This chicken pesto pasta is a date night-worthy dinner recipe that’s ready in 20 minutes or less. Make this luxurious pasta when you’re craving a warm bowl of creamy, Italian-style comfort. 

pesto chicken pasta garnished with basil leaves in a pot, next to a small bowl of grated parmesan, a small piece of parmesan, and basil leaves.
Photo Credits: Elana Lepkowski

I’ll admit this chicken pesto pasta, with a velvety basil pesto sauce, is a bit of a splurge. But the first step of the Mediterranean diet is to ditch the word diet! Eating the Mediterranean way is not about, “Eat this, not that.” Instead, we eat joyfully and with balance. And, most importantly, we share! 

This chicken pesto pasta recipe is designed to share with people you love, particularly on a date night or special night in—though it’s certainly quick enough for a weeknight dinner. I dress it up a bit with homemade basil pesto, but store-bought pesto does the trick too. Tart sun-dried tomatoes add bright bursts of flavor to balance the richness of the creamy sauce. And, Italian seasoning—either store-bought or my homemade version—adds a delicate aromatic quality.

All to say: this is not your average chicken pesto pasta recipe. I will not-so-humbly admit that I actually prefer this slightly lighter, super flavorful pesto chicken pasta to the overly rich versions I’ve sampled at Italian restaurants in the States. It’s comforting, joyous, share-worthy, and totally delicious. 

Table of Contents
  1. Pesto Chicken Pasta Ingredients
  2. How to Make This Recipe 
  3. What to Serve with Chicken Pesto Pasta
  4. You'll Also Like: Date Night-Worthy Pasta Recipes
  5. Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe
ingredients for pesto chicken pasta including chicken breasts, penne pasta, italian seasoning, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, heavy cream parmesan cheese, sun dried tomatoes, basil pesto, and basil leaves.


Pesto Chicken Pasta Ingredients

This pesto chicken pasta recipe uses ingredients that are easy to find year-round at just about any grocery store. You’ll need: 

  • Pasta: Penne pasta works well with the size of the chicken, but you can use any short pasta in its place, or even spaghetti if that’s all you have. I especially like penne with ridges, as the little gaps work overtime to hold all the creamy sauce. Or if you're craving something similar but avoiding carbs, check out our sun dried tomato chicken.
  • Chicken: I’m admittedly a thigh person, but the creamy sauce needs a leaner meat that’s not too rich. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are just right.
  • Seasonings: Kosher salt and black pepper enhance the flavor, and a final sprinkle of red pepper flakes add a kick. Italian seasoning lends an aromatic quality. I like to pillage my spice drawer and make my own Italian seasoning with dried basil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. I personally like the flavor balance, it's salt-free, and it's just nice to have a jar ready when I need it. A store-bought version works well here too. 
  • Olive oil: Used to pan-sear the chicken. Opt for a high quality extra virgin variety—I like our buttery Italian Nocellara for this recipe.
  • Milk: Just ½ cup of heavy cream is all you need to make a super rich, velvety sauce. (Or for a version without heavy cream, check out our lemon chicken pasta.)
  • Parmesan: Adds a deep umami flavor to the creamy sauce. Grab whole blocks of parmesan if you can, as they tend to be much more flavorful compared to the pre-grated tubs. 
  • Sun dried tomatoes: Add tangy, slightly sweet bursts of flavor and a springy texture that balance the rich pesto and chicken. You can order our favorite all natural sun dried tomatoes from our shop, or substitute with halved cherry tomatoes in a pinch. 
  • Pesto: I like to keep homemade basil pesto stocked in my fridge or freezer so I can easily whip up a quick and nutritious meal on the fly. To make it yourself, you’ll need basil, lemon, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, salt and pepper. A high-quality store-bought variety will also work here. 
  • Fresh basil leaves: A final garnish of basil leaves adds freshness, lightening the creaminess of the sauce. 
a serving of pesto chicken pasta on a white plate with a fork next to bowls salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, a small piece of parmesan cheese, and a pot of pesto chicken pasta.


How to Make This Recipe 

Pesto chicken pasta couldn’t be easier–have your pesto ready to go and it takes just 15 minutes! Here’s how you make it: 

  • Season the chicken. Cut 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces and add to a large mixing bowl. Next, season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning and a big pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Pieces of raw chicken breast on a white plate, sprinkled with italian seasoning.
  • Cook the pasta. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it well with about 1 tablespoon of salt. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente according to package instructions (about 8 to 9 minutes). 
  • Cook the chicken. While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a large non-stick pan and heat over medium-high. Add the chicken and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes. pieces of chicken breast seasoned with italian seasoning cooking in a pot.
  • Drain the pasta. When the pasta is ready, reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and drain. 
  • Combine. To the pan with the chicken, lower the heat and stir in the cooked pasta, ½ cup of heavy cream, ¼ cup of parmesan, and ¼ cup of sun dried tomatoes. Stir until everything is well combined. If it looks a bit dry, add a splash of the pasta cooking water (a couple of tablespoons at a time) until the pasta is glossy and coated in the creamy sauce. cooked penne pasta and pieces of chicken breast mixed with heavy cream and parmesan in a pot next to a wooden serving spoon on a spoon rest.
  • Add the pesto. Turn off the heat and take the pan off the burner. Stir in ½ cup of basil pesto. Finish with a sprinkle of grated parmesan, red pepper flakes to taste, and some torn fresh basil leaves. Serve.a pot of pesto chicken pasta next to wooden serving utensils, bowls of grated parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes, a piece of parmesan cheese and basil leaves.


What to Serve with Chicken Pesto Pasta

This creamy pesto chicken pasta is hearty and full of flavor–you can certainly serve it by itself and feel totally satisfied.

