Gluten-Free Recipe of the Week #10: Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta (Dairy-Free & Vegan Option)
If you’ve read my Monthly Meal Plan posts, you know I like to experiment with new recipes. Sometimes these experiments work out really well…and sometimes they don’t. Whenever I modify a recipe, I take lots of notes so that I can recreate it in the future if it turns out well.
For my reference and yours, I’ve decided to post my recipe experiments on this blog. I plan to post at least one recipe per week. I will include a link to the original recipe as well as allergen/special diet information, notes about my changes and lessons learned, pictures from various stages of cooking, and my overall impression of the dish. Most recipes will be main dishes, but I may also include desserts or snacks as well.
Leave a comment below if you think there’s a recipe I might like to try for a future post!
This week’s recipe is Avocado Pesto’s
Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta
(made with Vegan Basil and Spinach Pesto)
Information for Top 8 Allergens
- TREE NUTS (walnuts & almonds)
- Free From:
- Gluten (make sure to use GF pasta!)
- Crustacean Shellfish
- Soy (check labels)
- This week’s meal features Le Veneziane Penne Rigate, but it would also work well with (new to us!) Rigatoni. Just like their penne, the Le Veneziane Rigatoni is corn-based and the best substitute for gluten-full pasta I’ve ever used.
- This meal works well for a busy weeknight as long as you prep the pesto and shredded chicken ahead of time. Prep the pesto up to 5 days in advance and store in the fridge. Separate and shred the chicken up to a day before you need to cook with it. I elected to purchase a rotisserie chicken to save time (it took 5 minutes to shred the breasts for this meal, and I plan to use the remaining chicken for lunches), but you can certainly roast your own chicken (and then make overnight stock with the bones ← one day I will be that together!).
- This recipe calls for sliced, dry toasted almonds. Rather than buying new almonds, I elected to use what I already had in my pantry: raw almonds. I prepared them by pulsing them a few times in the food processor (right before I made my pesto) and toasting them on low heat in an unoiled pan for 5-10 minutes (take them out when you start smelling them).
- I never fried garlic before, so I was interested in trying it. If you don’t have the time or interest in frying garlic, just skip this step. Frying garlic was easier than I expected, but I learned some lessons that may help you:
- Slice the garlic lengthwise for bigger pieces.
- Make sure the oil is hot when you add the garlic.
- DO NOT WALK AWAY! They need to be flipped in less than 30 seconds.
- I tried flipping them with a fork, but a toothpick proved much more helpful.
- I removed the fried garlic carefully from the pan with said fork. Save the oil for the next step!
- Neither recipe lists salt or pepper in the ingredient lists or directions. I recommend adding salt and pepper (to taste) in both recipes. I would add a few pinches to the food processor before blending the pesto, and I would add a hearty amount to the chicken as it is reducing in the white wine (see note below).
- I used the wrong pan to cook the pesto sauce. I recommend using a pot (versus pan) to prevent spills. I took the opportunity to switch to my pasta pot (once it was done cooking the pasta) right after adding the wine to the chicken. In order to not lose flavors at the bottom of the pan, I deglazed with the white wine and reduced it for a few minutes before switching to the new pot. I think this extra step added more depth of flavor than adding the white wine with the coconut milk and pesto (as stated in the original recipe).
- I decided to add the cooked pasta to the sauce before serving to re-heat the pasta and combine the flavors. Take care not to overcook the pasta if you decide to do the same. I’ve found that Le Veneziane pasta usually is al dente within 6-8 minutes of being added to the boiling water.
- The original recipe offers a vegan option of this recipe that includes “thinly sliced zucchini” in place of chicken. You could use a mandolin or your preferred zoodle-maker to slice the zucchini. I didn’t try this option, so let me know if you try it!
Additional Meal Components
With the chicken, no side was needed; however, the vegan version may benefit from a side dish (or just extra large helpings!).
Yum! This pasta dish was perfect for a cold night—warm and comforting with bright flavors and rich creaminess from the coconut milk. The satisfying crunch from the toasted almonds and fried garlic, along with the depth of flavors (lemon, in particular) added by the homemade pesto, helped this dish stand out from other pasta dishes I’ve made in recent months. If you have a little extra time and/or need this dish to be dairy-free, I recommend taking the extra step to make the vegan pesto recipe above—using the homemade pesto not only kept this meal dairy-free, but it also added a fresh quality that is impossible to get from a jar. If you prep the pesto and chicken (or zucchini) ahead of time, you have a fantastic weeknight meal option that tastes like it took all day. Enjoy!