Tonight’s easy supper hinges around an Italian favourite, pesto! Inspired by this much loved cuisine, I’m combining several of my favourite Italian flavours in one pan. A crusty ciabatta to mop up the creamy sauce will come in very handy. My sun-dried tomato pesto chicken recipe is hearty comfort food that’s unpretentious and best enjoyed convivially, along with good company and a glass of this Sauvignon blanc, as recommended by my good friend, Michael Olivier.
This easy supper is all about the sauce. Marsala – a fortified Italian wine, sun-dried tomatoes, basil pesto and rosemary form the base to this sturdy sauce. A splash of cream gives it a rich, velvety consistency. With smell being the precursor to taste, the aromas from the pan will tell of you dinner is going to be good. Simple and so delicious.
A quick word about the chicken. Depending on personal preferences, using chicken with skin-on is optional. For this dish I recommend thighs as opposed to chicken fillets. The flavour of brown meat is far superior to chicken fillets and remains tender and moist once cooked. Although fillets have a lower fat content, they’re less flavoursome and easily overcooked. I prefer to cook the chicken with the skin on which prevents the meat from drying out. Serve with creamy polenta or mashed potatoes and a fresh green salad. Alternatively, cauliflower mash with steamed greens will also do nicely.
Sun-dried tomato pesto chicken with Marsala cream sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 free range chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
1 shallot, finey diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste
1 tablespoon basil pesto (heaped)
zest and juice of half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 stem rosemary, de-stalked and finely chopped
1/3 cup Marsala
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup cream
fresh basil, to finish
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Pour off most of the oil in the pan, retaining about 1 tablespoon. Sauté the shallot until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Now add the sun-dried tomato paste, basil pesto, lemon zest, chilli flakes and rosemary. Cook for about a minute to release the lemony oils. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala and reduce down by a third. Pour in the stock and cream. Add the chicken pieces back to the pan, cover with a lid and simmer for about 40-45 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan and reduce the sauce until thickened. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add a spritz of lemon juice to brighten the flavours. Place the chicken back into the pan, skin side facing upwards and spoon a little of the sauce over the top. Place the pan under a hot grill to crisp and darken the skin. This is completely optional and only necessary if you intend eating the skin. Finish with fresh basil and serve.