I think it’s pretty obvious that I love cooking. I like creating recipes, reading through cookbooks and experimenting with flavours I love. I recognize that I am not a professional chef. I have no formal training, I don’t know all the techniques and I always feel like there is something to learn. I think that’s one of the things I like about cooking so much – no matter how long you’ve been doing it or how good you may be, there is always something new to discover. While I enjoy cooking and I’m often told by friends and family that I’m a good cook, I realize that cooking is not for everyone. Many people don’t like cooking and even say that they can’t cook which has always kind of amazed me. I guess because cooking has always been a part of my life, it’s something that I don’t even think about. My hope is that by sharing some of the recipes I’ve learned over the years, I can help those with low confidence in the kitchen to make delicious meals that don’t require a culinary degree.
This chicken dish is what I like call to a fancy fake-out meal. It looks like something you could find on the menu of a fancy restaurant, but it takes very little time and effort. Your dinner guests will never believe that something so delicious could be Whole 30 Compliant. It also involves a few skills that are great for every home cook to have in their wheelhouse, whether the goal is to hold elaborate dinner parties or serve meals that your family and friends will enjoy.
One skill that I believe is super important to know in the kitchen is how to make kitchen staples that you would normally purchase in a grocery store. More often than not, sauces, stocks and anything that comes in a jar or a box has a bunch of chemicals and artificial ingredients that you can’t pronounce and have no business being in your food. Things like added sugars, soy and preservatives have a profound affect on our health and, in some cases, have been linked to various health concerns. When I did the Whole 30 I had to make many things myself like mayonnaise, dressings and stock. Having made it myself and knowing how easy it is, I won’t go back to store bought.
So, let’s get to it!
To start, I made my pesto. This recipe comes from The Whole 30 book that I purchased earlier this year. I’ve made it several times and it’s fantastic. The recipe from the book makes about 2 cups of pesto. For this chicken recipe you only need about half, so you can either half the recipe or keep the rest in a jar in your fridge for another dish. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days, or you can freeze it and keep it longer.
To make the pesto, start by toasting the walnuts in a frying pan. No oil is needed since you just want to lightly toast them to release their flavours. You could skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but you’ll be glad you did it. Toast for about 2 minutes until lightly browned. Then, add these to a food processor or blender with the garlic and pulse a few times. Add the spinach, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix on low. While it is mixing, slowly add in the olive oil to create a paste. Give it a taste when it’s all combined to see if you need more of anything. I often add more pepper at the end.
The next step is to butterfly the chicken breasts. This technique requires a little bit of practice and a steady hand, but once you get it right, you’ll want to do it again and again. Lay the chicken breast flat on a cutting board. You want to cut on the thick side of the breast. Using a sharp knife, carefully slide the knife through the meat, ¾ of the way through. The first time I ever did this, I cut too low on the breast and ended up with a hole in the bottom. This usually isn’t that terrible, especially if you are wrapping it in something. Practice makes perfect.
Once you’ve got your pockets, you want to spoon in about 2 Tbsp of the pesto. Depending on the size of the breast, you may want to use more or less. Don’t over-stuff the breast. You want to be able to close the pocket and still keep everything inside. Some of the filling will likely spill out, but that’s okay.
Then, lay 2-3 pieces of prosciutto on the cutting board. Place the chicken on top so that the long sides of the prosciutto can be pulled over the top of the breast. The goal is to cover 90% of the breast, with the two ends still exposed. Secure your prosciutto with toothpicks if needed.
Place your stuffed chicken breast in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 35 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165F.
To make this a meal, I roasted some brussel sprouts with red onion, a little oil and some salt and pepper. They took about 25 minutes in the oven. Mike and I like our brussel sprouts to get a little crispy on the outer layer, so I put mine on the top rack of the oven. If you prefer yours without, just use the middle rack.
I hope you enjoy this delicious chicken dish. Everything from the prep to serving can be done in less than one hour and is sure to impress whoever is sitting at your dinner table!
Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breast Wrapped in Prosciutto
- ½ cup walnuts
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup spinach
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 4-6 slices of prosciutto
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a dry, hot frying pan, toast walnuts until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
- In a food processor or blender, add toasted walnuts and garlic. Pulse a few times to chop. Add the spinach, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix on low to combine. While mixing, slowly add in the olive oil and blend until everything is combined.
- Create a pocket in the chicken breasts by sliding a knife ¾ of the way through the breast.
- Spoon in 2 Tbsp of pesto into each pocket. Fold the top over. Wrap the breasts in 2-3 slices of prosciutto and secure with a toothpick, if needed.
- Place in a baking dish and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 35 minutes until internal temperature is 165F.