Pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken is a delightful dish that combines the rich flavors of pesto sauce with the creamy texture of mozzarella cheese, all wrapped up within a tender, juicy chicken breast. This meal is not only delicious, but also versatile and easy to prepare, making it an excellent choice for a weeknight dinner or a special occasion.
To get started, you’ll need boneless, skinless chicken breasts, your choice of either homemade or store-bought pesto, slices of mozzarella cheese, and a few simple seasonings. With just a few steps, you can transform these ingredients into a mouthwatering entrée that will impress your family and friends. The addition of tomatoes and spinach can help elevate the dish even further, offering a burst of color while adding nutritional value.
In this article, you will find a detailed recipe to create the perfect pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken, along with helpful tips and tricks to ensure that your dish comes out perfect every time. Whether you’re an experienced cook or a beginner, this tasty meal is sure to become a favorite in your kitchen repertoire.
The Basics of Stuffed Chicken Preparation
Selecting Quality Ingredients
To create a delicious pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken dish, start by choosing high-quality ingredients. Opt for boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are even in size and have minimal excess fat. This will ensure even cooking and a more enjoyable eating experience.
When it comes to the pesto, you can choose to make your own or purchase premade pesto from the store. However, using a homemade pesto often results in a fresher and more vibrant flavor. As for the mozzarella, select a cheese that melts well for ultimate gooeyness.
Preparing the Chicken Breasts
- Preheat your oven to a suitable temperature, usually around 375°F (190°C).
- Begin by rinsing the chicken breasts under cold water and patting them dry with paper towels.
- To create a pocket for the stuffing, use a sharp knife to carefully slice a horizontal pocket in each chicken breast without cutting through the other side.
- Season your chicken breasts with salt and pepper, adjusting the amount to your personal taste preference.
- In a separate bowl, combine the pesto and mozzarella. Stuff the chicken breasts with the mixture, making sure not to overfill them.
- To secure the stuffing, use toothpicks to close the pocket of each chicken breast.
- Place the stuffed chicken breasts on a baking sheet or in a baking dish, and transfer them to the preheated oven. Cook for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
Remember that cooking times may vary depending on your oven and the thickness of the chicken breasts. Keeping an eye on temperature by using a meat thermometer is a good practice to ensure perfect results every time.
Creating the Pesto Filling
Homemade Pesto Versus Store-Bought
When preparing the pesto filling for your stuffed chicken, you have two options: homemade pesto or store-bought pesto. Homemade pesto allows you to control the ingredients and flavors, particularly the freshness and intensity of flavors like basil, garlic, and pine nuts. To make homemade pesto, you’ll need:
- Fresh basil leaves
- Toasted pine nuts
- Cloves of garlic
- Lemon juice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and black pepper
Simply blend these ingredients together to reach your desired consistency, and you’ll have a flavorful homemade pesto for your stuffed chicken filling.
On the other hand, store-bought pesto can also be a suitable option, especially if you’re short on time or unable to find fresh ingredients. Just be sure to choose a high-quality brand with natural ingredients to ensure a delicious flavor.
Now, to incorporate mozzarella into your pesto filling, you’ll need to choose the right type of mozzarella. For the best results, use either fresh mozzarella or shredded mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella will offer a creamier texture, while shredded mozzarella will melt easily and blend well with the other ingredients.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to combine pesto and mozzarella for your chicken filling:
- Prepare your pesto filling (either homemade or store-bought).
- Slice or shred your mozzarella cheese.
- Mix the mozzarella and pesto together, ensuring an even distribution of ingredients.
- Taste the mixture to check for flavor balance, adjusting with salt and pepper if needed.
Once you’ve created your flavorful pesto and mozzarella mixture, you’re ready to stuff your chicken breasts and enjoy a delicious, mouthwatering meal.
Assembling Pesto and Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken
To begin assembling your mozzarella stuffed chicken breast, you first need to create a pocket in each chicken breast. Choose thick, plump, boneless, and skinless chicken breasts for best results. Carefully slice each chicken breast along one side, making sure not to cut all the way through. This will create a pocket for your pesto and mozzarella filling.
