One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

$10.41 recipe / $2.60 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.84 from 181 votes
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This One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta was inspired by those little packets of powdered pasta sauce mix I always see in the grocery store. While those little packets are probably great for camping, stocking a bomb shelter, or keeping in your emergency hurricane supplies, I think regular weeknights call for something better. Better but not harder. This Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta comes together in about 25 minutes, is super luscious and creamy, and uses just a few simple ingredients. ;)

Overhead view of a skillet full of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta with a wooden spoon in the side.

Chicken, Spinach, and Tomatoes Optional

This recipe idea started as just pasta and sauce. Because sometimes that’s all you need to be satisfied. But I like to rummage through my pantry, fridge, and freezer to find leftover ingredients that can be added to whatever I’m cooking. So I ended up with this creamy pesto chicken pasta, with spinach and sun dried tomatoes. But I ate it as just pasta and sauce during testing and it still made me do the happy chair wiggle.

What Type of Pasta Should I Use?

I used penne pasta, but bowties or rotini would also work well. Because this pasta to broth ratio is very important in one pot pastas I can’t vouch for alternative pastas like gluten-free, rice, chickpea, or even whole wheat pasta. They absorb broth differently than semolina pasta and may not work the same in this recipe.

Tips for Success with “one pot” Pastas

One pot pastas can be tricky for some because the pasta is cooked in a much smaller amount of liquid than traditional pasta cooking methods. Here are a few tips to make sure your one pot pasta cooks evenly and to the right texture:

  • Make sure you’re using quality cookware. Use cookware that is thick, heavy, and transfers heat evenly. Thin cookware will leave some pasta overcooked and some pasta undercooked.
  • Use a burner that is close in size to your cookware. This will help the pot heat evenly and cook the pasta evenly.
  • Make sure the broth maintains a strong simmer throughout the cooking time. If it’s not simmering, the pasta will become mushy.
  • Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking and make sure the pasta cooks evenly.
  • Keep the pot covered to trap steam, which will help cook the pasta.
Close up of One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta in the skillet with a wooden spoon.

Love one pot chicken pasta recipes? Check out my One Pot Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta or One Pot Creamy Mushroom Pasta!

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One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

4.84 from 181 votes
This super lush and Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta is perfect for busy weeknights. Everything cooks in one pot and is done in under 30 minutes! 
Close up of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta in a shallow bowl with a black fork.
Servings 4
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Total 25 minutes

Ingredients

Optional Add-Ins

  • 3 cup fresh spinach ($0.90)
  • 1/4 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes ($1.10)

Instructions 

  • Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch pieces. Add the butter to a deep skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the chicken is slightly browned on the outside.
  • While the chicken is cooking, mince the garlic. Add the garlic to the skillet with the chicken and continue to sauté for one minute more.
  • Add the uncooked pasta and chicken broth to the skillet with the chicken and garlic. Stir to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the broth up to a boil.
  • Once the broth comes to a full boil, give the pasta a quick stir, replace the lid, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the pasta simmer over medium-low heat for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the broth has been absorbed. Stir the pasta briefly every two minutes as it simmers, replacing the lid quickly each time.
  • Once the pasta is tender and most of the broth absorbed, add the milk, cream cheese (cut into chunks), and pesto. Stir and cook over medium heat until the cream cheese has fully melted into the sauce. Finally, add the grated Parmesan and stir until combined.
  • If using, add the fresh spinach and sliced sun dried tomatoes. Stir until the spinach has wilted, then remove the pasta from the heat. Top the pasta with freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper, then serve.

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Notes

*Cream cheese usually has markings on the outer wrapping showing lines for each ounce. Use this as a guide to cut three ounces from the block.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 748.68kcalCarbohydrates: 52.55gProtein: 41.75gFat: 41.53gSodium: 1099.28mgFiber: 4.1g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Video

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Close up of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta in a shallow bowl with a black fork.

Love one pot pasta? Check out my One Pot Meals category for more! 

How to Make Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta – Step by Step Photos

Browned chicken pieces in a deep skillet

Cut one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast into 1-inch pieces. Add 2 Tbsp butter to a deep skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and sauté until the chicken is slightly browned on the outside. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and sauté for one minute more. (I’m using an OXO 4-quart covered skillet)

Uncooked pasta and chicken broth added to the skillet

Add 1/2 lb. uncooked penne pasta and 1.5 cups of chicken broth to the skillet. Stir briefly to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Lid being placed on the skillet with uncooked pasta and chicken

Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the broth to come up to a full boil.

Cooked pasta in the skillet with a spatula pulling the pasta to the side to show no broth remains

Once the broth comes to a full boil, give the pasta a brief stir, replace the lid, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it continue to simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the broth absorbed. Stir the pasta every two minutes or so as it simmers, replacing the lid each time.

