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Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken is comforting, delicious and is perfect for busy weeknights. Juicy chicken cooked in luxurious pesto cream sauce and then tossed with any pasta you have on hand.

If you love all things basil pesto like I do, then you’ll also want to try these recipes using jarred pestoInstant Pot Pesto Pasta, Chicken Pasta Salad, Pesto Chicken and Rice and Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

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large pan with chicken pesto pasta

This post was originally published on 05/22/2020 and modified on 02/22/2022 to add more details. However, the recipe, images and video remains the same.

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Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken

This 30-minute dinner is a delicious combination of cooked pasta, creamy sauce and cooked chicken. The pesto cream sauce is more like a luxurious pesto Alfredo that is super flavorful, thick and creamy —> comforting and satisfying!

Busy weeknights calls for easy dinners that can be made with not much effort and yet satisfies the entire family. Pasta dishes are always a winner! They are cozy, comforting and satisfying.

Basil pesto mainly consists of basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. It is incredibly flavorful and adds an instant freshness to any recipe. Some of our favorite ways to use store bought basil pesto are Chicken Pesto Rice, Instant Pot Pesto Pasta, Pesto Toasts, Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad and Pesto Grilled Cheese.

What type of pasta should I use?

We used penne, but bow ties, rotini, fettuccini, linguini or even spaghetti would also work well.

How to make pesto?

I prefer to use store bought pesto for its connivence. However, if you have an abundance supply of fresh basil in your backyard then here is a quick recipe – Pulse 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts, 1 large garlic clove and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese in a food processor, until finely ground. Add about 3 cups of fresh basil leaves, salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes, close the food processor and turn it on. Slowly drizzle 1/2 cup olive oil through the feed tube and run the processor until a smooth sauce forms.

Tips for success

Basil pesto – You can use homemade or store bought pesto, whichever you prefer. I often use store bought pesto (our favorite is Costco, Kirkland Basil Pesto) to save on time. Be sure to choose pesto from the refrigerator case rather than the shelf stable type.

Use Boneless skinless thighs or breasts.

Be sure to cook your meat in a single layer so it gets a golden brown crust. If you overcrowd the pan, it might steam instead. It’s best to work in batches if your pan is not large enough to fit everything at once.

Use your favorite noodle shape instead of penne.

Don’t have half & half? Use equal parts of heavy cream and milk.

Key ingredients

Pasta – I used penne, but you can use any kind of noodle that you have on hand.

Basil pesto – I used store bought basil pesto from Costco. If you wanna make your own, then check out this highly rated recipe from Simplyrecipes.

Half and Half – An equal part of heavy cream and whole milk may be used instead.

Chicken Stock – I used 33% reduced sodium stock. If you are using no sodium or regular sodium stock, then adjust salt accordingly.

Chicken – My favorite is always boneless, skinless thighs, but boneless, skinless breasts may be used instead.

ingredients needed to make pasta

Variations

With tomatoes – Stir in halved cherry tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes along with cooked penne and parmesan cheese.

With roasted tomatoes – Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and chopped garlic. Spread them evenly in a small baking sheet and roast at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are collapsing and slightly charred. Toss along with cooked penne.

Add asparagus – Cut trimmed asparagus into 1-inch pieces and saute along with onion and garlic in the recipe. Finish off with halved cherry tomatoes at the end.

With vegetables – Stir sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus or green beans in the recipe.

Make it cheesy – Stir in grated mozzarella at the end for a cheesy pesto penne.

Add spinach – Stir in baby spinach along with pesto.

Make is meat free – Skip chicken (but we recommend using chicken stock)

Use leftover rotisserie chicken instead.

Use shrimp instead.

How to make?

Cook chicken – Cook cubed boneless, skinless thighs or breasts in some olive oil, until almost cooked. Transfer to a bowl. Saute chopped onion and garlic in butter, until translucent

Make Creamy Pesto Sauce

Saute all purpose flour for about a minute until the raw smell is gone. Stir in stock, half & half (or use cream and milk), salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until it comes to a boil and begins thickening.

Add cooked meat (along with accumulated juices) and pesto. Stir well and let simmer for about 2 minutes, to thicken slightly.

Finish

Stir in cooked penne and parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

cast iron pan with chicken pasta with pesto cream sauce

More comforting recipes

How to serve?

This is delicious with a side of creamy tomato basil soup, garlic bread and roasted broccoli.