For each stuffed chicken breast, gather the following ingredients:
- 1 chicken breast
- 1-2 tablespoons pesto
- 1 slice mozzarella or provolone cheese
- Optional: cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Next, season the inside and outside of each chicken breast with your preferred seasoning. This can include salt, pepper, garlic powder, or any other spices that complement the flavors of pesto and mozzarella.
Stuff each chicken breast pocket with the prepared ingredients:
- Spread 1-2 tablespoons of pesto inside the pocket.
- Insert a slice of mozzarella cheese.
- Optional: add a few cherry tomato halves for additional flavor and texture.
Securing with Toothpicks
Once your chicken breasts are stuffed with pesto and mozzarella, it’s time to secure the openings to ensure none of the filling leaks out during the cooking process. To do this, simply pinch the opening of the pocket together and use a toothpick to hold the edges in place. You may need more than one toothpick, depending on the size of the chicken breast and the amount of filling used.
With your stuffed chicken breasts assembled and secured with toothpicks, they are now ready to be cooked using your preferred method, such as searing and finishing in the oven, or grilling for a delicious and flavorful meal.
Cooking and Serving
Oven Baking Procedures
Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lightly coat it with cooking spray to prevent the chicken from sticking. Take thick, plump, and boneless skinless chicken breasts and create a pocket for the stuffing. To do this, cut a deep slit into the side of each breast, ensuring not to cut all the way through.
In a small bowl, mix together your favorite pesto and grated mozzarella cheese. Stuff each chicken breast with the pesto-mozzarella mixture and secure the opening with toothpicks to keep the filling inside. If desired, you can also layer sliced tomatoes on top of the pesto mixture before sealing the chicken.
Place the stuffed chicken breasts on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) when measured with a meat thermometer. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before removing the toothpicks.
Plating and Presentation
When plating your baked pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken, ensure to present each breast with a neat and clean appearance. Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken into half-inch wide pieces, revealing the beautifully layered stuffing inside. Lay the pieces gracefully on a plate, fanning them out slightly to showcase the delicious filling.
Consider adding a side of steamed vegetables or a fresh green salad to complement the rich flavors of the chicken dish. This pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken recipe offers an attractive option that not only brings a restaurant-quality meal to your table but also impresses when entertaining guests.
When serving, keep in mind that a single stuffed chicken breast can be a sufficient serving size, making this dish an excellent choice for a dinner party or a casual family meal. Enjoy your pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken, knowing that you have prepared a delicious and visually stunning dish that will surely please both your taste buds and your guests.
Nutritional Insights and Variations
Health and Dietary Considerations
Pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken is a delicious and flavorful dish that offers a good balance of nutrients. In general, a serving of this dish contains around 354 kcal, with 70g of protein and moderate amounts of fat. The mozzarella cheese provides calcium for strong bones and teeth. Additionally, the basil pesto contributes to your daily intake of vitamin A and vitamin C.
Here’s a brief nutrition summary for a standard serving of pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken:
*Please note that these values are approximate and may vary depending on specific ingredients and portion sizes.
If you have specific dietary needs, you can easily modify this recipe to suit your preferences. For a gluten-free option, ensure that your pesto and other ingredients are free from gluten. To make a low-carb version, try using a reduced-carb tomato sauce or serve the stuffed chicken over low-carb vegetables instead of rice or pasta.
Alternative Stuffed Chicken Varieties
You can explore a variety of alternative stuffed chicken recipes to suit your tastes and dietary needs. Here are three delicious variations:
- Dairy-Free and Nut-Free Basil Miracle Pesto: Replace the traditional pesto with a mixture of 6 cups of packed fresh organic basil leaves, juice of 1 lemon, and an olive oil substitute like “SKINNYFat”. This alternative is both dairy-free and nut-free.
- Provolone and Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken: Swap out the mozzarella cheese for provolone and add sundried tomatoes to the filling. This variation adds a tangy, robust flavor to the dish.
- Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken: For a delicious Mediterranean-inspired twist, replace the mozzarella and pesto with spinach leaves and crumbled feta cheese.
Feel free to get creative with your stuffed chicken recipes and adapt them to your dietary preferences and tastes. With a little experimentation, you can enjoy a delicious meal that caters to your unique nutritional needs.