Of the more than 2,200 meals I’ve photographed, this simple dinner I made a couple months ago—chicken breast stuffed with homemade pesto, with linguine and French green beans—is for some reason my most-viewed food picture of the past three years. I don’t have a recipe per se, but the basic preparation for two servings is as follows.
Preheat oven to 350.
Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of two boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Using a carving or other long slender knife, pierce the center of one end and make a lengthwise incision into each breast, forming a pocket, taking care not to cut all the way through. Stuff a big spoonful or two of pesto into each pocket (recipe follows, or use store-bought pesto).
In a heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, swirl a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, then brown the chicken skin side (if there were skin) down for a few minutes. Turn the breasts over and place skillet in the oven. Bake until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the linguine the usual way, drain, and toss with a tablespoon of softened butter per serving. Sauté the green beans in a bit of olive oil and minced garlic. When the chicken is done, let it rest for a couple minutes, then slice each breast crosswise into four pieces. Serve over pasta and green beans, with a little extra pesto spooned on top and sprinkled with grated Parmegiano Reggiano.
To make pesto, whiz together in a food processor or blender the washed leaves from a big bunch of fresh basil (a few cups), ¼ cup grated Parmegiano Reggiano, a handful of toasted pine nuts, and a couple cloves of chopped garlic. While the machine is running, slowly pour in a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and blend until the mixture is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.