Add four cups of water to a large pot and add three teaspoons of of kosher salt. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package to the al dente stage. Before draining, reserve one cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and set the drained pasta and reserved pasta water aside.
While the pasta is cooking, cut up the chicken into bite-size pieces. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of butter and when the butter has melted, add the chicken in a single layer. Cook the chicken for one to two minutes and flip it over. Cook on the second side for another one to two minutes. Use a pancake turner and remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
Add the remaining butter and when it has melted, add the heavy cream. Stir, making sure to scrape up any of the browned chicken bits in the pan. Let the cream simmer for about two minutes to start thickening it up. Add the remaining one-teaspoon salt, the pepper, one cup of the parmesan cheese, and pesto. Stir to combine, and when the cheese has melted, remove the pan from the heat.
Add the pasta and chicken and about ½ cup of the reserved pasta water and stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick, add additional pasta water, about a tablespoon at a time.
To serve, top with the remaining parmesan cheese and chopped basil if desired.
I always specify kosher salt in my recipes. If you are using regular table salt, reduce the amount called for in the recipe by half.To ramp up the nutritional value of this dish, you can add fresh spinach, broccoli, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, or even sundried tomatoes.You can make this dish up to 24 hours ahead and then reheat it when it's time to serve it. You may have to add a little water when reheating if the sauce is too thick. For the best results, reheat in a skillet over medium-low heat just until it is warmed through.This dish is pretty rich, so I like to keep things simple and serve it with a small side salad or roasted green beans.Like most pasta dishes, this Chicken Pesto Pasta is even better the next day. To store, keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to four days. You may need to add a little water when reheating on the stove or in the microwave.Here is a link to my easy Homemade Southern Basil Pestorecipe, if you would like to make your own.