i know there have been a lot of posts about chicken lately, and i promise this will be the last one for a little bit. a few nights ago we had some recently engaged friends (hi eli and nicole!) over for dinner, and when they requested chicken i decided to make this simple but delicious dish.
i love having people over for dinner and entertaining, but i hate to be fussing over food in the kitchen and missing out on the fun just because i’m cooking. this is an easy thing to prepare ahead of time, and once it’s in the oven you can forget about it until it’s time to serve.
you will need:
6 large chicken breasts
1 15 oz package of ricotta cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp basil pesto (or sun-dried tomato pesto, if you can find it)
4-5 large basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
(or 3 cups of homemade sauce – more on that in another entry)
1 handful shredded cheese
i didn’t include this in the ingredients list, but you can certainly marinade your chicken for a few hours if you like. i threw mine in a large ziplock bag with several tablespoons of olive oil, a few basil leaves, and salt and pepper.
preheat the oven to 375 degrees. to begin the stuffing, chop the basil into small pieces.
combine the ricotta cheese, chopped basil, pesto, and lemon juice in a small bowl.
stir well, then set aside.
grab a small, sharp knife and lay out your chicken breasts on a cutting board. begin by making a vertical slice all the way down the breast, but don’t cut all the way through.
point the knife sideways and cut through the slit to the outside edges of the chicken, creating a pocket. cut as far as you can without slicing through the chicken to the edges. this is where you’ll put the stuffing, so make as much room for yourself as you can.
cut each chicken breast the same way, then fit them all into a cassarole or pyrex dish.
using a small spoon, stuff each breast with the cheese and pesto stuffing. be sure to press stuffing as far into each corner of the pocket.
i had some extra stuffing, and i always like to spruce up jar sauce a bit. i heated up my sauce briefly in a medium saucepan, then added the rest of the stuffing mixture to the sauce to give it some extra creaminess and bring out the basil flavor.
once your sauce is ready (even if that means just opening a jar), spoon it over each chicken breast. add some of the shredded cheese on top.
place the chicken into your preheated oven for 1 hour, and enjoy your guests. let the chicken rest for several minutes before serving. be aware that this is a messy dish – not super photogenic, but it is delicious and always a crowd-pleaser.