WGN Entertainment Reporter Dean Richards is celebrating spring and making asparagus pesto pasta with chicken.


  • 1 bunch, asparagus (about 1 lb.), trimmed in half on a bias. 
  • 1 lb. thin chicken cutlets (about ½-inch thick)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp.  Italian seasoning 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 16 oz. pasta of your choice (I like farfalle or gemelli for presentation)

For the Pesto:

  • 1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 pound), trimmed of tough ends and cut in 3 inch pieces
  • 3 handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt


Bring 2 pots of water to a rolling boil;  one for the pasta and one for the asparagus.

While the water is heating, put the pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet. Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned. Do not walk away.  They burn quickly.  

Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside. You will use 3/4 cup of the pine nuts for the pesto paste and 1/4 cup for topping.

Season chicken with Italian seasoning,  salt and pepper.  Sautee chicken in olive oil.  Set aside.

Salt the asparagus water and drop the spears into the pan. Cook for only 2 or 3 minutes, until the spears are bright green and barely tender. Drain under cool water to stop the cooking. Reserve half for pesto and half for topping.      

Add the asparagus, spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup of the pine nuts to a food processor.   Purée and, with the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup of olive oil until a paste forms. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water.  Add the lemon juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning.

Salt the pasta water well and cook the pasta until just tender according to package directions.

Drain and toss immediately with 1 cup of the asparagus pesto.

Top with chicken,  asparagus pieces,  remaining pine nuts and parmesan.   

See past recipes from Dean on his cooking page.

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