November 29, 2022

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Cooking Is My World

Pesto Rice – Chelsea’s Messy Apron

This ONE-PAN Pesto Rice is a whole meal in one! We combine smoked chicken sausage with perfectly tender rice, loads of veggies, and finish it off with a basil-pesto sauce. Everything bakes together in one pan (Yes, even uncooked rice!) and requires very little hands-on work.

Overhead view of Pesto Rice.

This Pesto Rice is part of our Back-To-School Lifesavers — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients, or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. Click here to see all the recipes in the series!

Pesto Rice

If you remember last year’s “Back-To-School Lifesaver” recipes, we introduced a similar concept — rice, chicken, and veggies all cooked in one pan (this Coconut Chicken and Rice). And today, we’re revisiting the concept with different flavors to bring you another easy weeknight meal.

I mean, it doesn’t get too much easier than this, as your entire dinner — veggies, protein, and a carb base– is all prepared in a single pan. Dinner is ready with minimal effort required. That’s music to a parent’s ears!

Although this recipe doesn’t require a whole lot of prep time or exertion on your end, it does require a good amount of time in the oven. So while there is some planning involved to ensure you have the time required for this recipe to fully cook, most of that time is hands-off.

QUICK TIP

Is Pesto Rice healthy? This meal overflows with good-for-you ingredients including tons of veggies, natural chicken sausage, health-promoting seasonings, and rice. Pesto is also a great addition to meals — it’s loaded with good ingredients like basil, olive oil, pine nuts, etc.

Ingredient shots: all the ingredients needed for Pesto Rice.

Let’s Chat Ingredients

Below are a few ingredient-specific notes:

  • Basmati rice. This is non-negotiable in this recipe! We tested with all different kinds of rice and none worked out very well except for basmati rice. If you don’t have this particular variety of rice I wouldn’t recommend making this recipe; it won’t work out very well. Truth!
  • Sausage. Any smoked sausage works here, and we like smoked chicken sausage best (Aidell®s Italian Style with Mozzarella or the Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage are our two favorites; not sponsored); it keeps things nice and healthy, plus tastes great! Additionally, since it’s smoked, you don’t need to worry about cooking it to a certain temperature before serving.
  • Sun-dried julienne-cut tomatoes with herbs: The herbs in the tomatoes add lots of flavor (so we don’t need additional ingredients) and the julienne cut saves chopping time. These tomatoes are savory, a little sweet, chewy, and a great complement to the Pesto Rice.

Process shots: combine ingredients; mix well; add butter on top; cover and bake.

Pesto Rice Ingredients, Cont.

  • Chicken stock. A high-quality, flavorful stock adds loads of flavor and allows us to cut down on spices or other additions. We highly recommend Swanson® chicken stock in this recipe.
  • Carrots. Avoid packaged pre-shredded carrots; they are hard, dry, and far less flavorful. When you grate your own carrots you’ll notice how much more moisture the carrots have– which is a must for the recipe to work well. (We’re relying on that moisture for the rice to cook properly!) Get large carrots, peel ’em, and grate them on the large holes of a grater.
  • Fresh pesto. More on this ingredient below.

Process shots: remove rice from oven; add sun-dried tomatoes and sausage; bake again; let rice rest and add peas.

More on Pesto

Pesto is the perfect finishing touch for the rice and sausage — it brings everything together and boosts the flavor. I recommend refrigerated, freshly made basil pesto. You’ll find it near refrigerated fresh pasta and gourmet cheese. Rana’s® Basil Pesto is our personal favorite store-bought pesto sauce (not sponsored).

Freshly made pesto can certainly be spendy, but it lasts a good amount of time and a little goes a long way to enhance so many dishes.

After making this Pesto Rice meal, consider adding some leftover pesto to some of your favorite dishes (or check out the list of our favorites right above the printable recipe!). 

Process shots: mix in basil; serve with fresh pesto.

