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.

My Chicken Pesto Pasta recipe is a family favorite and a great way to use my nut-free pesto. Serve with a side of broccoli or a simple Garden Salad for a complete meal.

A skillet with pasta and chicken in a creamy pesto sauce

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.

  • 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

  1. Cook chicken in a pan on the stovetop 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 water 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

Expert Tips and Tricks

  • Make this a meatless dish and forego the chicken.
  • Or, use leftover or rotisserie chicken breast.
  • I recommend using chicken breasts rather then 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 try adding the mozzarella a little at a time, stirring well to blend it in each time. Same with the parmesan.
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, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, or cherry tomatoes would all be fantastic. Saute veggies separately and add to the finished dish.

Storage and Freezing

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. I recommend reheating on the stove, at a low heat and adding a couple splashes of milk to keep it creamy.

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. So delicious! I added about half the amount of pesto suggested ( I find pesto to be pretty strong) and it turned out perfect.

  2. I love this recipe!!! I want to gift one to a new mom and I was wondering how you would recommend freezing it?
    Would it be better to freeze it after it’s all prepared before baking or after baking it?

    1. There are instructions within the post, but I’ll make sure they’re in the notes too. You can freeze as a fully prepared meal, just make sure to let it cool completely first. Instruct your recipient to thaw the dish completely, and reheat on the stove in a large pan at low heat. Baking again could cause the cheese sauce to separate.

  3. This dish tastes amazing! However, if you want it to turn out looking like the picture…double the chicken and pasta.
    I sadly ended up with WAY too much sauce and it drowned everything.

  4. I tried making this tonight but as soon as I added the flour to the butter it turned into dough almost ! I’m from the UK so have different measurements but I’m sure I did as I was told. What kind of flour do you use ? Thanks

    1. Hi Dean, It’a all-purpose flour. The measurements are correct in the recipe. When you add the flour to the melted butter, it makes a roux, which looks a little like crumbled dough. Once you add the cream and chicken broth though, it should simply thicken the liquid to form a sauce.

    1. Hi Mary, You are free to look around and see if anything appeals to you, but no we don’t have any keto specific recipes.

  5. This was so yummy that even my picky kids ate it! My husband said it tasted like something you would eat at a restaurant. I halfed the mozzarella and used lactose free 2 percent milk instead of half-and-half to make it easier on lactose-sensitive stomachs.

  6. SO DELICIOUS ??? Did exactly what you aren’t supposed to do and made this for the first time for friends coming to dinner and it was a hit! Easy and incredibly tasty!

    1. Hi Amanda, in the post I talk about what to serve with the pasta. It’s a pretty heavy dish, so I recommend some veggies or a salad.

    1. Hi Lara, I mentioned my Nut Free Pesto in the post, but I also have a Walnut Basil Pesto recipe. In the nut free version, you could swap the sunflower seeds for pine nuts or really any nut you like. Cashews are great too. The nut free is my go-to because my son has a severe nut allergy.

    1. I would add it while simmering the sauce for 5 minutes. If will wilt during that time. If you want it to wilt less add with the cheese after removed from heat.

  7. I made this and being the knucklehead I am, put in too much cheese! So it became VERY thick. That’s okay. I just put more chicken broth in until it reached the right consistency. Thought I would share that tip, just in case someone goes cheese crazy like me! Thank you for the recipe! It was amazing!

  8. Hi. I was wondering if I could substitute the cream with coconut cream? Would it be less calories and still taste ok?

  9. The recipe says it makes 4 servings, do you know about how much one serving size is? Trying to decide if I should double the recipe for a family of four

    1. It makes 4 generous servings. Should be fine for a family of 4. It feeds my family of 3 adults and 2 teens.

  10. this sounds ,more like pasta alfredo with pesto mixed in… this is not a pesto sauce…..This is not pesto sauce… Sorry. this is alfredo sauce with pesto mixed in. Not Pesto sauce !!!!!!

    1. You are awfully feisty about some pasta there Brian. It’s a creamy pesto pasta. Creamy, meaning cream and pesto because there’s pesto in it. Simmer down now.

  11. A must try!! I made this for my family last night, and they’re still raving about it today. Funny too-My Mom didn’t sound too impressed when I said I was making pesto pasta, but she absolutely loved it. Delicious dish!!

  12. I made this tonight and packed up servings for my adult kids as takeout… trying to still distance. It was a big hit with us all!

  13. This recipe is one of those rare “unicorn” recipes! You know the ones…where everyone in the family loves it. Everyone is happy. So delicious. Very easy to make & with items I typically have on hand. Thank you so much for giving us a new family favorite!