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Cooking Through Fiction: Snicket's Chicken Pesto Pasta

There are likely many different types of TV watchers, but I’m going to talk about two kinds today. Type 1: watches TV and doesn’t talk about what’s happening on TV; and Type 2: watches TV and incessantly asks questions about what’s happening on TV. I’m Type 2 (to everyone’s annoyance around me). What can I say? I can’t help it. I ask a lot of questions.

And my questions aren’t always valid. Sometimes there’s a real gem of a question in there, but mostly, I ask questions such as “Why is she wearing those shoes? No one cooks in those types of shoes,” or “Don’t you think ancient aliens had better things to do than build a pyramid on a foreign planet?” or “Do you think they’re happy…I mean, if they were real people, would they be happy?”

You know who else has a lot of questions (even wrong ones)? Lemony Snicket, that’s who. Snicket isn’t afraid to ask questions or even to title his book with a question (Who Could That Be at This Hour?). Snicket’s novel is the first in a series titled All the Wrong Questions, which could be a description of my TV habits. But today I’ll ask one of my favorite questions: What are we eating? Answer: Snicket’s Chicken Pesto Pasta.

“I’m afraid I don’t have much in the house,” Moxie said. “My father said he was going to go to the market today, but he never got out of his robe. I’m afraid all we have is a great deal of wilted basil.”


“Do you have a bulb of garlic, a lemon, a cup of walnuts, Parmesan cheese, pasta of some kind, and a fair amount of olive oil?”

“I think so,” Moxie said, “although I think the cheese might be Asiago.”

“Even better,” I said.

(Snicket, Lemony. Who Could That Be at This Hour? Little Brown and Company, New York: 2012, 111)


Snicket’s Chicken Pesto Pasta

Serves: 4-6

Difficulty Level: Easier than answering my TV questions


4-6 boneless chicken breasts

3 c packed fresh basil

4 cloves of garlic

¾ c grated Parmentino cheese (sub: Asiago, Parmesan, any hard cheese)

½ c olive oil, plus more for drizzling over chicken

¼ c almonds (sub: walnuts, pine nuts)

1 box whole wheat rotini pasta

salt and pepper to taste

How to Make

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Add salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp of olive oil (per chicken breast) on top of chicken. Fold chicken breasts into foil packets and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.

  3. Add basil, garlic cloves, cheese, olive oil, and almonds to a food processor to make pesto. Process until blended, adding more olive oil for a smoother consistency if needed. Salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Boil pasta noodles according to directions on box.

  5. Distribute cooked pasta into bowls. Slice baked chicken breasts (one per bowl) into bite-size pieces. Place chicken slices on top of pasta. Spread 1-2 tbsp of pesto over chicken. Sprinkle with cheese if desired. Eat and enjoy!

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