Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta

Chicken Pesto Pasta is full of flavorful chicken and tender pasta in a creamy, cheesy pesto sauce. It’s quick and easy, coming together in under 30 minutes.

A skillet with pasta and chicken in a creamy pesto sauce

My Chicken Pesto Pasta recipe is a family favorite and a great way to use my nut-free pesto. It’s easy to make – I just whip it up in my food processor. Serve with a side of broccoli or a simple Garden Salad for a complete meal.

Table of Contents
  1. Why We Love This Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe
  2. Ingredients for Chicken Pesto Pasta
  3. How to Make Chicken Pesto Pasta
  4. FAQs
  5. Serving Suggestions and Variations
  6. Storage and Freezing
  7. Expert Tips
  8. More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love
  9. Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe

Why We Love This Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe

Fast – This pesto chicken pasta is a quick and easy 30 minute meal!

Ultra creamy and cheesy – Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses blend together with the Pesto to make a supremely luscious sauce.

Great for leftovers – If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, this dish reheats beautifully.

Ingredients for Chicken Pesto Pasta

This recipe for Chicken Pesto Pasta combines my Nut Free Pesto and a creamy cheese sauce for a truly magical dish. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples you probably already have on hand.

  • Pasta – I chose penne pasta, but you can use any small cut pasta like farfalle or rotini. You could even use fettuccine or spaghetti if you like.
  • Chicken breast – You need 1 pound of chicken which is usually 2-3 chicken breasts. Chicken tenders will work too since you’re going to cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.
  • Fresh garlic and Italian seasoning for the chicken.
  • The cheese sauce – Flour and butter to make a roux, chicken broth, heavy cream, Parmesan, and Mozzarella cheeses.
  • Pesto – Fresh is best, and you can use one of my recipes for Nut Free Pesto or Walnut Basil Pesto Recipe. You only need about half a cup and the leftover can be added to scrambled eggs or spread on Crostini to make Pesto Bruschetta. If you need something quick, there are plenty of delicious jarred options as well.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil – optional, for garnish.

How to Make Chicken Pesto Pasta

Be sure to check the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions.

  1. Cook chicken in a pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat with some garlic and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper and set cooked chicken aside on a plate. Use the same skillet to make the creamy pesto sauce described below.
  2. Cook your favorite pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta really well and set it aside with the chicken.
  3. Combine the chicken, pasta, and sauce together in the skillet. Serve with fresh chopped basil for garnish.

Creamy Pesto Sauce

The creamy pesto sauce is similar to an Alfredo but not quite as heavy. It starts as a sort of bechamel, then Parmesan adds a nice bite while Mozzarella makes it super creamy.

  1. Melt some butter in a deep skillet or saute pan, then whisk in flour. Let it cook for a few minutes until it’s like a thick paste and golden in color.
  2. Pour in chicken broth and milk or cream. Nonfat milk will cut some calories but a cream or even half and half will make it more smooth and creamy, so I use a combination of both. Let the sauce simmer for several minutes until it’s thick. Don’t boil it or it could scorch. You just want a nice simmer with bubbles coming to the top.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in pesto and cheese. Add to the finished dish.
images in a collage showing how to make cremay pesto sauce

FAQs

What kind of pasta does pesto go with?

I love penne, rotini, or farfalle (butterfly) pasta with this recipe. But you can put pesto on just about anything from spaghetti and fettuccine to macaroni!

What is pesto sauce made of?

Pesto sauce is traditionally made with fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. I make mine with sunflower seeds to keep it nut-free. In place of the pine nuts, you can also use walnuts, cashews, or macadamia nuts.

I absolutely recommend making your own pesto. There are just a few ingredients and you can whip it up quickly in your food processor. Fresh really does taste so much better.

Is pesto pasta healthy?

Pesto is made from basil, pine nuts, and olive oil all of which have heart-healthy benefits. Mixed with pasta and cheese, it’s certainly an indulgence, but just keep in mind that you can enjoy just about anything in moderation.

If you’re looking for a healthier dish, you can eliminate the cheese sauce altogether and just add pesto and some fresh parmesan to the pasta and chicken.

A close up of pasta and chicken with creamy pesto sauce

Serving Suggestions and Variations

With chicken, pasta, and a creamy pesto sauce, this is a pretty heavy meal. I like to serve it with a simple garden salad on the side. If I’m feeding a larger crowd, I’ll whip up a loaf of garlic bread, too.

Another option is to add some veggies to the pasta. Fresh spinach, kale, or sun-dried tomatoes could simply be added and simmered with the sauce. Or sauteed broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, or cherry tomatoes would all be fantastic.

Storage and Freezing

Storing: Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze them for up to 4 months. Thaw in the fridge when you are ready to eat.

Reheating: I recommend reheating on the stove, at a low heat and adding a couple splashes of milk to keep it creamy. You can also reheat in the microwave, gently, for 60-90 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds to keep the sauce from breaking.

