Chicken and Bacon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce - an Italian-inspired dish with lots of vegetables! Sliced chicken breast and bacon are tossed with veggies and penne pasta in a delicious, creamy, homemade Alfredo sauce made with Parmesan cheese.
Craving an easy-to-make comfort food that a whole family will love? Then, make this chicken and bacon pasta! Cream sauce absorbs the wonderful flavors from the ingredients in the recipe, and with every single bite, you get all the goodness and all the flavors! This is one of the best chicken pasta recipes you'll ever try!
- Use thinly-sliced skinless, boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenderloin meat. Either cut of meat will work.
- Use shredded Parmesan cheese. Do not use grated Parmesan cheese, use the shredded kind. What I usually do is buy a block of Parmesan cheese and shred it myself. Freshly shredding the cheese results in the best sauce texture. You can, however, use store-bought pre-shredded Parmesan cheese. Just do not use the grated kind.
- You can use cooked spinach, frozen spinach, or fresh spinach. All will work.
- Make this chicken pasta gluten-free. All you need to do is use gluten-free brown-rice penne pasta instead of regular penne. You can also use gluten-free quinoa pasta or lentil pasta.
What is half-and-half?
- You can use either heavy cream or half-and-half in this recipe.
- Half-and-half is the US milk product that combines ½ whole milk + ½ heavy cream or whipping cream to form a lighter cream (unlike heavy cream).
- Substitute ½ cup of milk + ½ cup of heavy cream for 1 cup of half-and-half.
- If you live in the UK, half and half would be the equivalent of single cream. Alternatively, you can mix half double cream and half regular milk (if you live in the UK).
How to cook pasta al dente
- To cook pasta al dente (which literally means "to the tooth" or firm to bite), cook pasta about 2 minutes less than indicated on the package instructions.
Do you rinse pasta?
- If using gluten-free pasta, rinse it with cold water after cooking to prevent it from getting mushy.
- If using regular, wheat pasta, do not rinse it with cold water. Rinsing pasta with cold water removes the starch which helps absorb the sauce.
How to store and reheat leftover chicken pasta:
- You can store this chicken pasta refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
- Reheat the pasta gently on the stovetop on medium-low heat, without simmering.
- Or microwave for 1 minute, checking for doneness every 30 seconds. Make sure the sauce does not overheat and separate.
- Keep in mind that reheating the cream sauce on high heat will cause the cream to separate.
- I do not recommend freezing this dish. If you freeze it, the creamy sauce might not have the same texture when you reheat it. It might separate.
Let's be honest. Chicken pasta recipes can get boring and repetitive. Not in this recipe! Here, you sear the chicken (with spices), then mix it with vegetables, bacon, and coat it in garlic cream sauce. So good! This chicken and bacon pasta recipe is so easy to make and uses such basic ingredients, that you can easily make it on a regular busy weeknight!
Deliciously creamy homemade alfredo sauce perfectly combines all the flavors in this chicken and bacon pasta: garlic, spinach, tomatoes, and lots of spices! So tasty, you might want to double the recipe!
How to make chicken pasta
1) In a large skillet, on high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or tenderloins) and cook on one side on medium-high heat for about 4 minutes.
2) While the chicken cooks sprinkle the uncooked sides of the chicken with paprika and Italian seasoning.
3) Flip the chicken over, and cook on the other side for 3 minutes on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low-medium, flip the chicken over again and cook, covered, for several more minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep the chicken warm.
4) To the same pan (but without chicken), add heavy cream and bring to boil. Add shredded Parmesan cheese. Reduce to simmer (low-medium heat) and stir, while simmering, until the cheese melts and the sauce is creamy, for about 1 or 3 minutes.
5) To the same pan with the creamy sauce, add chopped tomatoes, spinach, garlic, crushed red pepper. Stir in the sauce on medium heat just until the spinach starts to wilt and sinks into the sauce. Add ⅓ of the cooked chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon (already cooked and drained of fat). Mix everything.
6) In the meantime, bring a large pan of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
7) Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce.
8) When ready to serve, top the pasta with the remaining half of bacon (already cooked and drained of fat) and the remaining ⅔ of the cooked chicken (sliced into thin strips).
9) Sprinkle the pasta with finely shredded Parmesan cheese.
What to serve with the chicken pasta:
A salad, of course! I would serve a very simple and basic salad (that you don't even need a recipe for) with greens, such as simple spinach salad with parmesan and pine nuts or arugula salad with balsamic dressing.
If you want a more sophisticated salad, I would serve this chicken pasta with a delicious cranberry spinach salad with cashews and goat cheese. I also highly recommend this amazing arugula salad with apples, cranberries, and pecans or tomato cucumber avocado salad with basil pesto.
Other Chicken Pasta Recipes:
I love making chicken pasta recipes with a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, bacon, or cream-based sauces. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken and Mozzarella
- Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes
- Chicken Zucchini Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese
Chicken and Bacon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb chicken (skinless, boneless chicken breasts or tenderloins)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (thyme, oregano, basil - combined)
- salt to taste
- 1.5 cups heavy cream
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 5 tomatoes (medium, chopped in large cubes)
- 3 cups fresh spinach or 1 cup cooked spinach
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes crushed
- 6 bacon strips cooked, drained off fat, and chopped
- 10 oz penne pasta (for gluten-free version, use gluten-free brown-rice penne)
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese shredded, for serving
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, on medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook on one side on medium-high heat for 4 minutes. While it cooks, sprinkle the uncooked sides of the chicken with paprika, Italian seasoning, and salt. Flip the chicken over, and cook on the other side for 3 more minutes on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low-medium, flip chicken over again and cook, covered, for several minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken from the pan and keep chicken warm.
- To the same pan (but without chicken), add heavy cream and bring to boil. Only after the heavy cream starts boiling, add shredded Parmesan cheese. Immediately reduce to simmer (low-medium heat) and stir, while simmering, until the cheese melts and the sauce is creamy, for about 1 or 3 minutes.
- To the same pan with the creamy sauce, add chopped tomatoes, fresh spinach, garlic, crushed red pepper. Stir in the sauce on medium heat just until the spinach starts to wilt and sinks into the sauce. Add ⅓ of the cooked chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon (already cooked and drained of fat). Mix everything. Remove from heat.
- In the meantime bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta, and cook according to instructions (usually 10 to 15 minutes). Drain the pasta.
- Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce and reheat on low heat. When ready to serve, top the pasta with the remaining half of bacon (cooked, drained of fat, chopped, gently reheated) and the remaining ⅔ of the cooked chicken (sliced into small strips, gently reheated). This is done for presentation purposes.
- When serving, top the pasta with ½ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Looks delicious!! If not using fresh tomatoes, what size can of diced tomatoes should I use?
Odete, I would use a small can - about 14 oz. Enjoy!
Can you bake this dish please
Narelle, yes, you can (I should really post the baked version of this recipe).
➡️ Preheat oven to 375 F.
➡️ Cook the chicken, cook the pasta and drain. Combine cooked chicken, cooked and drained pasta, cooked bacon, and veggies in a baking dish. Add spices (per recipe). Pour the cream. Top with shredded cheese.
➡️ Bake at 375 F in the preheated oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
➡️ Then, broil for 3-4 minutes, until nicely browned on top. Make sure not to burn the top of the pasta bake.
Can you vary the recipe so there isn't a day's worth of cholesterol and sat fat in a serving? Any way to make it more healthy??????
It looks fantastic but my jaw dropped when I saw the nutrition.
To reduce fat, I would use regular milk instead of cream and skip the cheese. In this case, make a roux with a small amount of olive oil and flour, and then gradually whisk in the milk while everything simmers (in the same way as you would make a Bechamel sauce). I would add more paprika, more garlic, and maybe a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice (since there will be a flavor loss from omitting cheese).
When I cook with Parmesan it has been impossible to stir once cold. Any tips?
Betsy, do you mean that it's hard to reheat this after refrigerating? I think this dish would reheat better in an ovenproof dish in the preheated oven at 350 F - for about 10 or 15 minutes.
Are you using fresh tomatoes or can tomatoes?
Cordelia, I used fresh tomatoes. But you can use canned tomatoes, too. If using canned tomatoes, I would add everything from the can (including the juices) because that will just make more sauce without the necessity to add more cream.
Do you have to use bacon?
Cecy, you don't have to. Skip it and add "smoky" flavor by using smoked paprika to taste.