I love pesto. It’s bright yet rich at the same time: fresh, sweet basil harmonizing with the intensely flavorful, salty parmesan cheese, and the warm mildness of pine nuts forming a pleasant backdrop. It’s a symphony of subtle flavors playing off one another, and it’s very summery to boot. With basil and jalapeños flourishing in the garden, I thought—why not bring some heat to a good pesto? This easy recipe makes a rock star out of simple chicken wings and is perfect for your next party or a rewarding weeknight meal.
4 lbs chicken wings
¼ to ½ cup high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to coat the wings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and rough-chopped (add more if you want it spicier)
The zest of 1 lemon
The juice of 1 lemon
2 cups fresh basil leaves
¾ cup parmesan cheese, plus more to top the wings
1/3 cup pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 350F. Rinse and dry the chicken wings, then place them on a large, parchment-covered baking sheet. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat them, then sprinkle generously on both sides with salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Bake, skin-side up, for 45-50 minutes, or until browned and crispy.
While the wings are cooking, add the fresh garlic, jalapeño, lemon zest and juice, basil leaves, and pine nut to a blender, along with a half-cup of olive oil. Pulse until you form a paste, adding a little olive oil at a time as necessary, and then add a little more olive oil until the pesto is just a little looser than a true paste—it should be thick, but loose enough to be able to coat the chicken wings when you toss them in it. Aim for a pancake batter-like consistency. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.
Once the wings come out of the oven, add them to the bowl with the pesto and toss until the wings are thoroughly coated. Serve hot, topped with extra pesto and additional parmesan if desired.