Deconstructed Pesto Chicken

Deconstructed Pesto Chicken
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Pesto sauce captures and preserves the bright, summery flavor of fresh basil in a memorable way. This recipe reproduces the classic sauce's flavor without the in-between step of actually making the sauce. Pesto sauce is a wonderfully versatile ingredient. Aside from its usual role on pasta, you can swirl it into soups, stir it into mayonnaise or spread it on chicken or fish for a burst of fresh flavor. If you love the combination of pesto and chicken but don't usually have the sauce made up and ready to use, this could become one of your favorite recipes. It's a "deconstructed" version of pesto chicken, using the same familiar ingredients but putting them together differently. The grapes are nontraditional, but they lend the finished dish a distinct flair.


  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 1 ½ cups (approx. 1-2 bunches) fresh basil leaves
  • 4 Simple Truth™ Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. sea salt, or more to taste
  • ½ tsp. fresh-ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 lb. green seedless grapes
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced very finely
  • ½ cup finely shredded Parmesan or other hard cheese


  1. Heat your grill to medium-high, or approximately 400° F. While the grill warms, heat the pine nuts gently in a small skillet over moderate heat until they're light gold in color and smell pleasantly toasty. Shake the pan regularly because the nuts may scorch. Pour the finished nuts into a small bowl and reserve.
  2. Strip the basil leaves from their stems. Lay out 4 or 5 of the biggest leaves and stack the remainder on top of them. Roll each stack into a tight cigar shape, then slice thinly across the cylinder of the "cigar" to make fine shreds of basil. The culinary term for this is "chiffonade." Set the basil aside as well.
  3. Cut open the sides of a heavy-duty, zipper seal freezer bag so it can open freely but it's still joined at the base of the bag. Place a breast inside the bag and pound it gently with a meat mallet or an empty wine bottle until it's no more than ¼” thick and very wide. Repeat with each remaining breast.
  4. Brush the breasts with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Grill them for 10-12 minutes until both sides are well marked and the interior of each breast reaches a food safe temperature of 165° F. Remove the breasts from the grill and cover them loosely with foil to keep them warm.
  5. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat and add the grapes to the pan. Shake the pan periodically as the grapes turn a milky jade green. Add the wine to the pan when the first grape splits and begins to release its juices. Simmer until the wine and juices are thick and syrupy.
  6. Crush half the pine nuts with the flat of your knife. Add the crushed portion of the pine nuts, the basil, garlic and Parmesan to the pan. Stir briefly until the garlic and basil are aromatic and the ingredients are well mixed. Remove from the heat.
  7. Cut each breast diagonally into four or five wide strips on a clean slicing board. Arrange the strips on four plates and spoon the "pesto" and grapes around and over each breast. Garnish with the remaining pine nuts and serve with grilled polenta wedges or your favorite pilaf.
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