Expert Tips

  • Make this a meatless dish and forego the chicken.
  • Use leftover or rotisserie chicken breast instead of cooking the chicken. If you do pre-cooked chicken, saute it with some garlic and Italian seasoning to give it a little flavor, just for a few minutes.
  • I recommend using chicken breasts rather than thighs or dark meat, which can be a little greasy in this recipe.
  • Cook chicken in a single layer so it will cook and brown evenly.
  • Remove the pan from the heat when adding the pesto and cheese.
  • The mozzarella can seize up if you don’t get it blended in right away. Mix quickly. You could also add the mozzarella a little at a time, stirring well to blend it in each time. Same with the parmesan.
a white bowl with chicken pesto pasta in a creamy pesto sauce

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

Looking for some more easy pasta recipes to add to your recipe box? Try these:


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A pan filled with Chicken and Pasta, topped with a creamy pesto sauce.

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta

Chicken Pesto Pasta has pasta and chicken coated in a creamy, cheesy pesto sauce. It's an easy, delicious meal that's ready in 30 minutes!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 784kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ½ pound penne pasta about 2 ½ cups dry (half of a one pound box)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half or all milk/cream
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Mozzarella
  • ½ cup fresh basil pesto or more, to taste
  • Fresh basil for garnish, if desired

Instructions
 

  • Boil pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat and olive oil, then add minced garlic, italian seasoning and diced chicken breast. Season with salt and pepper and cook until chicken is no longer pink, stirring chicken a couple of times to brown on all sides. Transfer chicken to a plate and discard any liquid in the skillet.
  • Return skillet to the stove over medium heat and melt butter. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, about 3 minutes.
  • Whisk in chicken broth and half & half and bring to a boil. If it begins to boil too rapidly, turn the heat down a little. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
  • Remove from heat and stir in pesto and cheeses. Add the pasta and chicken and stir to coat. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and fresh cracked black pepper.

Notes

Optional add-ins: fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, yellow squash, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes.
The mozzarella can seize up if you don’t get it blended in right away. Mix quickly. You could also try adding half of the mozzarella at a time, stirring well to blend it in each time. 
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days, or up to 4 months in the freezer. Make sure to cool completely first.
To reheat, thaw completely in the fridge then I recommend reheating on the stove, at a low heat and adding a little bit of milk to help keep it from drying out.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 784kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 47gFat: 41gSaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 146mgSodium: 1082mgPotassium: 709mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 1345IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 425mgIron: 2mg
Keyword chicken pesto, creamy pesto sauce, pesto pasta

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. I am with Eva’s comment, I wish saw her comment was there when I first looked at this recipe! A Bag mozzarella would probably be better than fresh mozzarella and don’t give option of half and half, milk or cream. I used cream and with fresh mozzarella turn out to big whole glob of sauce. I tired to thin it out added more chicken broth and pesto…didn’t help much!

  2. I think 1 cup mozz was too much. It turned the sauce into glue. I had to end up using more pesto. Full amount of the small har that I took 1/2 cup from to thin it out, but did not work. Turned the heat back on after adding pasta and sundried tomatoes and added more chicken stock. Probably close to a cup more. Helped thined it out a bit. Flavors are on point tho. Delicious

  3. This recipe is so good! Tried it last night and it turned out amazing. I didn’t have half and half or regular milk so I used almond milk and it worked fine! Definitely will be saving this recipe to make again.

    1. I recommend cooking them separately, either in a skillet or roasting in the oven, and just stir them in at the end. Fresh would be good, too.

  4. This is a family favourite in my house. We brown a heap of pinenuts and roast cherry tomatoes to add in the mix, too.

  5. I sautéed onion. Garlic and mushrooms with my chicken. I also grated 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 medium onion into the roux before adding my liquids.
    Delucious!

  6. Hi! I’m trying this recipe tonight because I have my bother and nephew over for dinner. So I’m making it x8. Does the 784k calories mean it’s 784 thousand calories per serving!?

    1. No. Kcalories are 1:1 calories. It’s just a unit of measurement used by the recipe card program that determines nutritional values.

  7. Oh my gosh, girlfriend! I’ve made at least a dozen of your recipes before and this one is OUT OF THIS WORLD, holy cow! So delicious and creamy. Can’t wait for leftovers! Thank you so much!

    IG @ourcrowsnest5

    1. Yes it’s in the recipe card. It’s definitely an indulgent meal, but you cuold stretch it to feed 6 if you make the servings smaller and serve with a salad or add some veggies.

  8. My family loved it! They loved the flavor they loved that it didn’t take long to cook. It was great, thank you for sharing!

  9. I somehow made mine too thick I think! It tastes great but when you try to spoon the sauce it looks like a cheese pull when you break a mozzarella stick in half. What did I do?

    1. Hi Mackenzie. Sometimes if you don’t mix it in quickly enough, or in a clump, the mozzarella can seize up and firm back up. Try sprinkling in half at a time and stirring it in in batches.