Summer time means basil, and basil means pesto.  But this isn’t a recipe for pesto –  I make mine different every time – no, this is a recipe that takes pesto and makes it something more, something special.  How do you make pesto, already chock full of robust herbiness and garlic, better? Two words: goat cheese.   Think of this humble sandwich as a stage. If the grilled chicken, marinated in garlic and Italian herbs, is the lead, the pesto goat cheese spread is the supporting role who steals the show.  The chicken we clap for; the spread gets a standing ovation.

Metaphors aside, this is a solid summer sandwich, just right for a weekend lunch or casual weeknight dinner and fairly easy to make, too. Even the harshest critics, are sure to give it rave reviews.


Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

The pesto goat cheese spread in this recipe is seriously delicious stuff.  If you have homemade pesto lying around, then by all means use it in this recipe.  If not, this is what the store-bought variety was meant for.  While it’s great on a sandwich, also consider putting it out as a dip for guests alongside crudités.  If you can’t find ciabatta rolls, use whatever you can find and you’ll still end up eating a killer sandwich.  I suggest butterflying the chicken breasts in this recipe to expedite the cooking time.  If your chicken breasts still seem too large to fit evenly on the roll, wait for the meat to rest and then cut each into slices on a bit of a bias and continue with the recipe. Here I’ve shown a version of this sandwich with roasted red bell peppers, but if that isn’t your thing,  a slice of ripe tomato would also be delicious.  Finally, I like to add a splash of balsamic vinegar on the mixed greens or chicken breast before assembling the sandwich to provide a tart counterbalance to the richness of the pesto goat cheese spread.  I’m sure you’ll find it’s a pleasant, unexpected addition.


  • 2 large, bone-skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 ounces soft mild goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 4 slices jarred roasted red peppers, drained well
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed greens
  • Balsamic vinegar to taste
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split in half


  1. Fillet or slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally to produce 4 thin cutlets.  Place the chicken into a medium bowl and add the garlic, olive oil and Italian seasoning.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Add the goat cheese, cream cheese and pesto to a food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct, high-heat grilling.  Drain the chicken cutlets from their marinade and season again with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Sear the breasts on each side for about 4 minutes, or until just cooked through, and set aside to allow to rest.  Meanwhile, briefly toast the rolls until warmed through and slightly crisp.
  4. Toss the mixed greens with just a touch of balsamic vinegar and begin to assemble the sandwiches by spreading an even layer of the pesto goat cheese mixture on each half of the ciabatta roll followed by one of the rested chicken cutlets, a slice of roasted red bell pepper, and a handful of the balsamic dressed mixed greens.  Top with the other half of the roll and serve warm.

Makes 4 sandwiches

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  1. Wow this look like one delicious burger! The pesto cheese spread alone is making me drool!

    • Kayla
    • June 11th, 2010

    What do you think about throwing the red pepper in the processor with the pesto/cheese mix?

  2. Kayla – The flavors might get a bit muddled and you might end up with a brown sauce instead of that beautiful green. I’d suggest finely dicing the red bell pepper and folding it into the pesto goat cheese spread after processing. Let me know how it turns out.

    • Kayla
    • June 13th, 2010

    I just saw your reply, but that’s exactly what I did! I figured my boy friend would actually eat the peppers if they were combined some how. They turned out great! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Ed
    • October 14th, 2010

    Weird! I was just looking for a picture of this recipe to place on my blog. Which uses the same template and is about cooking.

    Anyway, wanted to let you know I made this dish tonight and I used focaccia instead of ciabatta.

    • Becky
    • January 16th, 2011

    I made this recipe last night and it was fantastic! I made my own pesto, seared the chicken in an iron skillet (since it’s too cold here to grill), and made my own rolls. I don’t have a food processor, which I think would have made the recipe a tiny bit better, but it was absolutely phenomenal anyway! I did dice the peppers (picky fiance)and it worked out so well! This is definitely going in the recipe box!