Milk being poured into the skillet with chunks of cream cheese and pesto.

Add 3 oz. cream cheese (cut into chunks), 1/3 cup pesto, and 1 cup milk to the skillet. Stir and cook the mixture over medium until the cream cheese has fully melted and the sauce is creamy.

Finished creamy pesto pasta sauce and pasta in the skillet

Once the cream cheese has fully melted in, add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and stir to combine.

Spinach and sun dried tomatoes added to the skillet

If you’re adding spinach and sun dried tomatoes, like I did, add them once the sauce is finished and stir just until the spinach has wilted, then remove the skillet from the heat.

Finished creamy pesto chicken pasta in the skillet topped with black pepper and crushed red pepper

Whether you are using spinach and sun dried tomatoes or not, finish the creamy pesto chicken pasta off with some freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. The little pops of flavor that these two bring to the dish really take it to the next level!

Close up of One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta in the skillet with a wooden spoon

Dive in! :)

TRY THESE OTHER ONE POT CHICKEN RECIPES:

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  1. This is such a wonderfully quick and tasty meal. I really like how your blog is set up. Very simple and straight forward. I make this like twice a month at least. I see others adding extra both to cover the pasta. Please don’t do that guys. The pasta absorbs the liquid. It’s not like boiling macaroni. It’s a different technique!

  2. So delicious. I made this after a very long day and it came together very quickly.
    I only had thighs and macaroni pasta on hand, but it worked well. Its high volume, filling, and extremely deliciou. Will definitely be making again!

  3. Delicious! I used chickpea protein pasta – took a little extra broth. Added the spinach and sun dried tomatoes. Will absolutely make this again.

  4. This is a real winner! I appreciate the flexibility of the recipe, allowing for substitutions and additions like sautéed mushrooms. The tip about using Greek yogurt as a healthier alternative to cream cheese is a game-changer. Despite the caution regarding freezing, it’s great that this dish can be made in bulk and enjoyed later. Looking forward to making this delightful dish again!

    Alex,
    https://cheeseorigin.com/

    1. So easy to make, and very tasty! The flavors mix so well!!
      I have made this multiple times and the recipe is so flexible.
      I usually add mushrooms with the pasta

  5. This was so incredibly fast and easy to make. It was so delicious! I will be making this weekly! 💖

      1. Thank you! Looking forward to making this today for the family of a friend in the hospital.

  6. So easy and delicious I love one pot meals!!! Definitely added a little bit more cheese cause…..of course I did :). Otherwise, I followed recipe exactly and turned out great.

  7. Just made this tonight for dinner and it was absolutely delicious!! I had to triple the recipe for my crew, and it still turned out amazing. (Sometimes I have trouble with recipes turning out when I have to make larger quantities) This will definitely be put into our meal rotation, per the family’s request. 😀

  8. Update !! So I recently commented worried that it wouldn’t come out good bc the pasta wasn’t done and I had to add more broth,
    It came out perfect !!
    Also totally agree about adding red pepper flakes, I don’t like spicy at all but the flavor at the end is amazing !

    1. Delicious! Didn’t have cream cheese so I used plain Greek yogurt and still turned out great. Just had to boil a bit longer to reduce and thicken. Will definitely make again!

  9. Hi, Beth, nice work on the recipe, photos, etc. I consumed a LOT of sushi last night and thought I’d never eat again when we were done. But your recipe for pasta and pesto made me head back to the kitchen and try it! Delish! And I had all the ingredients on hand, too! Thanks!

    You said something prior to the instructions, and I quote, “I can’t vouch for alternative pastas like gluten-free, rice, chickpea, or even whole wheat pasta.” Alternative everythings are just about de rigueur nowadays, not least are substitutes for pasta. So, may I respectfully suggest that you try cooking alternative recipes now and again and posting your results? Or looking them up and posting a link? Or contacting a fellow recipe blogster and posting a quote?

    Okeedoke. That’s it. Thanks again.

    Love,
    Katy

    1. It’s very difficult because every brand cooks a little bit differently and they may all perform differently for each individual recipe. A lot of times other readers who have tried it with their favorite alternative pasta brand will comment about how it turned out, so I think that’s probably the best we can do at the moment!

  10. Very tasty! Made for guests and everyone liked it. I added 10 oz of sliced sautéed mushrooms to the recipe. Used cavatappi shaped pasta instead of penne. When served alongside a veggie packed Italian salad, this served 5-6 people. Will make again!

  11. Tried this but used olive oil instead of butter and evaporated milk instead of regular milk. Quick easy and delicious recipe !

    1. Hi Abi! You can try freezing but the cream will separate and the pesto will brown. But I’m sure that’s better than wasted food. Good luck!

      1. This recipe was beyond amazing!!! My husband and I really enjoyed it and we will definitely be making it again soon!