For an all-out date night, kick things off with a Negroni or an Aperol Spritz. Serve the pasta with some crusty bread or freshly baked Rosemary Focaccia with Roasted Garlic to capture any creamy pesto left on your plate. 

For a side, I suggest staying light and fresh to balance the rich pasta sauce. A bright and crunchy Lemon Parmesan Lettuce Salad is this pasta recipe’s perfect match.

You'll Also Like: Date Night-Worthy Pasta Recipes

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4.99 from 52 votes

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Suzy Karadsheh
a close up of pesto chicken pasta garnished with basil leaves in a pot.
This chicken pesto pasta is the perfect dinner recipe for a special date night, or whenever you need a creamy bowl of Italian-style comfort in your life. Keep basil pesto on hand and it’s ready to go in just 20 minutes.
Prep – 10 minutes
Cook – 10 minutes
Total – 20 minutes
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 6
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 8 ounces penne pasta, preferably with ridges
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for serving if you like
  • ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, drained if packed in oil
  • ½ cup basil pesto, homemade or quality store-bought, plus more if you like
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Handful of torn basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Season the chicken. Add the chicken to a bowl and season with the Italian seasoning and a big pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper. Toss to coat.
  • Cook the pasta. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it well with about 1 tablespoon of salt. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente according to package instructions (about 8 to 9 minutes).
  • Cook the chicken. While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a large non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high. Add the chicken and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes.
  • Drain the pasta. When the pasta is ready, reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and drain.
  • Combine. To the pan with the chicken, lower the heat and stir in the cooked pasta, heavy cream, parmesan, and sundried tomatoes. Stir until everything is well combined. If it looks a bit dry, add a splash of the pasta cooking water (a couple tablespoons at a time) until the pasta is glossy and coated in the creamy sauce.
  • Add the pesto. Turn off the heat and take the pan off the burner. Stir in the basil pesto and finish with a sprinkle of grated parmesan, red pepper flakes, and basil leaves. Serve.

Video

Notes

  • Stir rather vigorously when you combine the pasta with the creamy sauce. With a good stir, pasta’s starch will release and thicken the sauce.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 444.6kcalCarbohydrates: 33.4gProtein: 24.7gFat: 23.3gSaturated Fat: 7.8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 6.2gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 75.3mgSodium: 363.1mgPotassium: 551.4mgFiber: 2.3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 858.6IUVitamin C: 2.8mgCalcium: 118.4mgIron: 1.5mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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4.99 from 52 votes (28 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. Carmita says:

    5 stars
    Very nice and taste

  2. Beth Wiley says:

    5 stars
    Amazing!!! So much flavor! Will make this a staple in our home! Thank you for a delicious recipe!

  3. Alyssa says:

    5 stars
    Oh wow! Where do I start? This amazing recipe is not only super easy to create, but also the most delicious dinner I've made in a while. After trying (and absolutely adoring) some Chicken Pesto I tried at a restaurant, I've been craving my own pot ever since. Needless to say this recipe will be one of my favorites for yearsss to come. Try and make this, you won't regret!!

  4. KiKo says:

    5 stars
    Hi All,
    I want to ask the audience, when you cook chicken breast, or any other chicken meat, does your pan fill with water from the meat or are we just eating junk here??

    1. GMJ says:

      5 stars
      It really depends on where you buy your chicken,as well as the kind of chicken. In " most cases" chicken is injected with water or salt water. 2 reasons for that. 1) Water adds wt. So you are paying by the oz for water. 2) Salt added to the the water acts like a natural preservative. You can buy Air Dried chicken.. You will pay much more for that. Over all, you can pat the chicken very well with paper towels, then season your chicken. During cooking, you can drain off or blot off the excess water OR you can allow it to cook off. Draining/ blotting is best IF you are browning your chicken.
      Bottom line, IF you are getting ALOT OF water. Consider buying you chicken elsewhere.

  5. C says:

    5 stars
    This is my second time making it. Super easy, comes together in no time, and is very delicious.
    I added a little spinach and an extra 1/4 cup of sundried tomatoes.
    I'm allergic to cow's milk, so I used vegan parmesan and coconut milk. It's still so creamy and delicious that family was none the wiser 🤫

    1. Devin Fuller says:

      Hi there, Devin here from the Mediterranean Dish team. So happy to hear you loved this recipe–Thank you for sharing your swaps!

  6. Southern Belle says:

    5 stars
    I’ve made this dish twice. I used ziti and spaghetti noddles. Each time it turned out great. The recipe is easy to follow and can be altered to the chefs preference. Thanks for sharing this

  7. Anjali says:

    5 stars
    This was excellent and easy to make. I baked the chicken breast beforehand and used just a tbs of cream as one of our guests was lactose intolerant. Superb. This is going to be a frequent dish at home. Many thanks from Mysore, India.

  8. Alexandra says:

    5 stars
    Made this last night, so delicious. My husband and I loved it and it will now be on our dinner rotation!

  9. Amanda says:

    5 stars
    Made this tonight, it was delicious! Went with bacon instead of chicken, but kept everything else the same.

    1. TMD Team says:

      YUM! Thanks for sharing your substitution, Amanda! Sounds delicious!

  10. Sally says:

    What’s the best way to re-heat this amazing dish?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Sally! We recommend reheating in a saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat just until warmed through.Add a small amount of water or chicken/vegetable broth to prevent the pasta from drying out and stir the pasta frequently to distribute the heat evenly and prevent sticking.

  11. Maria says:

    5 stars
    Hello, thank you so much for such a simple yet delicious recipe. You rock.