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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
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Why We Love This Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe

This 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 copycat Olive Garden Salad for a complete meal.

It’s also…

  • 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.

What you need

Ingredients

This recipe 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.
  • 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. 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

See recipe card below for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

This recipe is pretty easy to make as long as you follow the steps: cook the chicken, cook the pasta, make the cheese sauce, then bring it all together.

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. Pasta – Cook your favorite pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta really well and set it aside with the chicken.
  2. Chicken – Cut into bite-sized pieces and cook chicken with Italian seasoning, garlic salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and use the same skillet for the sauce.
  3. Pesto Cheese Sauce – Cook melted butter with flour to make a roux, then add milk, half and half or heavy cream to thicken. Simmer, then add cheeses and pesto, stirring to melt completely.
  4. Finish and Serve – Combine the chicken, pasta, and sauce together in the skillet. Serve with fresh chopped basil for garnish.
images in a collage showing how to make cremay pesto sauce

What is Pesto Sauce?

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.

A close up of pasta and chicken with creamy pesto sauce

Serving Suggestions and Variations

  • Add a side: 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.
  • Add some veggies: 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, sauteed asparagus, mushrooms, or sliced cherry tomatoes would all be fantastic.
  • Adjust the cheese: I have heard from some readers that there is too much cheese in the sauce. While I don’t think you could ever have too much cheese, if you are thinking the same, try adding just half of the cheese first, then add more as desired.

Storage Tips

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.

Recipe 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:

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

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta

4.65 from 208 votes
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 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings

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 All-purpose 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 Basil pesto or more, to taste
  • Fresh basil for garnish, if desired
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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. **I recommend adding the cheese in small increments and mixing well with each addition, to avoid the mozzarella seizing and sticking together.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped basil and fresh cracked black pepper and serve immediately.

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 small handfuls of the mozzarella at a time, stirring well to blend it in with each addition. 
Some have commented that it’s “a lot of cheese.” While some love it that way, I can understand how some may not prefer it. If you are worried about the amount I recommend adding half and incorporating it fully, before adding more.
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.
 
Keyword chicken pesto, creamy pesto sauce, pesto pasta

Nutrition

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

Nutritional Disclaimer Kristin Maxwell of “Yellow Bliss Road” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. For accurate calorie counts and other nutritional values, we recommend running the ingredients through your preferred online nutritional calculator. Calories and other nutritional values can vary depending on which brands were used.

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. Linda Brzezinski says:

    Love these one pot dinners. Easy to make and very tasty

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Linda! Love the feedback, thanks for stopping by.

  2. TimO says:

    This recipe was so easy to make. Lots of flavor and so yummy. I agree with others that this recipe is heavy on the cheese. I would only do 1/2 a cup of Mozzarella cheese. But overall, this recipe is a winner.

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you TimO! Awesome feedback, thanks for stopping by.

  3. Kristine Wade says:

    So easy and so good. I threw it together in 20 minutes. A Ceasar salad and we were good to go!

    1. Kristin says:

      Awesome feedback Kristine! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. LaStacia M says:

    This sauce was the perfect consistency. Very creamy! I doubled the sauce added in 3/4 of diced sundried tomatoes and some onions and peppers left over from the night before. Perfecto! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome LaStacia! Thanks for stopping by.

    2. TimO says:

      I should have read your post. Sun dried tomatoes would be perfect in this dish. Luckily I have leftovers. I will add some to that. Great Idea.

  5. Sam says:

    My two teenagers and my husband loved this, it was a hit. It’s not healthy but in moderation is good. I will be making this again for sure

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! Thank you for your feedback Sam.

  6. Deanne says:

    I followed the recipe as written and it was very good, though next time I’ll reduce the amount of cheese by at least half. It is very rich and tasty, though. Leaving out the cheese altogether and serving over cooked cheese tortellini would most likely be super delicious, too. Thank you, Kristin, for this great recipe!

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Deanne! Awesome feedback, thanks for stopping by.

  7. KarA says:

    Absolutely delicious! Even my toddler eats every bite! I add 1/4 cup more chicken broth just to make the sauce a tad looser but otherwise this recipe is flawless. Great summer dish

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you KarA! Love the feedback, thanks for stopping by.

  8. Christine says:

    I found this recipe to be bland and too rich. I even made my own pesto sauce and it didn’t make a difference. I wish I would have seen Sarah comment about not doubling the cheese.

  9. Sara says:

    Just a note that if you are doubling the recipe, you do NOT need to double the amount of cheese! I did and while it made it not great, I could tell that the flavor and texture would have been great with less cheese!!

    1. Kristin Maxwell says:

      Totally understand – cheesiness can be a personal preference! I have added a note to the recipe card to reflect that. I hope you’ll give it a try again with your personal cheese preference. 🙂

  10. Vanessa says:

    I’m always looking for new dinner ideas for my kids and they loved it. They asked for pesto pasta and this recipe got 2 thumbs up.

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! Thanks for sharing Vanessa.

  11. Lara says:

    Solid recipe. Family loved the creaminess of the roux. Stuck to the recipe except leaving out mozzarella. Will definitely make again.

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Lara! Love your feedback, thanks for stopping by.

  12. Marie Lovallo says:

    This was a very delicious recipe. My husband and I really enjoyed it. Will definately make it again.

    1. Kristin says:

      Love the comment Marie! Thanks for stopping by.

  13. brian winberg says:

    Great recipe and great flavors.. and I poached my chicken to keep it tender and juicy… this is a keeper.

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you brian! Love the feedback, thanks for stopping by to share.

  14. Whitney says:

    Recipe tastes great and was easy to make. I added a can of mushrooms and was going to add spinach, but I forgot. My sister is a picky eater and loved it (minus the mushrooms I added).

    1. Kristin says:

      Awesome feedback Whitney! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Cathy says:

    Made some fresh pesto and wanted to do something different with it – so searched Pinterest for a recipe and came upon this one. It is easy to make, deliciously creamy and cheesy! Will definitely be making again! Thanks so much!

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Cathy! Love your feedback, thanks for stopping by.

  16. Carli Pucci says:

    Flavor is good but there is way too much cheese.

  17. Amy says:

    Amazing and easy

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Amy!

  18. Lori Dreamer says:

    Family loved it! I might cut down (I can’t believe I’m saying this) the amount of cheese.

    1. Kristin says:

      LOL… Love the feedback Lori! Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Hope says:

    I made this tonight for my husband and son who is the pickiest eater I know and they both loved it! My son eats very few things that I cook so this recipe is a keeper. Thank you!

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Hope! Thanks for stopping by.

  20. Michael says:

    I’m looking to make this recipe soon and would like to use a blackening seasoning on the chicken. Have you tried that option and, if not, do you think it would work well with the pesto flavors?

    1. Kristin Maxwell says:

      I haven’t tried that, but I think it would be delicious.