August 1, 2022
This pesto chicken pasta is the perfect midweek dinner that checks all the boxes: simple, flavorful, and everyone in the family will eat!
Every bite is full of delicious pesto flavor, making it an irresistible meal that’s filling and nutritious.
Healthy Chicken Pesto Pasta
While some nights I make pesto pasta and call it a meal, by adding chicken to the recipe I’m able to increase the protein per serving and turn it into a healthy meal.
Other than how delicious this recipe is, both chicken and pasta are two low-fat ingredients that keep bellies full -win win!
And unlike most recipes on the internet for creamy chicken pasta with pesto that include cream cheese and shredded cheeses plus cream, this recipe is lighter by only using a little half and half and utilizing chicken broth to make a sauce.
One bite and this too will become your go-to pesto pasta recipe with chicken.
What Pasta Goes Well with Pesto
While all pasta varieties pair great with the pesto’s flavor profile, you’ll nearly always see penne, bowtie, elbows, and even baked ziti as a suggestion because the sauce will get trapped inside each bite.
Pesto is a pasta lover’s best friend and is also terrific with classic shapes like spaghetti, fettuccini, and angel hair.
Combining simple ingredients is what this pesto chicken pasta is all about! Stop stressing over complicated recipes and ingredients and make this one instead.
Print the recipe card below or browse to see what’s included:
- Olive oil: for cooking.
- Onion: a great aromatic to get started.
- Garlic cloves: pre-minced garlic is always a great option, too.
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts: Diced into bite-size pieces so they cook faster.
- Chicken broth: or chicken stock work best.
- Heavy cream or half & half: use whichever you have on hand.
- Penne pasta: to trap all the pesto flavors inside.
- Pesto: store-bought or homemade pesto.
- Parmesan cheese: Add as much as you’d like!
How to Make Chicken Pesto Pasta
All you need are 10 minutes to prep this simple pasta dish. Here are the step-by-step directions to get started. (the full printable recipe card can be found below)
- Get sautéeing
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes; add the garlic, and continue cooking until the onions have softened.
- Cook the chicken
Add the chicken pieces to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, long enough to sear on all sides.
- Add the liquids
Slowly pour in the chicken broth and cream or half and half and scrape the tidbits from the chicken left at the bottom of the pan while stirring.
- Add the pasta
Bring the mixture to a boil, add the pasta, and mix to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan with the lid, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until the pasta is tender.
Open the lid, and stir in the pesto until incorporated and heated through. Turn off the heat, add the parmesan cheese, stir to combine, and serve.
Watch this quick video to see the magic happen!
How Long to Cook the Pasta
In this recipe, the pasta cooks directly in the pan and will absorb the liquids in it. It will need to cook, simmering, for about 12 to 15 minutes, making sure to stir throughout.
Since the pasta cooks with the chicken and other ingredients, it will also pick up on all the flavors that are in the pan.
Recipe Swaps and Additions
Consider this recipe the stepping stone to your pesto chicken pasta dreams. While it’s great as is, you can also:
- Add bacon: crumble a few pieces cooked crispy over the top as a finishing touch.
- Swap cheeses: out of Parmesan? use Pecorino, mozzarella, Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese.
- Add veggies: add more nutrition by adding a few handfuls of fresh spinach, broccoli, or asparagus.
- Use gluten-free pasta: you can use your favorite brand of gluten-free pasta in this recipe and increase the cooking time by approximately 3-ish minutes since gluten-free pasta tends to have a longer cooking time.
Pesto Chicken Pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 12 ounces chicken thighs or breasts, boneless, skinless, and diced
- 3 cups chicken broth
- ¼ cup heavy cream or half & half
- 12 ounces penne pasta
- ⅓ cup pesto, store-bought or homemade pesto
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, more for serving
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes, add the garlic, and continue cooking until the onions have softened.
- Add the chicken pieces to the pan and cook, for about 5 minutes, long enough to sear on all sides.
- Slowly pour in the chicken broth and cream and scrape the tidbits from the chicken left at the bottom of the pan while stirring.
- Bring mixture to a boil, add the pasta, and mix to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan with the lid, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until the pasta is tender.
- Open the lid, stir in the pesto until incorporated and heated through. Turn off the heat, add the parmesan cheese, stir to combine, and serve.