped in chocolate and granola (genius), and this Pesto Pasta with Chicken.

Pistachio Basil Pesto Pasta with Chicken

The pasta earned universal and resounding thumbs up from the entire crew in our house. I’ve made it twice now, the first time following the recipe to the letter (delish) and the second, swapping 1/2 cup of Italian parsley and 1/2 cup fresh mint for 1 cup of the basil (also delish). It’s the perfect sort of dish to double, using the leftovers for school lunches since it’s tasty hot or cold. If your market carries only raw pistachios instead of roasted ones, you can toast them for a few minutes in a pan or oven. Keep in mind that the portion is on the smaller side, so if you have teenagers or especially hearty eaters, be sure to have a generous salad and/or vegetable on the side, or increase the recipe volume.

Any which way you make this, or anything else in Sally’s book, you will not just be surviving dinner, you will be celebrating it.

Basil and Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Toss hot, cooked fusilli with a homemade pistachio pesto for a refreshing twist on traditional pine nut–based pesto dishes. Fresh lemon juice lends a great flavor boost. This main dish is best served immediately after tossing, so reserve pasta and pesto separately for latecomers to toss themselves.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 6 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 18 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 434 kcal
Author Katie Morford


  • 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 ounces uncooked fusilli or rotini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce grated fresh Parmesan cheese (about ¼ cup)


  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat or turn oven on broil.

  2. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray or on a baking sheet set under the broiler. Grill/broil  5 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 5 minutes; slice chicken into ½-inch-thick strips.

  3. Cook pasta in generously salted water according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

  4. Drop garlic through food chute with food processor on; process until minced. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, basil, pistachios, lemon juice, and oil; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl once. Transfer pesto to a large bowl; stir in reserved 1/4 cup pasta water and cheese. Add chicken and pasta; toss gently to coat.

Recipe from Dinnertime Survival Guide, reprinted with permission by Sally Kuzemchak and Cooking Light. 



04.24.2014 at9:29 AM #

Kate @ ¡Hola! Jalapeño

Looks delish Katie! Definitely putting this book on my wish list!

04.24.2014 at9:29 AM #

Katie Morford

It’s sort of a breath of fresh air, Kate. I think you’ll like it.

04.24.2014 at1:48 PM #

Kate P.

I’m afraid I can’t stop giggling about this post title, as only a woman with a dark sense of humor and a husband and son with food allergies could. If I fed anything with pistachios in it to my son or husband I’m afraid they might NOT survive dinner. Although I do agree with the previous Kate that it looks delicious(man, I miss pistachios), I’m afraid we’ll have to pass on this one. 🙂

04.24.2014 at1:48 PM #

Katie Morford

It’s always good to find the humor in such things. If the only nut allergy is pistachios, you could certainly substitute another nut. I imagine walnuts, almonds, and pinenuts would also be tasty, too.

04.25.2014 at1:34 PM #


Look forward to trying this. We recently enjoyed (all of us, amazingly!) kale pesto from Food52… maybe I’ll sub in some kale here.

04.25.2014 at1:34 PM #

Katie Morford

I haven’t done pesto with kale but sounds right up my alley!

04.28.2014 at10:44 AM #

Heather Christo

I love pistachios! this look completely delicious, and I love the color!

04.28.2014 at10:44 AM #

Katie Morford

It’s delicious and not as decadent as some pesto recipes are…a plus for weeknight cooking.

08.25.2014 at5:00 AM #


Yum . . . pistachio pesto! Thanks for the dinner inspiration . . . and your blog is wonderful!

08.25.2014 at5:00 AM #

Katie Morford

Thanks Maura. Hope you enjoy it.

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