Other delicious pairing may include garlic knots, roasted green beans, vegan tomato soup, parmesan bread bites.

How to store?

Refrigerate cooled dish in sealed containers for up to 4 days. Warm up in the microwave until heated through (stir in additional grated parmesan before serving)

More weeknight chicken dishes: Air Fryer Wings, Hunan Chicken, Spicy Chicken Tacos, Ground Chicken Tacos, Air Fried ChIcken Nuggets, Baked Chicken Burger,Honey Sriracha Chicken, Instant Pot BBQ Chicken, Air Fryer Chicken Parmesan, Thai Chicken Fried Rice and Tandoori Chicken.

Is Pesto Healthier Than Tomato Sauce?

Basil pesto is a much healthier sauce when compared to creamier sauces that feature lots of dairy, like cream such as Alfredo, but high in calories than regular marinara sauce, which is made from mostly tomatoes and herbs.

However, Pesto is made from olive oil and pine nut, which contain the healthy kind of fat — unsaturated fats that are good for your heart.

2 bowls with pesto chicken penne pasta

FAQs

Do I eat this dish warm or cold?

It is recommended to eat this dish hot, warm or room temperature.

How many calories in a serving?

There is 935 calories in a serving of pasta.

Can I add other ingredients?

Absolutely! Sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, fresh halved cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, leftover rotisserie meat or shrimp are all delicious additions.

More Chicken Pasta Recipes to try-

bowls with pesto chicken pasta

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Yield: 3 SERVINGS
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta recipe is comforting, delicious and is perfect for busy weeknights. Juicy chicken cooked in luxurious pesto cream sauce and then tossed with any pasta you have on hand

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add chicken in a single layer, season with salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until almost cooked. Transfer to a bowl,
  2. Reduce heat to medium, add butter, chopped onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until translucent. Stir in flour and saute for about a minute or until raw smell goes off.
  3. Add chicken stock, half & half, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Mix well, continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce comes to a gentle boil and has thickened slightly (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add cooked chicken (along with accumulated juices) and pesto. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes for the sauce to thicken. Stir in cooked pasta and parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

Notes

Chicken stock - I used 33% reduced sodium chicken stock

Chicken - Boneless, skinless chicken breast can be used instead.

To cook pasta - Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt and stir pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente and drain.

Basil Pesto - I used store bought basil pesto from Costco.

Salt - Salt depends on the type of stock and pesto used.

Don't skip red pepper flakes - It adds a wonderful kick to the pasta.

What type of pasta should I use? I used penne pasta, but any type of pasta you have on hand like bow tie, rotini, rigatoni or fusilli are great options.

Variations

With tomatoes – Stir in halved cherry tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes along with cooked pasta and parmesan cheese.

With roasted tomatoes – Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and chopped garlic. Spread them evenly in a small baking sheet and roast at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are collapsing and slightly charred. Toss along with cooked pasta.

Add asparagus – Cut trimmed asparagus into 1-inch pieces and saute along with onion and garlic in the recipe. Finish off with halved cherry tomatoes along with pasta.

With vegetables – Stir sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus or green beans in the recipe.

Make it cheesy – Stir in grated mozzarella at the end for a cheesy pesto pasta.

Add spinach – Stir in baby spinach along with cooked chicken and pesto.

Make is meat free – Skip chicken (but we recommend using chicken stock)

Use leftover rotisserie chicken instead.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 935Total Fat: 64gSaturated Fat: 22gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 39gCholesterol: 235mgSodium: 1149mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 50g

I am not a certified dietician or nutritionist. The information is a product of online calculator such as Nutrifox.com, although Kitchen at Hoskins attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates and not be construed as a guarantee. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the nutritional information in any recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their fact algorithms. Under no circumstances will Kitchen at Hoskins be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on the nutritional information. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health and ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

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Lexi

Friday 17th of December 2021

This recipe is FANTASTIC! Wonderful flavors and easy to prepare. I substituted 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, which I cut in half to make them thinner and they tasted great. The sauce is creamy and rich but not too much of either. A wonderful dish that has delicious pesto flavor without being overpowering. I will definitely make this again!

Maria Doss

Saturday 18th of December 2021

Hi Lexi, Glad you loved it, Maria

Nina Lee

Thursday 3rd of December 2020

the creamy pesto pasta is delicious and a very good recipe. Thank you

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