Chicken Pesto Pasta

4.88 from 8 votes
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Chicken Pesto Pasta – An effortless comfort recipe that’s creamy, herby, and bursting with rich flavor. It’s perfect for feeding a hungry family on busy weeknights or serving guests on the weekend.

Chicken Pesto Pasta is one of my all-time favorite recipes for a busy weeknight. I love that there isn’t much foreplanning involved. I only have to remember to defrost the chicken breast before dinnertime. I’ve even used shredded rotisserie chicken to whip up this quick meal after a late grocery run that didn’t leave much time to prepare an involved meal.

skillet with chicken Pesto and Pasta

 

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Using store-bought ingredients will keep this recipe low-effort and straightforward. Cherry tomatoes eliminate a ton of prep work. Then, all you need is a jar of pesto and half and half to create the creamy, thick, and delicious sauce. Plus, you can buy pre-shredded parmesan cheese and have dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.

When I have extra time, I like to make my own pesto. It’s a great way to use up extra leafy greens in the fridge. I’ve made Spinach Pesto and Arugula Pesto, and they’re just as good (if not better) than the typical basil variety. And it’s super easy to freeze, so I always have some on hand for moments like these when I need to cook a quick yet tasty meal.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Chicken Pesto Pasta tastes like quintessential comfort food. You’d never guess that it’s much lighter and healthier than the kind you’d order at an Italian restaurant.
  • There’s little to no prep work involved, so you can rely on this recipe when you need a convenient, low-effort meal option.
  • The recipe is flexible, so you can easily swap out or add ingredients to use up whatever you have on hand.
A bowl of food on a plate, with Pesto and chicken pasta

What You’ll Need

  • Short Cut Pasta – Penne, rotini, rigatoni, farfalle, orecchiette—the options are endless. Choose whatever pasta your family prefers, and switch it up from week to week to keep the recipe exciting.
  • Chicken Breast
  • Olive Oil
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Pesto
  • Half-and-Half – You can use cream instead of a more indulgent sauce. Or, lighten the recipe with low-fat milk.
  • Italian Seasoning – You can make your own if you don’t have this blend in your spice cabinet. Add dried herbs and powders like basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. You can incorporate garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, dehydrated onion, or fennel seeds. 
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese

How To Make Chicken Pesto Pasta

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post for the FULL PRINTABLE recipe card.

  1. Boil water. Put a pot of water on the stove to start boiling. This way, you’ll already be set when you’re ready to cook the pasta.
  2. Season the chicken. Cut the chicken breast into cubes and add it to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning over the chicken. Then, toss or mix to coat all of the cubes.
  3. Sauté chicken. Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer in the pan, add the chicken breast. Cook for 5-6 minutes, occasionally stirring until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.
  4. Start cooking the pasta. At this point, you can add your pasta to the boiling water and cook it according to the package directions.
  5. Add cherry tomatoes to chicken skillet. Once the chicken is cooked, you can mix the halved cherry tomatoes into the skillet. Allow these to cook for 2 minutes to release their flavorful juices and caramelize them.
  6. Create the pesto sauce. Mix in the pesto and half-and-half to the skillet. Simmer the mixture for 3 minutes until thick and creamy.
  7. Drain and add the pasta. Strain the cooked pasta. Then, add the pasta to the skillet.
  8. Toss to coat & garnish. Use a large spoon to mix the pasta, pesto sauce, and chicken in the pan. Garnish the dish with shredded parmesan cheese, and get ready to dig in!
pesto chicken pasta in a skillet

Recipe Tips

  • One of the best things about this recipe is how flexible it is. You can use any kind of pasta, like cavatappi or orzo, or try it with rice. Swap the cherry tomatoes for sun-dried tomatoes. Add extra sautéed veggies like summer squash or wilted spinach. 
  • Of course, you can strain the pasta in a colander in the sink. But, to save time (and dishes), I use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked pasta from the pot of boiling water directly to the skillet. The little splashes of pasta water are full of starch from the cooking process. When that makes it into the pesto sauce, it thins the sauce slightly and creates a silky, velvety texture.

Can I Make This A One Pot Meal?

Yes! After you cook the chicken and add the cherry tomatoes, you can add the dry, uncooked pasta to the skillet and 16 oz of chicken broth. Allow the pasta to simmer in the broth until it’s almost all absorbed and the pasta is cooked through. Then continue by adding the pesto and half-and-half as normal. It’ll have tons of flavor and only one dish to clean!

What Can I Use Instead of Milk Or Cream>

Use chicken broth instead of the cream in the recipe, and add your pasta to the skillet when it’s about 1-2 minutes shy of being fully cooked. This way, the pasta will finish cooking in the skillet and soak up some of the extra liquid. Then, if you still want a creamy texture, add ¼ block of cream cheese at the end and melt it into the skillet.

A bowl of chicken pesto pasta with a fork

How To Serve

Check out these side dish ideas that will round out a meal with this Chicken Pesto Pasta (and still keep the effort to a minimum):

  • Cheesy Garlic Bread – It’s ooey, gooey, and oh-so-delicious. You can never go wrong by pairing an Italian dish with an Italian side. Plus, you can use it to scoop up any leftover pesto sauce at the bottom of your bowl.
  • Tomato Mozzarella Salad – This fresh and flavorful salad is light enough to compliment the creaminess of the Pesto Pasta. And the tomato, mozzarella, basil, and balsamic flavors pair exceptionally well with pesto.
  • Simple Tossed Salad – Such an easy side dish that you can top with whatever dressings you have on hand and toppings you like. Great way to get the whole family to eat more vegetables.
close up chicken pesto pasta in bowl for pinterest

More Easy Chicken Dinners

A bowl of food on a plate, with pesto and Pasta
4.88 from 8 votes

Chicken Pesto Pasta

By Erin
Chicken Pesto Pasta – a quick and easy creamy pasta with chicken, tomatoes, and pesto. Great for busy weeknights or when you want easy comfort food.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 8 oz short cut pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 large chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/2 cup half-n-half, (heavy cream or whole milk works too)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese to serve

Instructions 

  • Season chicken with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  • Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil, swirling to coat. Add chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes until browned.
  • Add cherry tomatoes, and cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Mix in pesto and half-n-half, simmer for 3 minutes until it starts to thicken
  • Add cooked pasta, tossing to coat.
  • Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 440kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 59mg | Sodium: 326mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Erin
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dinner Recipes
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Calories: 440
Keyword: Chicken Pesto Pasta
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About Erin S

Welcome to Dinners, Dishes, & Desserts where my love of food meets my busy life. My name is Erin and I’m a casual home cook who loves to feed people. On this blog, you’ll find hundreds of quick and easy recipes made mostly from scratch. My days are spent in the kitchen, creating new recipes to share with family and friends.

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    One of my kids felt the same way about pesto when he was little—thank goodness he outgrew that phase! This is a fabulous weeknight meal!