Homemade pesto is as versatile as it is easy to make. This allergen-free recipe uses sunflower seeds in place of the pignola nuts (a.k.a. pine nuts) that is commonly used in pesto. The sunflower seeds add the depth that a bold pesto requires, while garlic, salt and oil bring out the brightness and aromatic flavors of the fresh herbs.
Parsley is often more readily available and is also a great economical choice at about one dollar per bunch. I will say, however, that it is quite peppery when prepared this way, so you’ll need a bit of sweet basil (or dried basil) to offset that peppery bite of the parsley. Or… you could mix in 1-2 of your reconstituted dried tomatoes.
The sundried tomatoes were well worth the extra 10 minutes in the store to find and acquire. They add the acidic tang to round out the flavors of this classic Italian-American dish. My son does not like fresh tomatoes but loves these dried tomatoes.
And while mushrooms are depicted in the image (they *are* pretty aren’t they?), my fiance and I both agreed that a more spring flavored roasted veggie, such as asparagus would go a little better with the parsley pesto. The mushrooms weren’t bad – it’s just that they weren’t the optimal choice. So, instead, roast some asparagus, green beans or broccoli in lieu of the mushrooms. (Once I make this again with asparagus, I’ll update the picture).
Ultimately, this was very flavorful and satisfying. All family members devoured it and leftovers barely made it to the next day.
Chicken and Gluten-Free Pasta with Parsley Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1-2 pounds of chicken tenders or breast, cut into cubes or sliced in strips
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped medium dice
1 Tablespoon fresh cracked pepper, salt and dried Italian Seasoning or Dried Basil
1 16-ounce package of gluten-free pasta
1 8-ounce package of sun-dried tomatoes (either in dry package or in oil, either will work)
4 cups (32 ounces) of parsley, packed (set aside some for garnish)
2 cups (16 ounces) of fresh basil, packed
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup of sunflower seeds (check for allergens), or 2 Tablespoons of sunflower seed butter
1 peck of mushrooms, roasted at 350 degrees for 10 minutes (optional)
1 bunch of asparagus, roasted at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (optional)
2 Tablespoons of Earth Balance or your favorite dairy-free margarine (make sure that it is totally free of whey, casein, and all milk proteins)
2 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast
1. Wash and chop all of your veggies and herbs.
2. In a large skillet, cook the chicken and onion in some water with and seasoning such as salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning or dried basil. While the chicken is cooking (put a lid on it to keep warm once finished cooking), reconstitute the dried tomatoes and prepare the pasta according to package directions. Also, roast your mushrooms and/or asparagus if you like.
While all of that is cooking, prepare the parsley pesto:
Add the parsley and basil to the food processor with the oil, garlic and sunflower seeds or sunflower seed butter. Add more oil or water if needed. Process until smooth.
Drain the soaked dried tomatoes and chop. (Note: they are large chop in the picture but we liked them better when we diced them smaller and had more bites with dried tomato flavor.)
Drain pasta, chop chicken and add to the pasta. Stir in the parsley pesto, dried tomatoes, earth balance and nutritional yeast. Taste and add salt as needed.