Pesto Baked Chicken with Tomatoes and Mozzarella
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The easiest pesto baked chicken with roasted tomatoes and melty mozzarella. It’s a one-pan recipe that comes complete with robust pesto roasted tomatoes, cooked chicken, and melty mozzarella. Serve it over cooked pasta, rice, or with roasted veggies and garlic bread!
Hold the phone. It’s one-pan dinner – pesto baked chicken.
As in, we’ve got the sauce, chicken, veggies, and cheese all in one dish. Grab a couple of boxes of cherry tomatoes, or grape or plum tomatoes (whatever you can find), and a handful of fresh basil and just watch this dinner come together right before your eyes. It’s like stepping right into summer; this pesto baked chicken hits the nail right on the head!
This one-pan dinner comes complete with pesto roasted tomatoes that double as a serving of vegetables, and as the sauce, you drizzle on your pasta or rice. And hey, if you want to serve this alongside a hunk of crusty bread to soak it all up, I would not be mad at that.
And I’m willing to bet; your family won’t be either.
If you’ve made my tomato baked chicken recipe, you need no other introductions. Please proceed to the bottom of the page, hit print, and make ASAP. This is version 2.0. It’s got the same key ingredients (chicken, tomatoes, and mozzarella,) but with one entirely new component, you’ve got something different to add to the heavy dinner rotation that requires the same cooking instructions and time. And if you’re looking for something that cooks fast but has a completely different type of flavor, try this bbq version!
Don’t you just love that? I live for recipes that come together in one dish and don’t require a lot of thinking. At this point, the recipe for pesto baked chicken with tomatoes is forever seared into my brain.
It’s so so easy.
What do you need to make pesto baked chicken with mozzarella and tomatoes?
- Cherry tomatoes: quartered plum tomatoes would also work.
- White wine vinegar: acts as a base for the sauce along with the pesto and tomatoes
- Melted butter: I use salted, but you could also use unsalted and just add an extra pinch of salt
- Basil pesto: homemade pesto works well for this recipe
- Freshly minced garlic: when do we not use garlic?
- Fresh basil: bonus points if you grew it yourself!
- seasonings: we’re using salt, pepper, and onion powder to flavor the tomatoes along with the pesto
- Shredded mozzarella cheese: I usually prefer to shred from a block of mozzarella
How do you marinate the pesto baked chicken?
- Olive oil: along with the vinegar it is a marinade for the chicken
- White wine vinegar: the acid in the vinegar helps tenderize the chicken
- Minced garlic: needs no explanations!
- Seasonings: we’re using salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes to add tons of flavor to the chicken
How long should you marinate the chicken for?
The chicken doesn’t take very long to marinate. It can be ready to go in as little as 10-15 minutes, and if you have time, you can marinate the chicken for up to 2 hours. You want to avoid marinating for longer than that as the acid from the vinegar will start to breakdown the chicken. To marinate the chicken, just add all the ingredients (but the chicken in a zip-top bag, zip, and give it a good shake. Once combined, add the chicken breasts, seal the bag, and massage, so the chicken is covered in marinade.
Do you have to use chicken breasts, would thighs or tenders work?
Not at all! As always, you can swap the chicken breasts for boneless, skinless chicken thighs or even tenders if that’s what you have on hand. We’ll season them the same way you would the chicken breasts. Just keep in mind that tenders and thighs may have different cooking times. When in doubt, always check with a food thermometer.
How to make pesto baked chicken:
Here’s the fun part!
- I’m lazy (and I encourage you to be as well), so I place the knob of butter in the baking dish, then placed the baking dish in the oven while it preheats so that I don’t have to zap it in the microwave in a separate bowl! If you decide to do the same, just make sure that the butter doesn’t burn or brown.
- While the chicken brines, we’ll toss the stuff that makes the pesto tomatoes and the pan sauce. My homemade pesto recipe works great here. You can add ALL the ingredients for the sauce (except the mozzarella) into the baking dish and stir to combine. Then just pop everything into the oven and allow it to roast.
- During the last 5 minutes, you’ll add the shredded mozzarella to the top of the chicken breasts and pop the dish back in the oven under the broiler just long enough for the cheese to melt and become bubbly on top. You can make the pesto baked chicken without the mozzarella too, if you’d like. Just let it stay in the oven for the last 5 minutes rather than popping it under the broiler.
How do you suggest serving pesto baked chicken?
The simple answer is however you like! I served it up over a bed of al dente spaghetti – it soaked up all the sauce beautifully along with a salad. But I could see how this would be lovely with toasted bread topped with those pesto tomatoes and chicken and roasted veggies on the side.
What I love most about this recipe is that you can make it fancy enough for when you’re hosting dinner by serving parmesan roasted Brussel sprouts on the side, or garlic sauteed mushrooms with homemade pull-apart cheese bread. Or you can make it the most down-home meal with steamed broccoli, pasta drizzled with pesto baked chicken and tomatoes, or even a baked potato or creamed corn in the slow cooker.
It’s probably the best 40 minutes I’ve ever spent on making food.
*post originally published Aug 2019, updated with new images May 2020.
- 1 tablespoon EACH: olive oil AND white wine vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 ¼ pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
Pesto Pan Sauce:
- 3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons EACH: white wine vinegar AND melted butter
- ⅓ cup prepared basil pesto (homemade
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons chopped basil
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- MARINATE: Add all the ingredients except the chicken breasts into a zip-top bag along with 1 teaspoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Seal the bag and shake until combined. Add the chicken, seal, and massage so the chicken is covered in marinade; set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prep the remaining ingredients. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- PESTO PAN SAUCE: Add all the ingredients except the cheese to an oven-safe baking dish, along with a big pinch of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Move the tomatoes around the edges and place the chicken in the center.
- BAKE: Bake uncovered for 18-25 minute (mine took 22 mins) or until the chicken is almost cooked through (how long it takes will depend on the thickness of the chicken breasts you use.) Add the cheese on top of the chicken and place the baking dish in the oven under the broiler just long enough for the cheese to melt. Top with additional chopped basil or even parsley would work. Serve with crusty bread, pasta, rice, cauli-rice or steamed veggies on the side.
- Bonus points: you can melt the butter right in your baking dish while the oven preheats. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it so the butter doesn't brown or burn!
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