Prep time- 10 minutes
Cook time- 20 minutes
Total time- 30 minutes
Chicken Margherita is one of my favorite easy summer dishes. Its basically just fancy grilled chicken…that they sell at olive Garden, which makes it even fancier. This recipe is meant for 4 chicken breasts but you will notice in the pictures that I only cooked 3 so IGNORE that! This isn’t a great dish warmed up so make sure you’re really only cooking the amount you need! This chicken is incredibly moist, flavorful, and all without having to marinate it. You can use homemade pesto if you’re feeling fancy but I personally don’t have the time to make fresh pesto on the fly, so I pretty much always use the canned stuff! I will make this during other seasons of the year but I have a policy about buying tomatoes in the store when they aren’t naturally in season, mainly don’t do it. They don’t have flavor, they taste bland and are just pockets of pink water. But SUMMER tomatoes are a completely different story! Pile those suckers on there and you won’t regret it! The original copycat recipe from Olive Garden(I don’t remember where I found it and I no longer use a recipe so I only have it from memory) calls for fresh lemon juice in the tomatoes. I’ve changed that to balsamic vinegar BECAUSE ITS BETTER… you’re welcome. Just incase you don’t like the taste of it though you can use lemon juice or just plain tomatoes. If you are using chicken breasts that are over an inch thick you will want to pound them a little so they will cook in the desired time!
What you’ll need:
4 chicken breasts
1 jar of basil pesto
1 pack of cherry tomatoes
1 tsp of basil
1 tsp of oregano
1 tsp of thyme
1 tsp of garlic salt(or garlic powder and salt)
First step is to prep your chicken. If you’re using Barrier Farms breasts, you’ll need to cut them down the middle to separate them as well as remove the tenderloins from the back. They are normally already detached but might need the last little bit to be cut away, I cooked up the tenderloins for my nieces and nephew. This will leave you with 2 nice breasts per pack. If they are thicker than an inch thick, go ahead and pound them a little to get them to the correct size. I choose smaller breasts to use with this recipe so I skipped this part!
Second, pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil(I never measure, I just pour in enough to coat all the chicken!) into a bowl and add in all the herbs and salt. Mix together and dip chicken into it to coat it throughly. I cook my chicken in a cast iron skillet because it taste better, its not a myth, it really does! Once all your chicken is coated, place it in your heated up pan and begin cooking. I like to cook my chicken to the desired level of golden brown and then finish it off in the oven. This helps to keep the chicken from getting too crispy on the outside from the pan. So about 5 minutes on each side and then into the oven for 5-6 minutes at 400 degrees. Cooking time will vary slightly depending on the size so make sure to use a meat thermometer so you don’t overcook/undercook your chicken!
While your chicken is cooking, go a head and cut up your tomatoes. Make sure to cut them small enough so they won’t just fall off the chicken when you go to assemble it. One they are all chopped up, drizzle them with some balsamic vinegar and let them sit. You’ll also need to warm up the pesto to have it ready. You can do this in the microwave, pot with hot water, or as I learned making this at my sisters house, a bottle warmer works pretty dang well…I see you busy Moms!
Once your chicken is cooked, remove from heat and while the chicken is resting do the last few steps. Put a layer of mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken. Once its melted down, add a layer of the warmed up pesto, I use about a tablespoons worth on each but you can add as much as you like! Top with the tomatoes. The balsamic vinegar will have settled to the bottom of the bowl by the time you get to it and I LOVE THAT STUFF so I spoon extra over the tomatoes once its on the chicken. Serve immediately.
I like to make simple sides to go along with this dish, ones that will cook in the same time as the chicken so I can keep it quick and simple! Pesto pasta and green beans are great along side this chicken, as well as garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. Also bread…because you can’t go wrong with adding bread to any meal!