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Chicken Pesto Pasta

With Sarah Bowman


One of our favourite desperation dinners! This easy satisfying meal can be made even speedier if you use a rotisserie chicken and ready-made pesto. If you substitute spaghetti with spiral or bow pasta, any leftovers can double as a cold pasta salad for lunch the next day. It’s worth making a large batch of pesto and freezing it to have on hand for this meal.


Serves 6



Pappa’s Roast Chicken (see recipe below) or one rotisserie chicken

500g spaghetti pasta

2 tbsp good-quality olive oil

2 cups Winter Pesto (see recipe below)

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

shaved Parmesan, to serve



Set chicken aside. Cook pasta according to instructions on packet, drain and stir through a little of the chicken’s roasting juices along with the olive oil and pesto.

Cook broccoli in a little salted boiling water until bright green and just cooked. Stir through pasta.

Remove and shred chicken meat. Stir through pasta. Season.

Add parsley and shavings of Parmesan to serve.


My grandfather Pappa was a fabulous cook, baker and vegetable gardener of market garden proportions. Well ahead of his time, he set the bar for healthy living in our family. I have many happy childhood memories of Christmas holidays spent with him.


Pappa’s Roast Chicken

Serves 4–6



3 Weet-Bix, crushed

1 carrot, grated

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

a handful of roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

a handful of fresh herbs, e.g. thyme, marjoram, rosemary

a handful of raisins

a handful of nuts, e.g. almonds

zest of 1 lemon

Roast Chicken

2 lemons, each cut into 4 thick slices

2 red onions, each cut into 4 thick slices

6–8 fresh bay leaves

1 large chicken

¼ cup wholemeal flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

50g butter, chopped into chunks

1 cup water



Make the stuffing first by mixing all the ingredients together.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place lemon, onion and bay leaves in a roasting dish.

Scrub chicken inside and out with salt, then rinse clean. Pat dry with paper towels.

Stuff chicken, then place it in roasting dish on top of lemons and onions. Sprinkle with flour, season generously and dot with butter.

Pour water into base of roasting dish, cover with a lid and roast at 220°C for 30 minutes.

Baste and reduce heat to 180°C. Cook, covered, for 1 hour further, basting once with pan juices. Test whether it is cooked through by piercing and checking that juices are clear. It may need another 15–30 minutes with the lid off if it’s an extra large chicken.

Serve on a warm platter with onions and lemons on the side and pan juices presented in a warm jug.


Cook’s tip:

I like to serve this chicken with mashed root vegetables or mashed pumpkin to mop up the pan juices and either a leafy green salad or seasonal greens. Wilted Swiss Chard with Feta and Currants is a family favourite!


I make pesto all year round as it’s a great way to capture a bumper crop of seasonal herbs or salad leaves for use throughout the year. The peppery flavours of watercress and rocket are a particular favourite. Experiment with a variety of local nuts. Pesto keeps well in the fridge for a week if covered with a thin layer of olive oil. It can also be frozen in small jars or ice block trays and then stored in the freezer in ziplock bags to flavour soups, pasta and salads throughout the year.


Winter Pesto -  Makes 1 small jar


2 cups watercress, rocket or flat-leaf parsley, large stems removed

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 clove garlic

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan

½ cup toasted nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts )

½ cup olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste



In a food processor, whizz all ingredients, except oil, salt and pepper, until finely chopped.

Add oil in a thin stream, with the motor running, until combined. Season.

Spoon into a sterilised jar and store in the fridge.



Reproduced with permission from Cook Simple by Sarah Bowman .

Published byPenguin Group NZ. RRP $45.00. Copyright text©Sarah Bowman, 2013. Copyright photography©Stephen Goodenough, 2013