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Creamy Chicken Pasta with Lemon

4.77 from 17 votes

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Creamy chicken pasta with veggies — the best grown-up mac and cheese. Shell pasta or other short pasta shapes are combined in a creamy lemon garlic sauce with cooked chicken, fresh basil and roasted zucchini.

An oval baking dish with creamy cavatell pasta with chicken, zucchini and spinach.

This lemony, creamy chicken pasta is a main dish that can be ready in 30 minutes. It tastes rich, savory and wholesome, all at the same time.

I call this (one of many pasta dinner ideas), a “grown-up” macaroni and cheese because I snuck in green vegetables along with chicken. Wink, wink.

If you decide to make this a totally vegetarian meal, just omit the chicken.

Creamy Chicken Pasta with Zucchini and Lemon

To borrow Julia Child’s words, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream”. I love butter, but this easy creamy pasta sauce doesn’t have any — just straight-up heavy cream and soft goat cheese, brightened with fresh lemon zest and juice.

Ingredient list

  • Cream: While traditional alfredo-style white sauces often start out with a base of butter, milk and flour, they often seem heavy and gloppy to eat. For this sauce, you’ll simmer heavy cream for a few minutes, just until it’s slightly reduced and thickened.
  • Cheese: Soft goat cheese melts into the heavy cream, adding tanginess and a smooth texture. If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, substitute with an equal amount of ricotta. Grated Parmesan brings the dish together, as always.
  • Chicken: Use leftover roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken.
  • Pasta: I recommend using a dried short pasta shape that’s cupped or tube-shaped to capture the creamy sauce. Cavatelli (shaped like tiny spiraled shells), bow-tie pasta, farfalle shell pasta or any shape you enjoy.
  • Vegetables: Zucchini or broccoli florets pair well with the lemony, creamy sauce.
  • Lemon: Fresh zest and juice balance out the creamy sauce.
An oval baking dish with creamy cavatell pasta with chicken, zucchini and spinach.
Creamy Chicken Pasta with Zucchini and Lemon

Creamy Chicken Pasta with Lemon

Karen Tedesco
Creamy chicken pasta with veggies — the best grown-up mac and cheese. Shell pasta or other short pasta shapes are combined in a creamy lemon garlic sauce with cooked chicken, fresh basil and roasted zucchini.
Print Pin
4.77 from 17 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (350 g) chopped zucchini or broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • cups (375 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Freshly grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces soft goat cheese
  • ½ cup (50 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chicken breast, chopped or shredded
  • 12 ounces (350 g) dried short pasta, such as cavatelli, shells or rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, or fresh basil

Instructions 

  • Heat the oven to 400 (200 C) degrees.
  • Toss the zucchini or broccoli on a rimmed baking sheet with the olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and red pepper. Roast 20 minutes, or until the zucchini is golden brown on the edges.
  • Bring 4 or 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  • Put the cream, shallot, garlic and lemon zest in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat (watch that it doesn't boil over), then reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir the lemon juice, goat cheese, and Parmesan.
  • Drain the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the chicken, cream mixture and roasted vegetables and mix together. Scatter the herbs over the pasta and serve hot.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • Omit the chicken for a vegetarian dish.
  • If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, substitute with an equal amount of ricotta.
  • To make a crusty-edged baked pasta, transfer the pasta and sauce to a baking dish. Bake in 400 degree oven 15 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the edges turn golden.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 598kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Sodium: 278mg | Potassium: 592mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1473IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 189mg | Iron: 2mg

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

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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.

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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great recipe. We used Trader Noe’s red lentil pasta to make it a gluten free dish. Yummy! Not as heavy we we thought it’d be. Definitely will be added to the rotation. Thanks Karen

  2. Susan Dowkes says:

    5 stars
    The recipe was very tasty and easy to make.
    It was a nice touch to our busy weekday dinner.
    I didn’t have goat cheese on hand so a melted extra aged gouda in the cream mixture to simmer down and melt togther.
    Going to make again when I have goat cheese on hand.
    I didn’t take time to read the story info above I just jump to the reciepe and started.
    Under the ingredient list it would be good to add left over chicken or cook chicken
    My first time trying a recipe from Family Style Food but going to give others a try as this
    was a great sucess for my gang.