This creamy pesto chicken pasta recipe is a quick and easy dinner option for pasta lovers. Tender penne tossed in rich and flavorful parmesan and pesto sauce with juicy chicken pieces, all made in one pot!
If you love all things pasta like I do, then you’ll also want to try my recipes for Spicy Tomato Garlic Shrimp Pasta, Easy White Chicken Lasagna With Spinach, or this Baked Ziti With Ricotta and Sausage.
I do a lot of thinking about the foods I like to eat, the recipes you all request, and then factor in the kinds of ingredients that are family-friendly and quick to cook. That’s where this delicious pasta dish comes in. I think it’s all the things we all want, cooked together in one pot for easy clean up. Plus, there are no fancy or hard-to-find ingredients; in fact, you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen right now!
Why This Recipe Works
Quick – How’s 30 minutes for a delicious pesto pasta, one-pot dish sound? And that’s including cooking the chicken and the pasta! It doesn’t get much faster than that!
Pesto – I’m all about the marinara – usually! Pesto is one of those condiments (sauces?) that I love but often forget to the tried-and-true marinara. But not this time. The herby, cheesy, garlicky goodness of pesto can’t be beat in this creamy pesto chicken pasta dish.
One pot – One pot wonders have rescued me from dinner dish hell more times than I can count! The pasta cooks right in the pot too alongside everything else so you don’t have to worry about cooking a separate pasta pan either. Clean up is a breeze!
Great leftovers – I sometimes get upset when everyone devours this dish because that means no leftovers for me while everyone’s at school. But should you be lucky enough to have it the next day (or maybe even the next, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves), you’ll be ever so grateful.
- Olive Oil — I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil but you can use whatever olive oil you prefer.
- Butter — I use unsalted butter but you can use salted — just be sure not to overdo the salt when you add to taste later.
- Onion — A finely chopped white or yellow onion here is best in this penne dish.
- Garlic — I use jarred, minced garlic but you can mince your own if you prefer.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts — cut the chicken breast into ½ inch chunks for even cooking. You could also substitute rotisserie chicken if you prefer.
- Flour — All purpose flour is great.
- Salt — I use a fine grain kosher salt to salt almost all of my dishes.
- Chicken Broth — Use low sodium chicken broth. You could also use vegetable broth if you have it on hand.
- Heavy Cream — Any store-bought or name-brand heavy cream is great in this recipe.
- Penne — I use penne but you could also use butterfly, ziti, or bow tie pasta.
- Pesto Sauce — Use your favorite pesto brand from the store or make your own using this recipe here.
- Parmesan Cheese — Parmesan cheese makes an excellent topping for this penne dish right off of the stove. Other great toppings include sun dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil.
Here’s How You Make It
- The first thing I do is get out my trusty, deep, 12″ skillet. That puppy has pulled off many a mean pasta meal. Then, I add the oil and butter and heat them together over medium heat. Once those are heated through and the butter is nice and melty and done foaming, I add in the onion and garlic and sauté until they are nice and fragrant and soft, about 2-3 minutes.
- Next, I add in the chicken, letting that cook for a minute with the oil, butter, garlic, and onions. I sprinkle in the flour and salt and give it all another stir. (This is the part that gives the chicken a nice coat and helps makes the dish creamy.) I pour in the broth and cream and keep stirring, stirring, stirring, then turn the heat up to let the whole pot come back up to a boil.
- Next, I stir in the pasta noodles, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover the pan with a lid. Allow this to cook another 12-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
- Finally, remove the lid and stir in the pesto until it’s all incorporated, then take the pan off the heat, top with parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.
How Do You Make Pesto?
It’s no secret that I love all things pesto. love it so much, I make my own probably once a month or more. When I don’t have time to make pesto, I use the store-bought kind which is also delicious!
To make your own (following my own recipe), all you need is a few ingredients and a food processor or blender. My recipe combines basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Blend all of this together and keep in a jar or airtight container in the fridge for up to one week — if you can wait that long to use it in this pesto chicken dish.
Is Pesto Healthier Than Tomato Sauce?
It’s true that creamier sauces that feature lots of oil and dairy products, such as pesto, and alfredo sauces do contain more fat and calories than regular red sauce which is made from mostly tomatoes and herbs.
However, pesto sauce is a bit of an exception in that the ingredients for pesto (olive oil, and pine nuts) contain the healthy kinds of fat — unsaturated fats that are good for your heart. Of course, the Parmesan cheese adds saturated (unhealthy) fat, but you can adjust or eliminate this ingredient if you are watching your saturated fat intake.
- Use my favorite, 5-minute fresh homemade pesto recipe!
- Jarred pesto sauce is a wonderful thing. It makes a great, herby, green sauce and is perfectly acceptable to the homemade version!
- Make a creamy pesto sauce all by itself by adding a jar of pesto to a saucepan over medium heat. Add heavy cream and butter to the pan with the pesto and stir it all together with a wooden spoon until everything is blended together and reaches the level of creaminess that you desire. Let the whole mixture simmer another 5-10 minutes to allow it to all come together and even reduce a bit. Use over pasta, with pesto chicken, or as a fondue dip.
More Dinner Recipes You’ll Love
- Baked Salmon with Pesto Cream Sauce
- Tuscan Garlic Chicken
- Gnocchi in Tomato Cream Sauce
- Baked Pork Chops with Dijon Cream Sauce
- Four Cheese Baked Ziti
Did you make this super easy pesto chicken pasta recipe? EXCELLENT! Please rate the recipe below!
Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe
- 1 tablespoon olive oil butter
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ onion - chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts - cut into ½ inch chunks
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt - plus more to taste
- 2 ½ cups chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces penne, butterfly, or ziti pasta
- ⅓ cup prepared pesto sauce
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Heat the oil and butter in a large (12-inch), 2-inch deep skillet over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, stir in the onion and garlic until softened and fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the chicken and cook for 1 minute, then sprinkle salt and flour over the chicken, stirring to coat.
- Gradually stir in the broth, and then the cream. Raise the heat and bring to a boil.
- Stir in the pasta noodles. Bring the heat down to a low simmer and cover the pan. Cook 12-15 minutes until pasta is tender.
- Remove from heat and stir in the pesto until incorporated. Remove from heat, top with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.