Pesto Chicken Lasagna

Lasagna is a classic comfort food, but when you add the vibrant flavors of pesto and chicken, it becomes a dish that’s truly exceptional. Pesto Chicken Lasagna is a delightful twist on the traditional lasagna recipe, combining layers of creamy béchamel sauce, succulent chicken, rich pesto, and gooey mozzarella cheese. This dish is not only delicious but also visually appealing with its beautiful green hues from the pesto. Perfect for family dinners, potlucks, or any special occasion, this lasagna is sure to impress and satisfy everyone at the table.

Ingredients:

For the Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Chicken Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Assembly:

  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Prepare the Pesto:

  1. Blend Ingredients:
    In a food processor, combine the fresh basil leaves, grated Parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, and minced garlic. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the pesto aside.
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Prepare the Chicken Filling:

  1. Cook Chicken:
    In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the cubed chicken breasts, seasoning with salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink and fully cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Mix Ricotta and Parmesan:
    In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, and one large egg. Mix well until smooth. Stir in the cooked chicken and 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, ensuring the chicken is evenly distributed throughout the cheese mixture.

Prepare the Béchamel Sauce:

  1. Melt Butter:
    In a medium saucepan, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the all-purpose flour, whisking constantly to form a roux. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is lightly golden and has a slightly nutty aroma.
  2. Add Milk:
    Gradually whisk in the whole milk, ensuring there are no lumps. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5-7 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

Assemble the Lasagna:

  1. Preheat Oven:
    Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish to prevent sticking.
  2. Cook Lasagna Noodles:
    Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and lay them flat on a clean kitchen towel to prevent sticking.
  3. Layer Ingredients:
  • Spread a thin layer of béchamel sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  • Place 3-4 lasagna noodles over the sauce, covering the bottom of the dish.
  • Spread one-third of the ricotta-chicken mixture over the noodles.
  • Spoon and spread a few tablespoons of pesto over the chicken mixture.
  • Pour another layer of béchamel sauce over the pesto.
  • Repeat these layers twice more: noodles, chicken mixture, pesto, and béchamel sauce.
  1. Top Layer:
    For the final layer, place the remaining lasagna noodles on top, spread a generous amount of béchamel sauce, and sprinkle with 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.
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Bake the Lasagna:

  1. Cover and Bake:
    Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Uncover and Continue Baking:
    Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
  3. Rest:
    Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. This allows the layers to set and makes it easier to cut neat slices.

Garnish and Serve:

  1. Add Finishing Touches:
    Garnish the lasagna with fresh basil leaves if desired. The fresh basil adds a pop of color and enhances the overall flavor of the dish.
  2. Serve:
    Serve the Pesto Chicken Lasagna with a side of garlic bread and a fresh green salad for a complete meal. Each bite will be a delightful combination of creamy béchamel, savory chicken, and aromatic pesto.

Conclusion

Pesto Chicken Lasagna is a mouthwatering dish that brings a fresh and exciting twist to a beloved classic. The creamy béchamel sauce, flavorful chicken filling, and vibrant pesto work together harmoniously to create a lasagna that’s both comforting and sophisticated. This recipe is perfect for any occasion, whether you’re hosting a dinner party or simply treating yourself to a special meal. Enjoy the rich flavors and creamy textures of this delicious lasagna, and don’t be surprised if it becomes a new favorite in your culinary repertoire.

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