This grilled chicken sandwich with pesto is my delicious take on a gourmet, bistro-inspired favorite. Rustic bread is slathered in my easy homemade pesto sauce, then topped with juicy grilled chicken breast, melted smoked mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh arugula greens for lots of bright, bold flavor!
Grilled Chicken Sandwich Gets a Gourmet Makeover
One of the simplest yet most delicious pleasures for me is stumbling upon a precious little bistro/cafe or gourmet sandwich shop when I'm out and about exploring a little with my hubby...
Stopping in to peruse the menu of such a place during lunchtime or early evening when we're beginning to get hungry always makes my mouth water, especially as I imagine all of the delicious sandwiches with their scrumptious sounding ingredients being offered.
I have a hard time deciding on which one of those tasty sandwiches to order!
If I'm in the mood for something a bit more substantial yet still light, I'll typically choose a grilled chicken sandwich of some kind, and the more imaginative and bold the ingredients, the better.
And as wonderful as having the experience of stopping to explore a new little eatery is for us, what I truly appreciate is gathering up some inspiration and taking that home with me for my own future recipe developing.
This way, I can create a delicious little bistro-style meal at home for us to partake in, similar in spirit to what we enjoyed out yet filled with ingredients from my own imagination.
In my mind, a grilled chicken sandwich is a perfect canvas to get creative with indeed, as the possibilities are endless when it comes to add-ins...
Pesto, with it's bright color and flavor, is a perfect partner to grilled chicken, as are sun-dried tomatoes and some smoked mozzarella for savory, earthy flavor. So those are my picks for ingredients when it comes to creating my ideal grilled chicken sandwich recipe.
Piled between two pieces of rustic-style bread, this flavorful sandwich is the perfect meal for my hubs and I to enjoy whenever we're hungry for a bistro-style “sammy”, yet feel like keeping things at home and enjoying a leisurely meal together.
My Grilled Chicken Sandwich Recipe with Homemade Pesto Sauce
While you could certainly use a good quality, store-bought pesto sauce for this sandwich without any issue (I definitely won't judge!), there's truly nothing like a homemade pesto sauce when it comes to flavor.
Pesto is simple to prepare in a snap in your food processor, as you can simply add all of the ingredients and blitz until blended, drizzling in the olive oil at the end until combined.
For my pesto sauce here, I like to use basil leaves as well as some fresh arugula to create an arugula-basil pesto sauce. The flavors in this pesto are nice and balanced, and I made sure there's lot's to savor.
When I do prepare homemade pesto, I like to blanch my fresh basil leaves in simmering water for just 5 to 10 seconds—just a quick dunk and then out—and then shock the basil in ice water and pat it dry to lock in that vibrant green color. (Totally optional, but kind of nice.)
As far as the chicken is concerned, I like to quickly marinate it in a lemony, garlicky, herby seasoning with olive oil before grilling to impart extra flavor.
Then, it's about the finishing touches, which bring that extra flavor and savoriness to this gourmet grilled chicken sandwich!
Here's a sneak peek at my grilled chicken sandwich recipe with pesto: (or just jump to the recipe...)
- To get started, I marinate the chicken breasts in the marinade ingredients, and set aside for a few moments.
- While the chicken marinates, I prepare my homemade pesto sauce by first blanching the fresh basil leaves for only about 5-10 seconds before shocking them in ice water and then patting dry (this method is optional); then, I prepare my pesto sauce in my food processor, and set it aside for my sandwich.
- I grill the chicken breasts on my grill pan for a few minutes on each side, until golden-brown and cooked through.
- I place the grilled breasts onto a small foil-lined baking sheet, top each with cheese, and place under the broiler for a few moments just until the cheese is melted.
- To assemble my grilled chicken sandwiches, I split open a soft-style ciabatta loaf or focaccia bread, and cut it into four equal pieces (you can also use rustic rolls), and generously spread some pesto on both top and bottom pieces; next, I add a cheesy grilled chicken breast to each bottom piece, then top the chicken with some julienned sun-dried tomatoes as well as micro arugula greens, and cover with the top piece of pesto-slathered bread and serve.
