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10-Minute Chicken Pesto Pasta Dinner

5 from 21 community reviews

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I created this chicken pesto pasta recipe to be extremely quick and simple to cook with ingredients straight from your pantry. It’s an Italian-style chicken pasta dinner that combines tender chunks of chicken breast with a silky pesto sauce, and plenty of grated Parmesan cheese. With only 10 minutes of cooking time, this quick pasta dinner is an absolute winner for busy nights.

Prepared pasta with pesto chicken sauce in a serving bowl, with a fork propped on the side of the bowl.

The search is always on — meals to cook at home that are effortless AND family-friendly — not just for kids, but adults too. This pesto chicken pasta recipe has your back!

It’s one of my personal favorite weeknight pasta dinner recipes, along with my easy sheet-pan gnocchi bake. The best part? It requires basic pantry ingredients, hopefully saving a trip to the grocery store.

Ingredients for cooking pesto pasta with chicken, including chunks of raw chicken breast, dried pasta, pesto sauce, grated cheese, chopped nuts, garlic and red pepper.

Ingredient checklist

If you’re craving a creamy pesto chicken pasta, see the recipe notes section for my suggestions and variations. Instead of cream, you’ll be using a little of the starchy pasta cooking water to bind with the pasta and enrich the sauce.

  • Boneless skinless chicken breast: Chicken breast meat really soaks up the flavor from the pesto, and doesn’t become dry when it’s cut into bite-size pieces and cooked quickly. If you have time, you can use marinated chicken breasts. Swap them out with boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you like dark meat chicken.
  • Pesto sauce: If you have extra time and lots of fresh basil to use up, by all means make a batch of homemade basil pesto sauce. Otherwise choose a good-quality store-bought pesto.
  • Dried pasta: This recipe is super versatile, so go ahead and use whatever dried pasta shape you have in the pantry. Long pasta shapes such as spaghetti or fettuccine, or short pasta types like rigatoni, penne or bow ties will all capture the sauce perfectly.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: Switch this out with another grating cheese you have in the house, like grana Padano or pecorino Romano.
  • Chopped nuts: Toss these over the cooked dish for a pleasing, crunchy garnish. I love pistachios, walnuts, or chopped almonds. Use unsalted nuts if possible.
  • Crushed red pepper

Overview of the recipe steps:

  • To cook the pasta perfectly, start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta.

Notes and variations

  • Stir in about 1/2 cup heavy cream with the pesto for a creamy sauce.
  • Substitute chicken with sausage or shrimp, or leave it out for a vegetarian dish.
  • Add about a cup of sliced cherry tomatoes or 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Instead of dried pasta, try this savory sauce with fresh ricotta gnocchi or ravioli.
Prepared pasta with pesto chicken sauce in a serving bowl, with sprigs of fresh basil and forks on the side.

10-Minute Chicken Pesto Pasta Dinner

Karen Tedesco
This is an extremely quick and simple to cook with ingredients straight from your pantry. It's an Italian-style chicken pasta dinner that combines tender chunks of chicken breast with a silky pesto sauce and plenty of grated Parmesan. With only 10 minutes of cooking time, this dish is an absolute winner for busy nights!
Print Pin
5 from 21 community reviews
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (340 g) dried pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound (450 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 2 medium breast halves) sliced into 1 ½-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh garlic
  • ¼-½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup basil pesto sauce
  • cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts, such as pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts or almonds, preferably unsalted

Instructions 

  • Bring large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously (about 1 tablespoon kosher salt or 2 teaspoons table salt per quart). Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta.
  • While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook until it’s cooked through no longer pink, 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and red pepper to the pan, cooking just until the garlic smells good, about 30 seconds. Stir in the pesto and ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  • Adjust the heat to low and add the cooked pasta and cheese to the pan, stirring to combine. If the sauce looks too thick, drizzle in a bit more pasta water to reach your desired consistency.
  • Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Serve hot, with additional grated cheese alongside.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

    • Stir in about 1/2 cup heavy cream with the pesto for a creamy sauce.
    • Substitute the chicken with sausage or shrimp, or leave it out for a vegetarian dish. Swap out chicken breasts for boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
    • Add about a cup of sliced cherry tomatoes or 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes.
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Nutrition

Calories: 397kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 570mg | Potassium: 476mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 770IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 140mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe? Search @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Pinterest
Recipe developer Karen Tedesco of the popular website Familystyle Food in her kitchen making a kale salad.

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

5 from 21 votes (18 ratings without comment)

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hubby says, “5 Stars!” I used Barilla Bucatini (thick spaghetti with a hole in it) and would recommend a substantial pasta (e.g. bow tie) rather than a delicate pasta (e.g. thin spaghetti). We had a rotisserie chicken stewing down in the crockpot, so I used some of that rather than raw chicken. We used Rao’s pesto, and Frigo fresh shredded parmesan. We used brazil nuts we had on hand. Delish! Very filling. For the two of us, I made a half recipe and have a “lunch” left over (as expected). Great with a piece of garlic toast. A fresh salad would be an excellent side dish.

  2. Angelita A. Lomibao says:

    5 stars
    I really love pasta. All I know to to cook is the common recipe for it. Thanks,to Karen I will learn a lot more recipe for pasta…

  3. Carson Hall says:

    5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was absolutely amazing. I used barilla brand Pesto which does not contain pine nuts. This is easy and 5 stars for sure.

    1. carson hall says:

      I actually used Classico pesto!! I will try making your Pesto next time. Thank you.