This creamy chicken pesto pasta is ready in just 20 minutes. It's proper comfort food with lots of flavour and packed with green vegetables too. Chunks of chicken and vegetables mixed into creamy pesto pasta.
Some kind of pasta and sauce is our go-to for an easy and comforting meal and this creamy pesto pasta with chicken and vegetables is our favourite at the moment. A great way to use up a jar of pesto, as a little goes a long way.
It's also a good fridge raid meal, because it's easy to adapt with different vegetables and cheese. The perfect easy week night meal.
Why you will love it
- Total comfort food - Creamy chicken pesto pasta is the ultimate comfort food, and this is so easy to make.
- Adaptable - Use this recipe as a base and then adapt it with other vegetables and cheese. We have given lots of options below.
- A great way to use leftover chicken - We often have roast chicken, so any leftovers get used in this chicken pesto pasta recipe.
- Uses store cupboard essentials - This is a great budget friendly meal, as a lot of the ingredients are store cupboard essentials. Pesto isn't that cheap, but a little goes a long way.
- Great for batch cooking - You can easily double or triple this recipe and it freezes really well making it perfect for batch cooking and keeping for quick and easy meals.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Pasta - Really, any pasta goes here. We used penne, but something like farfalle, fusilli or rigatoni work well. Try to stick with short pasta, as all the rest of the ingredients are small too.
- Pesto - You can use your favourite pesto here. We used green pesto, but red would work too. To save time, use a good quality store bought pesto, but if you would like to make your own then why not try our Mixed Herb Pesto or Carrot Top Pesto?
- Pasta water - Add a little splash of the starchy water from the saucepan to help make a creamier sauce. Pesto is made from oil, nuts, cheese and herbs, so it is quite high in calories. Because it has a strong flavour, a little goes a long way. But, we have lightened this up by using less pesto and adding a bit of the pasta water to make more of a sauce, rather than having to use more pesto.
- Olive oil - To cook the chicken in.
- Chicken - We used skinless and boneless chicken breast to keep it nice and lean. You could use skinless and boneless chicken thighs if you prefer, and that would give more flavour and they are juicier too. We cut our chicken breast up into small pieces, so they cooked quicker. You could cook the breasts whole and thinly slice them if you prefer.
- Sun-dried tomatoes - These add SO much flavour and a pop of colour too. The oil from them helps to add to the sauce too. You could also add some Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.
- Spinach - An easy way to give a green veggie boost to a pasta dish, and it doesn't need cooking, as it wilts into the sauce.
- Broccoli - Extra vegetables, and chunky texture too. About 5 minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the broccoli to the pan so it all cooks together.
- Cream cheese - This is what makes the pesto pasta with chicken nice and creamy. We used a light cream cheese to lighten it up, but full fat would make it even creamier. You could use a flavoured cream cheese like garlic and herb for more flavour.
- Parmesan - This gives it an extra cheesy boost. You could add another cheese that melts well, like cheddar instead. Mature cheddar has a strong flavour, so a little goes a long way.
- Garlic - Freshly crushed is best, but you can add crushed garlic from a jar to save some time.
- Salt and pepper - Generously season.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to make chicken pesto pasta - Step by step
One: Add the pasta to boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.
Two: Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chicken (a). Cook for 5-6 minutes (b).
Three: After 7 minutes of the pasta cooking add the broccoli.
Four: To the chicken, add the spinach, garlic, pesto, cream cheese, Parmesan, salt, pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, and 100ml/0.5 cup of pasta water (a). Mix well and cook until the cheese has melted, about 2 minutes (b).
Five: Add the cooked pasta and broccoli. Mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce.
Six: Serve topped with pine nuts and red chilli flakes (both optional).
What to serve with chicken pesto pasta
This is a pretty filling meal by itself and it has all the vegetables already in it. However, if we are trying to make it go a little further, then we love serving up some garlic bread with it.
Either buy some ready made, or make your own easy garlic bread by cutting up some French stick and spreading it with a mix of butter, crushed garlic and dried herbs. Then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. Why not try our Cheesy Garlic Bread recipe?
As well as garlic bread, you can bulk the meal out with a big green salad. The key to an epic green salad is to use a variety of greens, like romaine, spinach, kale and rocket.
