Strawberry Pesto Chicken & Fusilli

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The addition of early summer strawberries to this pesto-inspired dressing and marinade is sure to please. This main course salad, made with whole-grain pasta, baby spinach and grilled lean chicken, is both refreshing and colourful.

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  1. Puree red wine vinegar, water, olive oil, strawberries, fresh basil, honey and freshly ground black pepper in blender or food processor.
  2. Reserve half of this vinaigrette to dress the salad (½ cup - 125 mL). Pour other half over chicken breasts in a large re-sealable plastic bag. Seal. Use your hands to massage marinade into chicken pieces. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour and preferably overnight.
  3. Preheat grill over medium-high heat. Remove chicken breasts from bag and place on top shelf of bbq/grill. Grill 10-13 minutes on each side or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Cooking time will vary based on the size of the breasts. Remove from grill and slice grilled chicken into long strips. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in unsalted water according to package directions.
  5. Add baby spinach to a bowl and toss with ¼ cup (60 mL) of the reserved marinade - dressing. Set aside.
  6. Toast pine nuts in a non-stick skillet for a few minutes until lightly browned. Keep an eye on them as they can burn easily. Set aside.
  7. Use a vegetable peeler to shave long pieces of parmesan cheese. You can use shredded parmesan but it does look nicer when shaved. Set aside.
  8. To serve, spread spinach and pasta over bottom of dinner plates. Top with sliced grilled chicken. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, shaved parmesan cheese, sliced strawberries and a sprig of fresh basil. Serve with the rest of the reserved strawberry pesto vinaigrette.

Use any fresh or frozen berry in place of the strawberries. Substitute other nuts and cheese to create new combinations. Toasted almonds and soft goat cheese also go really well in this dish.

Making your own marinades and salad dressings saves money and lets you skip the additives or preservatives. Store any leftover in the refrigerator for up to two months. Homemade also skips the emulsifiers, which keep commercial salad dressings mixed - but a quick shake puts it back together for use.

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