Instant Pot Chicken Pesto with Pasta
So, I have a confession. You know how a couple of weeks ago I said that Jamie Oliver’s Chicken In Milk was my favorite roast chicken recipe ever? I’m sorry to say that I may have been wrong. My apologies. Not that it isn’t good. It’s great. But I’ve been tinkering, and I think I found a new favorite instant pot chicken recipe. This recipe for instant pot chicken pesto was, dare I say it, even tastier than my chicken in milk recipe. I know. Enough with the instant pot chicken recipes. But I have a bunch of our farm-raised birds in the freezer, so I kind of can’t help myself. Plus, I just can’t get enough of the instant pot. I love how tender and moist (I know, I hate that word too, but darn it, it is moist) whatever meat I cook turns out. Plus, being able to brown meat before I cook without having to dirty a whole other pan is the best thing ever. The last thing I want to do after cooking a yummy meal is stand around and clean a pile of dirty dishes.
I love the combination of pesto and sun-dried tomatoes in a creamy pasta sauce. It’s one of those go-to quick weeknight meals to serve when I don’t have the time or energy to make something more difficult. This recipe combines all those things, the pesto, the sun-dried tomatoes, not to mention the creaminess and kicks it up several notches with the addition of tender, delicious chicken. The chicken is cooked in the sauce to impart such a delicious flavor. After it’s cooked, it is fall-off-the-bone tender, and all you have to do is take it off the bone and lightly shred it into bite-sized chunks. Add the chicken and some cooked pasta back to the sauce and you’ve got a little slice of heaven just waiting to hop onto your plate. This recipe is kid-approved as well. My three-year old said, “I liked it and I eated it all up.” How’s that for a glowing review?
Directions For Instant Pot Pesto Chicken:
First, have some pesto and sun-dried tomatoes at the ready. I always oven-roast cherry tomatoes on low heat at the end of harvest season and freeze baggies of my own “sun-dried tomatoes,” but store-bought would work just fine. I use Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for sun-dried tomatoes, if you are so inclined: https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/08/slow-roasted-tomatoes/.
I also make my own pesto (it’s super easy), but store-bought also works just fine. If you want to make your own pesto, toast a 1/2 cup of pine nuts and 2 whole garlic cloves in a dry pan over medium heat. Add your toasted pine nuts and garlic to a food processor and add a large bunch of basil, 2 tbs of olive oil, 2 tbs of parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Process until combined. I was going out of town, so I froze a package of basil because I was afraid it would go bad before I got back into town. I just thawed it and drained it and it didn’t taste any different from pesto with “fresh” basil.
Heat your Instapot on the normal setting for Sauté. Once hot, add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, about a tablespoon or so.
Salt and pepper both sides of a whole chicken and add it to the pot, breast side down. Brown the chicken for 5-7 minutes, then flip the chicken breast side up and continue browning for another 5 minutes and turn off the sauté function. Alternatively, you could use a similar weight of chicken thighs, split chicken breasts, or whole cut-up chicken. The chicken I used was skinned, but skin-on bone-in chicken will be just fine. We raise our own birds, and when you spend the day processing your own meat, by the end of the day, plucking gets pretty old. You can probably guess how tired I was by the time I got to this bird.
Add 1 cup of milk, a 1/2 cup of pesto and a 1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes into the pot. I rubbed some pesto over the bird and mixed the rest in with the milk and mixed the tomatoes up with the sauce and into the birds cavity as well. Pressure cook on high for 25 minutes (I used the poultry setting). After it finished cooking, I let it sit five or ten minutes and then did a quick-release.
As your chicken cooks, boil water and cook a package of penne pasta in salted water. I think this pesto chicken sauce would be delicious served over a lot of different things. You could serve this over egg noodles, spaghetti, polenta, couscous, rice, potatoes,
an old shoe. I’m just saying it would taste good on pretty much anything.
When the instant pot is done cooking, let is sit for five to ten minutes, then do a quick release to release steam.
Remove your chicken and take all the meat off of the bone and break it up into bite-sized pieces and discard the bones. If you cooked a chicken with the skin on, discard the skin as well. I just used two forks, which worked pretty well.
Put your chicken back into the sauce and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add your pasta and stir to combine.
Serve in bowls with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy! This made enough for my family of five plus tons of leftovers. I can also add that it tastes great warmed up in the microwave the next day (I usually hate microwaved chicken, so this was a definite bonus).