It doesn't get much more comforting than a creamy pasta bake and this Easy Creamy Tomato and Chicken Pasta Bake is a family favourite. An easy to throw together weeknight dinner that will feed a hungry family of 4, or 2 with leftovers to take to work. Kids will love this healthy pasta bake with chunks of chicken, hidden vegetables, and plenty of cheese of course!
This creamy chicken pasta bake is one that I have been making since I was in university. It started out very basic, with just chicken, a tin of tomatoes and pasta and I have adapted it every time I made it since. But I think this version is as close to perfection as this recipe is going to get.
When you crave comfort food, this is the recipe you want. This is a pasta bake that the whole family is going to love. It's fairly simple when it comes to the flavours, but is really filling and comforting.
Perfect for a chilly autumn/winter evening, but light enough for summer too. Have you tried our Meatball Pasta Bake too?
Why you will love it
- Quick and easy - after the chicken and pasta are cooked (minimal effort) you just dump everything in a baking dish and put it in the oven.
- Low in calories - Pasta dishes can usually be very high in calories and eating out in an Italian restaurant you can easily eat over 1,000 calories in a plate of pasta. A big portion of this chicken pasta bake is under 500 calories.
- Freezes well - This is a great batch cook meal as it freezes well. We like to keep a couple of portions of this in the freezer for those busy days.
- Adaptable- you can mix in any vegetables you like, and even change the protein source to something like beans, tofu, Quorn or salmon. We have lots of suggestions on how to adapt it below.
- Chicken - To keep this recipe as lean as possible, we used chicken breast. You could swap it for boneless and skinless chicken thighs, which would be juicier, but it would change the nutritional info.
- Pasta - You can use any pasta you like in this recipe, but we like to use something chunky like rigatoni, so it doesn't get lost with the chunks of chicken breast.
- Shallots - You could swap this for a small brown onion, however we like the sweetness of shallots. You could use red onion too, which would add some colour.
- Garlic - We crushed fresh garlic, but you could use frozen garlic or even crushed garlic in a jar to save some time.
- Oregano - This can be swapped for dried thyme or basil or you could use an Italian seasoning mix if you prefer. If you use a mix, then you might want to leave out the garlic and salt and pepper, as the seasoning mix will probably already have it in it.
- Courgette (zucchini) - This is the "hidden" vegetables in our chicken pasta bake. We have grated it in so it is less visible. However, if you want it to be totally undetectable, then peel the green skin off before grating it.
- Plum tomatoes - We use plum rather than already chopped as we think they have a better flavour. We just mash them down with a spoon in the pan. Try to use the best quality tinned tomatoes that you can, as you really will be able to taste the difference. Inexpensive tomatoes tend to be really watery and flavourless.
- Vegetable stock - Again, try to use the best quality you can (homemade is you can). If you are making this chicken pasta bake for young kids, then use a low salt stock.
- Tomato puree - This gives the dish a real bust of tomato flavour and it definitely a must you you can get really good tinned tomatoes. You could swap it for a sun-dried tomato paste for a more intense flavour.
- Cherry tomatoes - Just because we have never have too many tomatoes. We added some cherry tomatoes as they look really nice in the dish and they add a burst of freshness too. Why not mix it up with some yellow and red tomatoes.
- Cheese - We used a good quality cream cheese from a local farm shop, along with some mature cheddar and some mozzarella cheese. But you could also use parmesan and goats cheese on top to get a really strong flavour.
- Fresh basil - Basil and tomatoes are the perfect match and it really lightens up this healthy pasta bake. It is optional though.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: Heat some olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and then add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Two: Put the pasta in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes.
Three: Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and oregano to the chicken and mash the tomatoes a little. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 2 minutes.
Four: Drain the pasta and add the grated courgette and cream cheese and stir well.
Five: Add the pasta mixture to the chicken mixture along with the cherry tomatoes and stir well.
Six: Transfer to an oven safe baking dish and sprinkle with the cheddar, mozzarella and basil and put in a pre-heated oven at 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 for 15 minutes.
Seven: Once cooked, serve with chopped basil sprinkled on top.
Pasta - Something really chunky works well, which is why we have used rigatoni. You could use penne or fusilli instead, but I wouldn't recommend using something like macaroni, as it would get lost. The pasta is the star of the show here, so let it shine
Cheese - We have used 3 cheeses in this chicken pasta bake - cheddar, cream cheese and mozzarella. But you could also use parmesan and goats cheese on top to get a really strong flavour. Want to make this super fancy? try adding chunks of stilton to the top.
Protein - If still want this to be a meaty dish, then could add sausages to it like our Sausage Pasta Bake or even add some cooked chopped bacon.
If you wanted to add some vegetarian protein, then a can of chickpeas or butter beans would work, and also add to the creaminess.
You could even go for a seafood version and use king prawns. One of my other go-to pasta dishes when I was at university was a tuna pasta bake - such a classic. So you could swap the chicken for a couple of tins of tuna instead.
