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Chicken & Vegetable Penne with Parsley-Walnut Pesto
“Homemade pesto may seem daunting, but in this quick pasta recipe you can make a simple sauce in minutes while the pasta water comes to a boil. You can substitute frozen green beans and cauliflower for fresh; in Step 4, cook the frozen vegetables according to package directions before tossing with the pasta and pesto.”
¾ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
½ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1½ cups shredded or sliced cooked skinless chicken breast (8 oz.)
6 ounces whole-wheat penne or fusilli pasta (1¾ cups)
8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise (2 cups)
2 cups cauliflower florets (8 oz.)
1Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2Place walnuts in a small bowl and microwave on High until fragrant and lightly toasted, 2 to 2½ minutes. (Alternatively, toast the walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.) Transfer to a plate and let cool. Set ¼ cup aside for topping.
3Combine the remaining ½ cup walnuts, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Process until the nuts are ground. With the motor running, gradually add oil through the feed tube. Add Parmesan and pulse until mixed in. Scrape the pesto into a large bowl. Add chicken.
4Meanwhile, cook pasta in the boiling water for 4 minutes. Add green beans and cauliflower; cover and cook until the pasta is al dente (almost tender) and the vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes more. Before draining, scoop out ¾ cup of the cooking water and stir it into the pesto-chicken mixture to warm it slightly. Drain the pasta and vegetables and add to the pesto-chicken mixture. Toss to coat well. Divide among 4 pasta bowls and top each serving with 1 Tbsp. of the reserved walnuts.