This easy recipe for rich and creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta is ready to eat in 30 minutes! It’s the perfect Italian-inspired weeknight dinner.
After a long day, it’s always amazing to know that dinner won’t take very long to cook. This 30-minute pasta meal is super simple to throw together using common ingredients, and it’s a tasty favorite that the whole family will enjoy.
There are endless ways to modify this skillet pasta recipe to create new and delicious pasta dishes. Check out all of my pasta recipes, or start with some of my favorites:
I use a similar cooking method to make this slightly spicy Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta and this savory Creamy Garlic Shrimp Pasta.
If you want to get a bit fancy for an at-home date night, try making Creamy Lobster Pasta next!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Amazing Flavors – Basil Pesto is such a perfect blend of herbs, garlic, and cheese, it makes anything taste amazing! Try it in my Creamy Pesto Gnocchi or Chicken Pesto Sandwich next.
- Rich and Creamy Sauce – Heavy cream does the work of making the sauce for this chicken pasta thick and delectable. Here’s a tip: You can add a splash of heavy cream to just about any sauce to make it creamy and rich.
- Versatile Recipe – There are plenty of ways that you can adjust this recipe to suit your mood or the ingredients on hand. Swap out the chicken for steak or shrimp, add some sun-dried tomatoes, or toss in some frozen peas!
Ingredients In Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta
Here’s what you need to make this easy pasta with pesto chicken:
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
- Pasta: Choose whatever type of pasta you enjoy. I like to use short pasta like penne or rotini, but long pasta such as linguini can also work.
- Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces will cook quickly and be easy to eat.
- Pesto: I highly recommend that you make fresh homemade pesto to use in this recipe. If that’s not possible, look for a high-quality jarred pesto instead.
- Olive Oil and Butter: Use the oil to brown the chicken, and use the butter to saute minced garlic to flavor the sauce.
- Seasonings: Aside from minced garlic and pesto, you’ll need salt, pepper, and Italian Seasoning. I have a homemade recipe for Italian seasoning, make sure to check it out!
- Heavy Cream: I mentioned it already, but this sauce is perfectly creamy, and this is how we make it that way.
- Parmesan cheese: Salty and creamy, parmesan mirrors the flavor in the pesto.
How To Make Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Boil Pasta: Boil water in a medium-sized saucepan, and add salt. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until it’s al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water before you drain the pasta, just in case you need it later.
- Cook Chicken: In a skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and add chicken. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes, turning as needed, until browned and cooked through. It should measure 165°F/74°C with an instant read thermometer.
- Make the Sauce: Deglaze the skillet with a few tablespoons of pasta water. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the butter, then sautee the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the heavy cream, whisk it in, then add the pesto and parmesan cheese. Whisk and cook for about a minute, just until the parmesan cheese has melted.
- Mix it Up: Add the cooked pasta and chicken to the sauce. Gently mix to combine, then remove from the heat and serve.
Keep an eye on your pasta so that it doesn’t overcook! You want it to be al-dente, or just slightly less than how you want to eat it.
- Use Fresh Basil Pesto: You can make this recipe with pesto that comes from a jar, but the flavor will not be as fresh and amazing. Try my easy homemade basil pesto recipe!
- Grate Your Own Cheese: It’s cheaper and much more delicious to buy a wedge of parmesan and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded parmesan cheese lacks flavor and doesn’t melt nicely in the sauce.
- Try it With Boneless Chicken Thighs: Any type of chicken, cut into small pieces, can be used in this recipe. With thighs, I like to remove all of the excess fat from them before cooking.
- Instead of chicken, try this recipe with pan seared shrimp or salmon.
- Experiment: This dish is amazing exactly as written, but you can definitely add your own spin to it. To start with, try adding frozen peas or baby spinach to the sauce just before adding the chicken and pasta.
- Save Some Pasta Water: Pull out a cup of the cooking water before you drain it all away. The starchy water will be useful when making the creamy sauce and getting it to the perfect consistency.
- Don’t Burn the Garlic: You really only need to cook the garlic for half a minute, any longer than that and it could burn and ruin the dish. Be ready to add in the cream.
- Avoid Cooking the Pesto: Heating pesto for more than a minute will cause it to turn yellow. Add it in, and stir just until the sauce is heated through.
This dish is really best if you eat it fresh, but you can certainly store leftovers in the fridge. Keep them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Reheat the pasta on the stove over low to medium heat, or by using the microwave.
Since the pasta will have absorbed most of the sauce while in the fridge, add a splash of water and stir to make it creamy again.
What To Serve With Chicken Pesto Pasta
Keep dinner simple, and serve Chicken Pesto Pasta with a Simple Side Salad. Make my copycat Olive Garden Italian dressing, or try my Homemade Ranch Dressing. A Classic Caesar Salad would be amazing with this meal too.
You might also like to have a hot batch of breadsticks or garlic bread available too. They’ll help you mop up every drop of this delicious basil pesto pasta sauce!
Heavy cream thickens when cooked, and it will make your pesto pasta rich and creamy. While you can technically replace it with a lighter option, I don’t recommend it.
You can use already cooked chicken to make this chicken pasta dish if you have it available. Searing the chicken in the pan just before making the meal will give your pasta the best flavor though.
Chicken Pesto Pasta is going to find its way to your regular dinner recipe rotation once you taste how amazing it is! Save this recipe for the next time you need a new way to cook those chicken breasts in the fridge.
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!
Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta
- 8 ounces dried pasta half a box, I used penne
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound chicken breasts about 3, cut into ¾ – 1 inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ¾ cup (180ml) heavy cream
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
- ½ cup basil pesto
- In a medium-sized saucepan, boil water and salt it. Add your pasta, and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and add chicken. Season with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning. Cook the chicken until browned and cooked through. You can use a kitchen thermometer to be sure that it has an internal temperature of 165°F/74°C.
- Deglaze the skillet with a couple tablespoons of water (or pasta water), just to get the fond (brown bits), and scrape off with a wooden spoon. Then melt butter and saute garlic for 30 seconds.
- Add cream, whisk, then add parmesan and basil pesto. Whisk and cook the sauce for 30 seconds – 1 minute or until the parmesan cheese has melted and the sauce is warmed up. Avoid overcooking, as that can make the pesto turn yellow. Add pasta water to thin the sauce if needed.
- Add the cooked pasta and chicken to the sauce, and gently mix everything together until combined.
- This recipe will taste best if you make it with homemade pesto and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
- Avoid overcooking the pasta. Cook it just until al dente.
- Don’t forget to save some of the pasta water! This will help you deglaze the pan, and you can use it to thin out the sauce at the end if you need to.
- To Store: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, and enjoy within 3 days. This dish is best when it’s fresh. When reheating, add a splash of water to make the pasta saucy again.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
© Little Sunny Kitchen
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