This creamy chicken pesto pasta is an easy, one pot meal. Ready in 30 minutes, this recipe features juicy chicken breasts and penne pasta simmered in a quick, creamy, homemade pesto sauce.
I love using penne for chicken pesto pasta. The thick pasta has a bit of a bite, which pairs perfectly with how light and creamy the pesto sauce is! I’ve had success with bowtie pasta (farfalle) and spaghetti noodles as well as linguine.
I have made this chicken pesto pasta with tomatoes, and they make a delicious addition. Add them in as you stir everything together for a fresh and colorful pop! It also tastes great with blanched asparagus or broccoli florets for a healthy, colorful crunch. Other delicious additions include pine nuts, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, and capers!
Why Use Cream?
When creamy sauces are made, you’ve probably noticed you need to use heavy cream. The high fat content in cream helps to keep the sauce from curdling at a higher temperature, ensuring the sauce turns out every time.
Milk and light cream can burn, and curdle the sauce especially if it has an acidic component in it like tomato or lemon (like this shrimp scampi).
Let’s Butterfly The Chicken
Butterflying chicken is a simple way to even out chicken breasts and ensure they cook evenly! To butterfly chicken:
- Place chicken on a cutting board
- Lengthwise, cut each chicken piece in half.
- Season, and cook!
If you’re butterflying chicken for something like chicken parmesan, you would leave the thickest part intact so it increases the surface area and thins it out.
For this creamy chicken pesto pasta recipe, we can slice them right in half because we are creating strips and are looking to even the thickness out so they cook evenly.
Assembling Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta
Let’s get cooking! To make this recipe:
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in salted water.
- Sear the chicken for 3 minutes on each side or until fully cooked through (your meat thermometer should read 165°F). Remove the chicken and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing into bite sized pieces.
- Decrease the heat to medium, and add the garlic. Cook for a minute or two or until fragrant. Whisk in the cream and pesto (deglazing the pan in the process) and bring the pan to a simmer.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese, then add in the pasta and chicken. Toss to coat, and serve!
More Delicious Pasta Recipes
- Parmesan Lemon Orzo
- The Best Shrimp Scampi – my personal favorite!
- Rice Pilaf with Orzo
- Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
- Ramen Noodle Salad
Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta
- 2-3 chicken breasts boneless, skinless
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound penne pasta dry
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup pesto basil or homemade
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
- Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water.
- Butterfly chicken breasts and trim fat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder on both sides.
- Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat with olive oil. Add chicken breasts, and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Rest for 5 minutes, and slice into strips.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Whisk in heavy cream and pesto. Bring to a simmer, and stir in parmesan cheese.
- Add in cooked pasta and chicken, tossing to coat pasta in cream sauce.