20130821-263573-pesto-chicken-recipe-horiz.jpg

A down-home dish of chicken and pasta with a spinach-pistachio pesto makes a quick and satisfying late summer dinner. [Photograph: Stephanie Stiavetti]

When I was a kid, I had a neighbor who I loved to visit in the early evenings. This sweet, little old Italian lady was a pesto master, and I'd go watch her pound basil and pine nuts in her mortar and pestle. Despite her slight frame, she pounded that pesto with everything she had, and within minutes she had reduced the greens, nuts, and garlic into a perfect, creamy texture.

It would be years before I learned to make pesto on my own, and years beyond that for me to perfect my mortar and pestle technique. These days, though, I find it a lot faster to use my food processor. Sure, handmade pesto makes for a special touch, but on those days when you want something tasty and quick, the food processor is a godsend.

After years of experimenting with pestos, I've learned to use all sorts of ingredients for fun flavor combinations. The greens can be anything from arugula to spinach, and you can change up the nuts to use whatever's in your pantry. Here, I've combined spinach with pistachios and heady pecorino cheese, making a delightfully savory topping for chicken and pasta. This simple Italian dish is satisfying and comforting, yet still only takes 20 minutes to make. Not too shabby!

About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: