Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta is a great choice for a simple weeknight dinner. The recipe uses basic everyday ingredients and is perfect for family meals. You can use homemade or store-bought basil pesto.
Chicken Pesto Pasta – versatile and easily adjustable recipe
This chicken pesto pasta is one of those recipes that you can easily adapt to what you have on hand. The main ingredients, of course, include the basil pesto, chicken breasts (seared and thinly sliced), and pasta. Basil pesto always goes well with tomatoes, so I highly recommend that you incorporate fresh tomatoes in this recipe. I used cherry tomatoes that I roasted in olive oil and garlic at the same time I prepared the pasta – they were a wonderful addition! You can also add sliced fresh tomatoes without roasting them, use sun-dried tomatoes, or skip them altogether.
What type of pasta to use
Because this recipe uses small-size ingredients, such as sliced chicken and roasted tomatoes, I recommend that you use short pasta, such as farfalle (bow-tie pasta), fusilli (spiral pasta), penne, or rigatoni.
How to make Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Prepare the chicken by seasoning it with paprika, salt, and pepper. Use thinly sliced chicken breasts – this will shorten the cooking time considerably. This recipe uses 1.5 lb chicken which usually equates to 2 large chicken breasts. Slice each one in half horizontally before searing.
- Sear the chicken in olive oil, seasoned with paprika, salt, and pepper, on medium-high heat until it’s no longer pink in the center. When the chicken is done, remove it to a plate and slice it thinly.
- Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package instructions. That usually means 10 or 15 minutes. Drain.
- Make the sauce by adding basil pesto and cream, to the pan. Add cooked and drained pasta. Toss and reheat gently.
- Roast cherry tomatoes tossed in olive oil and minced garlic while you prepare the chicken pesto pasta.
- Assemble the pasta adding sliced cooked chicken and roasted cherry tomatoes on top of pasta with pesto sauce.
Below are some photos illustrating the cooking process:
What to serve with chicken pesto pasta
- A slice of garlic bread or olive bread.
- A side salad, such as this simple spinach salad or arugula salad with pine nuts.
Cooking Tips and Recipe Notes
- This is a great recipe to use leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken. Just throw it together with the pasta, heat it through, and serve!
- The cream is optional. The heavy cream adds creaminess to the sauce and also balances out the basil pesto flavor which can be quite strong. However, you can omit the cream altogether. Either version of the pasta will be delicious!
- Add cheese. You can add freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of chicken pesto pasta.
- Add pine nuts as a topping. Since basil pesto is usually made with pine nuts, it’s only logical to use whole pine nuts as topping for the pesto pasta, if you wish. I did, and they added an amazing extra flavor touch!
- Add veggies. Tomatoes roasted in olive oil and garlic are a great addition to chicken pesto pasta. You can also use regular tomatoes (without roasting them first), sun-dried tomatoes, or mushrooms.
- Make it spicy. Add red pepper flakes if you would like to make your pasta spicy.
- Serving size. The recipe uses 8 ounces of pasta which makes a total of 4 servings.
Other chicken pesto pasta recipes
This delicious Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta is a great choice for a simple weeknight dinner. The recipe uses basic everyday ingredients and is perfect for family meals. You can use store-bought basil pesto or make your own.
- 10 oz cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1.5 lb chicken breast (2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 8 oz pasta (bow-tie, penne, or fusilli)
- 1/4 cup basil pesto
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic. Spread in a casserole dish. Roast for about 20 minutes while you prepare the pasta.
Prepare the chicken. This recipe uses 1.5 lb of chicken breasts which usually means 2 large chicken breasts. Make sure to use thinly sliced chicken breasts. Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally. Season them with salt, pepper, and paprika.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet until hot. Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes per each side until it's cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate. Slice it thinly.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
Add cooked and drained pasta, basil pesto, and cream to the same skillet that you used to sear chicken. Stir gently and bring to simmer to coat pasta with sauce.
Top with sliced cooked chicken, roasted tomatoes and pine nuts (optional). Season with extra salt and pepper or add crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.
- Adjust the amount of basil pesto. This recipe uses 1/4 cup of pesto. Feel free to add extra tablespoons of pesto to your taste.
- Add extra toppings. Lightly toasted pine nuts and freshly grated Parmesan cheese add extra flavor and texture.
- Use extra veggies. If you want to add more vegetables, add sliced fresh tomatoes, sliced cooked asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, or mushrooms.
- Add spiciness. Add red pepper flakes if you would like to make your pasta spicy.
- Adjust seasonings. Even though the basil pesto tends to be salty, do taste the final dish before serving and season it with extra salt and pepper, if needed.