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Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta is comforting, delicious and is perfect for busy weeknights. Juicy chicken cooked in luxurious 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

Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

This 30-minute dinner is a delicious combination of cooked penne, creamy sauce and cooked meat. The sauce is more like a luxurious greenish 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 is Chicken Pesto Rice, Instant Pot Pesto Pasta, Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad and Pesto Grilled Cheese.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for something that’s easy for a busy evening or if you have company coming over for dinner. Everyone is going to rave about the amazing way this dish tastes. Let’s get started so you can head in the kitchen and whip up a batch.

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE?

  • Filling and delicious. This recipe is satisfying, packed with flavor and will leave you feeling full.
  • Quick and easy. It comes together in less than 30 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknights AND delicious enough for entertaining!
  • Great for leftovers. If you have leftover meat, this is a great way to use it up. Also, the pasta itself makes great leftovers and can be taken to lunch or even eaten on a different night!
  • Use store bought sauce – No need to make fresh sauce.
  • Ultra-creamy! If you love restaurant-quality creamy sauce dishes, such as Alfredo, then you will fall head over heels in love with this greenish white sauce.

A Reader writes “This recipe is FANTASTIC! Wonderful flavors and easy to prepare. I substituted 3 boneless skinless 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!”

BEST PASTA TO USE

You can make this dish with any noodle your heart desires, however, I find using bite size shapes like penne, farfelle (or bow tie), fusilli (spiral shaped) or ziti are easier to toss and are scoopable along cooked meat. Long sturdier shapes like fettuccini or linguini will also work just as well.

How to make pesto?

I prefer to use store bought jar from Costco 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.

CAN I MAKE IT WITHOUT CREAM?

We used half and half, which is an equal mix of Half whole milk and half heavy cream. You could use all whole milk for a lighter sauce, but with slight compromise in thickness. Canned coconut milk may also be used instead of half and half for a healthier twist.

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

INGREDIENTS

This creamy dish is anything but bland! We’ll be adding lots of seasonings and flavorings, for maximum deliciousness. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Pasta – I used penne, but you can use any kind of noodle that you have on hand.
  2. Basil pesto – I used store bought jar from Costco. If you wanna make your own, then check out this highly rated recipe from Simplyrecipes.
  3. Half and Half – An equal part of heavy cream and whole milk may be used instead.
  4. Stock – I used 33% reduced sodium stock. If you are using no sodium or regular sodium stock, then adjust salt accordingly.
  5. Chicken – My favorite is always boneless, skinless thighs, but boneless, skinless breasts may be used instead.
  6. Seasonings – Garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

PRO TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • Basil pesto – You can use homemade or store bought, whichever you prefer. I often use store bought to save on time. Be sure to choose jars 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.
  • This is a great recipe to use leftover or rotisserie chicken.  Just throw it together with the penne, heat it through, and serve (with some compromise in flavors).
  • Cook your penne al dente. Otherwise, it may overcook while in the oven and become mushy.

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.
  • Add spinach – Stir in baby spinach towards the last couple of minutes of cooking.
  • Use leftover rotisserie chicken instead.
  • Use shrimp instead.
ingredients needed to make pasta

HOW TO MAKE?

  1. 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.
  2. Make Creamy 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.
  3. Add cooked meat (along with accumulated juices) and . Stir well and let simmer for about 2 minutes, to thicken slightly.
  4. Finish – Stir in cooked penne and parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

How to serve?

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

Other Vegetable Sides:

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT?

Store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

To Reheat, simply microwave the dish or reheat it on the stove over low heat, with a splash of water or broth to moisten it up.

HOW LONG WILL THIS LAST IN THE FRIDGE?

If stored properly, this will last in the fridge for up to four days. After that, the flavors might tend to get muted.

CAN I FREEZE ?

Creamy sauce pastas are not great candidates for freezing, as the texture might change to grainy when frozen and the noodle might get mushy when reheated.

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.

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.

What can I use instead of chicken?

If you’re not a fan of chicken or if you are out of it, you could try this recipe with shrimp, salmon, or even tofu. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Can you use milk instead of cream?

Whole milk might work, but it would definitely thin things out (probably too much!). I recommend sticking with half and half for a perfectly thickened, velvety sauce.

Can I use pre-cooked chicken instead?

Sure can, but with some compromise in flavors. The dish gets a lot of flavor from the seasoned meat as it cooks in the pan, which will be missed if you use pre cooked meat.

So there you have it – a delicious, easy, and quick recipe. I hope you’ll give it a try the next time you’re looking for a simple but tasty meal.

cast iron pan with chicken pasta with pesto cream sauce

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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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bowls with pesto chicken pasta

Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

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

Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta is comforting, delicious and is perfect for busy weeknights. Juicy chicken cooked in luxurious 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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