20 Minute Cheap and Easy Chicken Pesto Pasta

This homemade chicken pesto pasta is not only packed with nutritious leafy greens, but all the ingredients can be found at your local Japanese supermarket!

Today’s vibrant pesto pasta is a big winner in our house, even with the recently-picky toddler! While jarred pesto sauces certainly exist in Japan, why not try one that uses fresh ingredients AND is cheaper than those prepared options? Best of all, you can have the whole dish on the table in twenty minutes flat!

The secret to making this work in Japan is subbing out expensive fresh basil and hard-to-find pine nuts for dark leafy greens and walnuts! Nuts of any type can be expensive in Japan, so I usually shop around for the best deals on bulk-sized bags. I especially love stocking up on walnuts because they have so many tasty applications! They’re great tossed on top of a leafy salad with apples, chopped into chicken salad, or mixed into banana bread and brownies.

Here’s what you’ll need for today’s dish:

Dark leafy greens (I used one bunch of discounted spinach (ほうれん草, ¥116), one pack of mustard spinach (小松菜, ¥95), 50 grams or about 20 walnut halves (クルミ、~¥100), 2 Tbsp olive oil (オリーブ油, ~¥50), 80 grams of parmesan cheese (パルメザンチーズ, ~¥100), 500 grams of pasta (パスタ, ¥97), and one chicken breast (若どりむね肉, ¥165). Also, a small amount of garlic powder, salt and pepper.

The cost of the entire dish (serves four) works out to about ¥720 or ¥180 per serving!

Here’s how to make it:

Required tools: large pot, blender or food processor, oven with tray (optional)

  1. Preheat over to 220 degrees Celsius and start a large pot of salted boiling water.
  2. Butterfly chicken breasts and dry well with paper towel. Butterflying (cutting the breasts open) will allow the meat to cook faster. Season each breast on both sides with salt, garlic powder and pepper. I baked both breasts at once, but saved one for sandwiches the next day. You can pan fry the chicken rather than bake it, if you prefer.
  3. When the water comes to a boil, quickly blanch the greens (dunk for a minute in the water and then transfer to a cold water bath). Alternatively, steam them in a steamer basket.
  4. Put pasta into the still-boiling water and cook until done. At the same time, bake the chicken breasts for about 10-15 minutes until done.
  5. While the pasta and chicken are cooking, put your greens into the blender/food processor with the parmesan, olive oil, nuts, and garlic powder. Blitz. Be sure to taste it once before adding salt, as parmesan has a fair bit of salt in it already.
  6. After straining the pasta, return to pot and mix with sauce.
  7. Plate and top with chunks of chicken. Enjoy!

If you make a smaller amount of pasta and don’t use all of the pesto, you can refrigerate it in an airtight container for about three days. Other tasty uses include as a topping for a chicken pesto sandwich or as the sauce base in a pizza!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: