Chicken Pasta with Bacon, 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 creamy homemade Alfredo sauce made with Parmesan cheese.
This chicken and bacon pasta recipe is a true comfort food! 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 I ever made!
- Use thin 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?
- Half-and-half is the US milk product that combines 1/2 whole milk and 1/2 heavy cream or whipping cream to form a lighter cream (unlike heavy cream).
- Substitute 1/2 cup of milk + 1/2 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 stove top 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 chicken breasts (or tenderloins) and cook on one side on high heat for 1 minute.
2) While the chicken cooks, sprinkle the uncooked sides of chicken with paprika and Italian seasoning.
3) Flip the chicken over, and cook on the other side for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to 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), on medium heat, add chopped tomatoes, spinach, garlic, crushed red pepper, 1/3 of the chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon (it should be already cooked and drained of fat).
5) Mix everything well.
6) Add half and half to the skillet and bring to boil. Only after half and half starts boiling, add shredded Parmesan cheese:
7) Immediately reduce the sauce to simmer and stir, while simmering, until the cheese melts and makes the sauce creamy, only about 1 minute (at most 2 minutes). Then, immediately remove from heat. Season with more crushed red pepper and salt, if needed.
8) In the mean time, bring a large pan of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain
9) Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce.
10) Add remaining half of bacon (already cooked and drained of fat).
11) Season with more salt if necessary.
12) Slice the remaining 2/3 of chicken into thin strips.
13) Top the pasta with chicken strips and finely shredded Parmesan cheese.
What to serve with 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 spinach salad or arugula salad with toasted nuts, such as almonds or pecans, with a dressing made with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or, you can also use creamy dressing, in which case add tomatoes and avocados to your greens.
If you want a more sophisticated salad, I would serve this chicken pasta with my absolute current favorite avocado salad with mozzarella and basil pesto. I also highly recommend this amazing beet salad with spinach, goat cheese, and cashews, and a beautiful strawberry spinach salad.
Other Chicken Pasta Recipes:
I love making chicken pasta recipes with cream-based sauces. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Combine basil pesto with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, chicken and short pasta (penne) in this delicious Mushroom Chicken Pasta with creamy Pesto sauce and sun-dried tomatoes
- Make the pasta that tastes just like spinach artichoke dip and add chicken to make it dinner worthy using this recipe for Spinach and Artichoke Chicken Pasta with Bacon and Tomatoes in Asiago Cream Sauce
- Chicken, bacon, and green peas go really well together with the creamy and spicy tomato and cream based sauce here: Spicy Chicken Pasta with Bacon and Peas
- One of the all time favorite pasta recipes on my site is this Chicken Mozzarella Pasta
Chicken pasta recipes can get boring. Not this Italian-inspired recipe! You'll fall in love with the flavors in this Chicken Pasta with Bacon, Spinach, and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce. Easy weeknight dinner that the whole family will love! Sliced chicken breast and bacon are tossed with veggies and penne pasta in a delicious, creamy, homemade alfredo sauce made with Parmesan cheese.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb chicken (chicken breasts or tenderloins)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (thyme, oregano, basil - combined)
- 5 tomatoes (medium, chopped in large cubes)
- 1 cup spinach cooked
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes , crushed
- 6 bacon strips , COOKED, DRAINED OF FAT, AND CHOPPED
- 1 1/3 cups half and half
- 1 1/3 cups Parmesan cheese , shredded
- 10 oz penne pasta (for gluten-free version, use gluten-free brown-rice penne)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese , shredded, for serving
- In a large skillet, on high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add chicken and cook on one side on high heat for 1 minute. While it cooks, sprinkle the uncooked sides of the chicken with paprika and Italian seasoning. Flip the chicken over, and cook on the other side for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to 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 chopped tomatoes, spinach, garlic, crushed red pepper, 1/3 of the chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon (already cooked and drained of fat). Mix everything.
Add half and half and bring to boil. Only after half and half starts boiling, add shredded Parmesan cheese - immediately reduce to simmer and stir, while simmering, until the cheese melts and makes the sauce creamy, only about 1 minute (at most 2 minutes). Then, immediately remove from heat. Season with more crushed red pepper and salt, if needed.
- In the mean time bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook it according to instructions. Drain the pasta, rinse with cold water and drain again.
Add pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Add remaining half of bacon (cooked and drained of fat). Season with more salt if necessary. Slice the remaining 2/3 of chicken into thin strips. To serve, top the pasta with chicken strips and shredded Parmesan cheese.
WHAT IS HALF AND HALF? Substitute 1/2 cup of milk + 1/2 cup of heavy cream for 1 cup of half-and-half.