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Sean Plumb’s Walnut-Pistachio-Basil Pesto Pasta with Charred Broccoli and Chicken

Updated: May 17, 2020

I've adapted this recipe over the years from one I learned from my mom.  Living abroad, traveling for a lot of the year, and missing major family events because of performances really ups the nostalgia factor of this for me.  Whenever and wherever I cook it, it feels a little like home.


Preheat oven to 250C fan


Finely chop up 2-3 heads of broccoli and combine with salt pepper, 2tbsp. olive oil, and 2 teaspoon garlic powder.  Spread evenly on a tray and bake until charred, about 8-10 min, mixing once halfway through for even charring.


Tenderize 400 grams boneless chicken breast or thigh until an even thickness, about 1 cm.  Season with salt, pepper, and dried italian seasoning and sautee in a non-stick pan on high heat until cooked.  Do not overcook.  Let rest for a few minutes and chop into small pieces.


Bring an enormous pot of water to a boil with enough salt to make it taste like the ocean.  Cook your favorite pasta to 1-2 minutes before recommended cooking time. Reserve 1/2 cup starchy cooking liquid.


In the bowl of a food processor (or mortar and pestle if you are a badass and have ripped arms) combine the following and blitz for 20-30 seconds:

1 cup walnut pieces or halves

1/4 cup unsalted pistachio pieces (out of the shells for the love of god)

4 cloves of garlic (do not think of using anything other than fresh garlic)

salt and pepper


Once thoroughly combined, add 4 cups of basil leaves (and optionally 1 cup of arugula or spinach to get some extra veg) and slowly drizzle in olive oil until it forms a rocky-sand-like texture.  Add a few splashes of water to bring it together.  IDK how much olive oil, just use your best judgment--it's a lot, maybe 3/4 cup?  Don't use bad olive oil.


Freshly grate 1/2 cup or more fresh, legit parmesan and add to pesto and mix until combined.  You might need more oil.  Taste for seasoning!!


Mix it all up, the broccoli, chicken, pasta, pesto, and cooking water (as needed). Serve with more parmesan and red pepper flakes.  


Serve with a chilled grüner veltliner (white) or medium-bodied red.

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