Tonight's Dinner: Chicken tender pesto bake recipe

Apr 26, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Pesto is an easy to make sauce that's great over pasta. But add some heavy cream and cheese and it becomes the perfect base for a delicious casserole.

As I'm sure you've guessed from my many posts, I love pasta. I also love casseroles. But there's nothing I (or my family) love more than when I put them together. So when Taste of Home suggested making a casserole with pasta, chicken and pesto, I knew I'd have another winner on my hands.

While you could easily use premade pesto and frozen chicken tenders to make this casserole, making them from scratch means you'll have left over pesto for another dinner and some extra chicken tenders for future kiddie lunches. But no matter which way you decide to go, this casserole makes for a dinner that will bring smiles to the faces of both children and adults alike.

Chicken tender pesto bake

Serves 6


  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Grease a 3-quart baking dish and set aside.
  2. Place the egg in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix together one and a half cups of breadcrumbs, cumin, salt and pepper. Dredge each chicken tender in the egg and then dip it in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to make sure the crumbs adhere. Place the tenders on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until no longer pink. Transfer the cooked tenders to a plate and reduce the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. While the chicken bakes, place the baby spinach, garlic, half a cup of Parmesan and the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and set aside.
  4. Cook the penne according to the package directions, drain and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together one cup of pesto, the Italian cheese blend, sour cream, ricotta and heavy cream.
  6. Chop up the chicken tenders and add to the pesto mixture. Stir in the penne. Transfer the whole mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over the top.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until heated through and golden brown. Serve immediately.

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