How To Make Pesto Rice

  • Generously grease the baking dish. To keep rice from sticking to the pan, give it a really generous spray with cooking spray– and don’t leave out the butter!
  • Don’t rush the process. The bake time is long on this dish, but it’s all pretty much a hands-off process. Don’t try to rush it; you may end up with unevenly cooked or mushy rice.
  • Rice needs to rest. Just like cooking rice in a pot on the stovetop, it needs time to stand and steam. This keeps it from getting mushy. This recipe is no different — allow time for the rice to rest and become fully tender. Once the dish has rested, load everything into plates or bowls and enjoy this super-easy and delicious dinner!

Close-up view of Pesto Rice.

STORAGE

Pesto Rice Storage

This Pesto Rice recipe makes a lot! And the leftovers are delicious.

Store leftovers separate from the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days. Or freeze leftovers in an airtight bag. Be sure to store the pesto in a separate container and only combine the two when eating.

Pesto Rice with additional pesto on the side.

Use Leftover Pesto In One Of These Recipes: 

Pesto Rice

This ONE-PAN Pesto Rice is a whole meal-in-one recipe! We combine smoked chicken sausage with perfectly tender rice, loads of veggies, and finish it off with a basil pesto sauce. Everything bakes together in one pan (Yes, even uncooked rice!) and requires very little hands-on work.

Pesto Rice

This ONE-PAN Pesto Rice is a whole meal-in-one recipe! We combine smoked chicken sausage with perfectly tender rice, loads of veggies, and finish it off with a basil pesto sauce. Everything bakes together in one pan (Yes, even uncooked rice!) and requires very little hands-on work.

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Very generously spray a glass or ceramic or glass 9×13-inch pan. Cut butter into 6 equal slices and set aside. Peel carrots, grate on large holes of grater, and measure to get 2 cups.

  • BAKE: Add the uncooked basmati rice to the prepared pan, along with chicken stock, grated carrots, all the seasonings, and salt & pepper to taste (I add 1-1/4 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper). Stir with a wooden spoon until ingredients are incorporated and spread in one even layer. Add cut pieces of butter evenly on top. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, dice chicken sausage into small pieces (we cut each sausage in half, half again, then into small pieces).

  • BAKE AGAIN: After 40 minutes, remove the foil (save foil — just set aside for now). Don’t mix the rice at all! Top evenly with sun-dried tomatoes and then diced sausage right on top. Place back in the oven, uncovered, and bake for another 15 minutes.

  • REST: Remove from the oven. Don’t stir the rice. Top with the foil again and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. This is very important to avoid mushy rice!

  • ENJOY: After 10 minutes, add frozen peas on top. Gently mix everything together and lightly fluff rice with a fork. If desired, add fresh basil to taste. (We add 1/2 cup, ribboned.) Taste and add additional salt/pepper if needed. Gently stir basil through and then serve into bowls or plates. Add a generous scoop of basil pesto atop each bowl and gently mix in. Enjoy promptly!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Rice: We tested this recipe with all different kinds of rice and the only one we found success with is basmati rice. Other grains of rice gave very inconsistent results — ranging from very mushy to unevenly cooked (some hard grains/some mushy).
Note 2: Chicken stock: The stock is very important to flavor — use a full-bodied (not low sodium) stock. We love Swanson’s stock best.
Note 3: Carrots: This is about 2 medium-large carrots. Avoid packaged pre-shredded carrots; they are hard, dry, and far less flavorful. When you grate your own carrots you’ll notice how much more moisture the carrots have which is a must for the recipe to properly work.
Note 4: Sun-dried tomatoes: Use the tomatoes packed in oil — those have the most flavor! While they’re generally pretty small as is, give them a quick coarse chop (or cut with sharp kitchen shears) to ensure they’ll make it into every bite of this Pesto Rice.
Note 5: Pesto: I recommend getting refrigerated, freshly-made basil pesto, which you can find near refrigerated fresh pasta and gourmet cheese. Rana’s® Basil Pesto is our personal favorite store-bought pesto sauce.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 310kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 870mg | Potassium: 373mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 10899IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 2mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.