Vegetables - I find it not hard to try and sneak some vegetables in to a dish, as everyone can do with some extra veggies in their life. I grated a courgette and stirred it in to the pasta, but it would work with a carrot too. We also grate mushrooms in to pasta dishes to hide them.
You could also finely chop some bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach or kale to stir in to the pasta sauce. We like to give a Mediterranean twist to this with some chopped up olives. You know your family best, so add in the veggies you know they will enjoy, or won't be able to detect.
What to serve this with
This healthy pasta dish has it all. It's got carbs, protein and hidden vegetables. However, we are big fans of a side dish. If you are making a big batch of this to serve up to a few people, then some sides are a good idea to bulk it out a little.
Are you are a fan of double carbs (and I mean, who isn't?) then why not try making your own cheats garlic bread. Simply mix together some softened butter with crushed garlic and some fresh herbs and then slice in to a French stick and stuff it with the butter. Put it in the oven for 5-10 minutes and you have garlic bread. Add cheese for next level cheats garlic bread.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is cheesy pasta, so it is never going to be the most nutrient dense meal in the world. But we have kept it to a sensible portion size, gone easy on the cheese and added some vegetables for a little boost. You can always reduce the amount of cheese and add extra vegetables.
If you have leftovers of this, then you can store it in an air tight container for up to 2 days in the fridge.
Yes, it can and this is a really good batch cook meal to save you time in the week. Just let it cool fully and then portion it out in to containers and freeze.
It will keep in the freezer for around 3 months, or you can keep leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Defrost thoroughly and reheat in a frying pan. Add a tablespoon of water before reheating just so it doesn't dry out.
Yes, you can make this in advance. You can cook the pasta and chicken and mix everything together and then once cooled it can be stored in the fridge until later that day when you are ready to put it in the oven. You might need to increase the oven cook time by 15 minutes if it has been kept in the fridge.
Keep this healthy pasta bake vegetarian by swapping out the chicken and using chunks of roasted aubergine or tofu instead. If you wanted to make it vegan, then swap the cheeses for vegan versions.
You can easily make this gluten free. Just make sure to use gluten free pasta and make sure all the other ingredients that you are using are gluten free too and that there is no cross contamination.
Yes, you can double this recipe and it will not change the cooking time. Just make sure that your baking dish is big enough for double the ingredients.
More pasta recipes
If you’ve tried this Tomato and Chicken Pasta Bake, let us know how you got on in the comments below.
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Creamy Tomato and Chicken Pasta Bake
- 280 g (10 oz) Rigatoni pasta
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 300 g (11 oz) Chicken breast - cut into chunks
- 4 Shallots - diced
- 3 Garlic clove - crushed
- 2 tablespoon Dried oregano
- 1 Courgette (zucchini) - grated
- 400 g (14 oz) Plum tomatoes - canned
- 100 ml (0.5 cups) Vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoon Tomato puree
- 3 tablespoon Light cream cheese
- 8 Cherry tomatoes - halved
- 40 g (0.25 cups) Mature cheddar
- 30 g (0.25 cups) Mozzarella - torn
- 1 handful (1 handful) Fresh basil - chopped
- Preheat your oven to 190°C/170°C(fan)/375°F/Gas 5.
- Put 280 g Rigatoni pasta in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon Olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and then add 300 g Chicken breast and cook for 5 minutes. Add 4 Shallots and 3 Garlic clove and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add 400 g Plum tomatoes, 100 ml Vegetable stock, 2 tablespoon Tomato puree and 2 tablespoon Dried oregano to the chicken. Mash the tomatoes a little and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and add 1 Courgette (zucchini) and 3 tablespoon Light cream cheese and stir well.
- Add the pasta mixture to the chicken mixture along with 8 Cherry tomatoes and stir well.
- Transfer to an oven safe baking dish and sprinkle with 40 g Mature cheddar, 30 g Mozzarella and 1 handful Fresh basilut into the oven for 15 minutes.
- Once cooked, serve with more chopped basil sprinkled on top (optional).
- We used cheddar and mozzarella on top, but you could swap it for Parmesan and goats cheese instead.
- Keep this vegetarian by swapping out the chicken and using chunks of roasted aubergine or tofu instead. You could even for a seafood version and use king prawns or tuna instead.
- If you want the sauce a little bit sweeter, a glug of good quality balsamic vinegar would go a long way. Or maybe turn up the heat by adding some chilli flakes.
- You don't have to cook this in the oven. You could heat everything on the hob for a few minutes once it is mixed together and then put it under the grill to melt the cheese and make it go crispy.
- Feel free to use different types of pasta if you already have some in your cupboard.
- This is a good opportunity to sneak in lots of extra vegetables. Spinach, a chopped pepper and mushrooms work well.
- You could use leftover shredded chicken in this too.
- Always cook your pasta for a couple of minutes less than usual with making a pasta bake, as it will cook more in the oven.
- Make this gluten free by using gluten free pasta.
- For a more intense tomato flavour, use chopped up sun-dried tomatoes and a splash of the oil from the jar too.
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.