Chicken and Penne with Cilantro-Spinach Pesto

Serves 4 / By reducing the amount of olive oil usually found in pesto, adding spinach leaves, and using whole-wheat pasta, you get a flavorful, diabetes-friendly meal that’s good enough for company. Use a salad spinner or towels to dry the washed spinach and cilantro leaves before blending; otherwise the pesto may be too runny.

2 cups whole-wheat penne pasta
1 cup firmly packed spinach leaves, washed and drained
2 tablespoons firmly packed cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts or sliced almonds
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 3 ounces each)

1. Cook penne according to package directions (without added salt or fat), until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. In a blender or food processor, combine spinach, cilantro, nuts, cheese, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, crushed red pepper, and olive oil. Process until mixture forms a grainy, blended paste. Set aside.

3. Spray a large skillet three times with vegetable cooking spray and set over medium heat. Slice chicken breasts into small strips and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add chicken to skillet and sauté until tender and no longer pink, about 7–8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add pasta to skillet, stirring until warmed throughout. Remove from heat and add pesto sauce, tossing gently to distribute. Serve immediately.