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Pesto
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 688 calories per sandwich (with 2 tablespoons of pesto sauce)
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
- 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise to create 4 thinner cutlets
- Olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 4 ounces smoked mozzarella (or plain), thinly sliced or grated
- Soft ciabatta loaf (14-16 ounce), cut into 4 equal pieces (can use focaccia, rustic rolls or sliced bread as well)
- 4 tablespoons (about ¼ cup) julienned sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, if possible)
- 1 cup micro arugula or regular arugula leaves
Arugula-Basil Pesto Sauce Ingredients:
- 4 ounces fresh basil leaves, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup arugula leaves
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Marinate your chicken breasts by adding them to a large bowl, then drizzling over about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, the Italian seasoning, lemon zest and juice, plus garlic, and toss to coat; marinate for 20 minutes, or even over night.
- Next, prepare your arugula-basil pesto: if blanching your basil leaves to lock in the vibrant color, bring a small/medium size pot of water to the boil, then turn off the heat; add the basil leaves and blanch them for just 5-10 seconds; drain and add the leaves to ice water to shock them, then drain and gently pat dry on paper towel.
- To the bowl of a food processor, add the pine nuts, grated parmesan cheese, garlic cloves, lemon zest and juice, the salt and pepper, plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and process for about 20 seconds until fairly smooth; add the basil leaves and the arugula, and continue to process, drizzling in the ½ cup of olive oil until smooth, about 30-45 seconds.
- Spoon the pesto into a jar or small bowl, cover with plastic, and place into fridge to hold.
- To grill the chicken, place your grill pan (you can also use an outdoor grill as well) over medium-high heat, and grill a couple of the chicken breast cutlets for about 3 minutes per side, or until cooked through and golden (grilling time is shorter since these are thinner cutlets); allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes.
- Preheat your broiler, and line a small baking sheet with foil; place the grilled chicken breasts onto the baking sheet, top each with 1 ounce of the grated smoked (or plain) mozzarella cheese, then place under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted.
- To assemble the grilled chicken sandwiches, generously spread some of your pesto sauce onto both the bottom and top pieces of the bread, then place a cheesy grilled chicken breast onto the bottom piece of bread.
- Top the chicken with about 1 tablespoon of the julienned sun-dried tomatoes and a sprinkle of micro arugula greens or regular arugula greens; then, cover with the top piece of pesto-slathered bread, and serve.
Tips & Tidbits for my Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Pesto:
- Homemade pesto sauce, or good quality store-bought: While I'm partial to the flavor and freshness of homemade arugula-basil pesto sauce, feel free to use good quality store-bought if you prefer a bit of a short cut. Choose a vibrant green one that's in the cold “prepared foods” section of the market if possible, rather than one that's been a shelf.
- Marinate the chicken breasts for added flavor: Even a quick 10 to 15 minutes in the marinade will do the trick in imparting lots of extra flavor to the grilled chicken. You can go really bold and marinate overnight as well, especially if you plan on preparing the sandwich the next day.
- Use some soft, rustic bread to build your sandwich: When making enough grilled chicken sandwiches to feed 4 people, I like to use a soft, pillowy style of ciabatta loaf (14-16 ounce size), split it in half length-wise, and cut it into four pieces. (There is also a more crusty style of ciabatta which is fine, but I find it tougher to bite through.) Another option is focaccia bread, or any pre-sliced rustic bread of your choice, even rustic rolls.
- Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil: I like to buy the already julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil for this sandwich, as these are juicier and more flavorful. Feel free to use non-oil packed and rehydrate them if you'd like, or even substitute fresh sliced tomato instead.
- Smoked mozzarella, or plain: The smoked mozzarella adds some terrific, earthy flavor, but feel free to use plain mozzarella (whole milk is best) as a substitute. Provolone is also yummy!