You want leafy greens, but crunch too. Then you need the perfect dressing. Why not try our Lemon Vinaigrette, Honey and Mustard Dressing or Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette? You could also try our Grilled Little Gem Salad.
If you want to add a big side of vegetables, then we recommend our Garlic Spring Greens, Roasted Tenderstem Broccoli, Garlic Green Beans, Air Fryer Carrots, Microwave Broccoli or Roasted Lemon Asparagus.
Tomato sauce - Some of you might prefer a tomato based sauce for this chicken pesto pasta and that is easy to adapt. Instead of adding the cream cheese and pasta water, you can use our Easy Tomato Pasta Sauce. The rest of the recipe can be followed the same.
Pasta bake - Turn this in to a pasta bake with a crispy topping by mixing some panko breadcrumbs with the Parmesan and cheddar and sprinkle it on top of the pasta in a baking dish. Some crumbled goat's cheese is nice on top, and it makes it even creamier.
Vegetables - Pretty much any vegetables in this chicken pesto pasta recipe. But we would recommend keeping it to quick cook vegetables as this has a quick cooking time and root vegetables like carrots wouldn't cook in time.
Peas and sweetcorn are a great addition to this (and can be added frozen at the same time as the broccoli), and they always go down well with kids. You could also add green beans, asparagus, mushrooms or cauliflower. You could add roasted red peppers for lots of flavour too.
Store: This is a great meal to batch cook, because it stores and reheats really well. Once cooled, portion out leftovers in to containers and they will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freeze: You can portion it out in to freeze containers and freeze for up to 3 months.
Defrost: Defrost it in the fridge overnight.
Reheat: You can either reheat it in the microwave for a couple of minutes or in the oven for about 10 minutes. Make sure it is piping hot before serving. Add some fresh Parmesan before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
To make this recipe gluten free, use your favourite brand of gluten free pasta. You also need to make sure that there isn't any cross contamination and that the pesto you used is gluten free too.
Yes, you can cook the pasta and chicken in advance and allow them both to cool down, and then make the sauce and reheat them in the sauce when you are ready to serve.
Adding starchy pasta water (just 100ml is enough) to a fat like cheese will create an emulsion and this gives a really silky smooth sauce and helps it cling to the pasta. Make sure you scoop out the water just before draining, as this ensures that it is nice and starchy.
More pasta recipes
Chicken Pesto Pasta
- 200 g (7 oz) Penne pasta
- 450 g (1 lb) Chicken breast - diced
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 2 Garlic cloves - crushed
- 2 tablespoon Pesto
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- 75 g (0.33 cups) Light cream cheese
- 30 g (0.33 cups) Parmesan - grated
- 100 g (3.33 cups) Spinach
- 120 g (1.33 cups) Broccoli - cut into small florets
- 60 g (0.5 cups) Sun-dried tomatoes - finely chopped
- Pine nuts - optional
- Red chilli flakes - optional
- Add 200 g Penne pasta to boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon Olive oil in a large pan and add 450 g Chicken breast. Cook for 5-6 minutes.
- After 7 minutes of the pasta cooking add 120 g Broccoli.
- To the chicken, add 100 g Spinach, 2 Garlic cloves, 2 tablespoon Pesto, 75 g Light cream cheese, 30 g Parmesan, 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper, 60 g Sun-dried tomatoes, and 100ml/0.5 cup of pasta water.
- Mix well and cook until the cheese has melted, about 2 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper and then add the cooked pasta and broccoli. Mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce.
- Serve topped with Pine nuts and Red chilli flakes.
- This chicken pesto pasta is a good way to use up leftover chicken, so feel free to shred up leftovers from a roast and add it to this.
- If you want to make this chicken and pesto pasta extra creamy, then you can add a splash of single cream to it.
- If you want to add a bit of spice to the chicken pesto pasta, then sprinkle over some red chilli flakes before serving.
- This dish is a great opportunity to use leftover cheese or any vegetables you have that need using. So feel free to swap ingredients around.
- If you cheese sauce is too thick, then you can thin it out with a little bit of milk.
- When using Parmesan, try to grate it fresh rather than using a bag of pre-grated cheese, as you will have a much stronger flavour.
- To make this pesto pasta recipe even quicker, use some fresh pasta which is ready in a few minutes.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.