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Chicken Pesto Pasta

August 20, 2021 (Last updated October 6, 2021) · Nicole Triebe

This chicken pesto pasta is the perfect weeknight meal! It on the table in under 20 minutes. You can make it with homemade or store bought pesto!

The kids are headed back to school and it’s time to get back into our daily routines! After school sports and activities, homework and all the things means that quick and easy dinners are in order! Dinner doesn’t have to take all day, and this chicken pesto pasta is just what you need for those busy weeknights! Store bought pesto is the trick to making this dinner so simple and quick, but if you’ve got the time, you can make your own! My pea shoot pesto would work great, or traditional basil pesto is delicious as well!

What do you need to make this dish?

  • Pesto – store-bought or homemade
  • Pasta
  • Chicken – either breasts pounded thin, or you could even use leftover rotisserie chicken!
  • Parmesan Reggiano
  • Reserved pasta water
  • Red pepper flakes – optional

What kind of pasta goes with pesto?

You could probably use any pasta shape with pesto for this chicken pesto pasta, but there are a few noodles that will work better than others. Spaghetti and linguine noodles are all traditionally recommended for pesto, but Fusilli, cavatappi, and rotini are also good options. The curves and grooves in these noodles hold the pesto well and really stick to the pasta.

pesto in food processor

How do you make homemade pesto?

It is so easy to whip up your own pesto at home because the food processor does all of the work for you! My pea shoot pesto recipe only has 6 ingredients: pea shoots, walnuts, garlic, lemon olive oil and grated parmesan cheese.

How long does pesto pasta last in the fridge?

If you refrigerate the chicken pesto pasta within 2 hours of cooking, this chicken pesto pasta should last 3 to 5 days in the fridge. To maximize the shelf life of cooked pasta for safety and quality, refrigerate the pasta in shallow airtight containers or resealable plastic bags.

chicken breasts being cooked in skillet

Tips for making the best pesto pasta dish

  • Garnish with freshly grated parmesan. The pre-grated stuff just won’t cut it. Grate it at home for the best flavor!
  • Use pasta water! Using some reserved pasta water will thin out the pesto so it coats everything nicely and creates a beautiful sauce that coats every bit of pasta. The starch in the water emulsifies with the pesto, which just means the fat in the pesto + starch in the water thickens.
  • Toss in a bowl, not the pot. Basil turns black when it’s heated. The heat from the pasta is the perfect amount, but any more, like if you add the heat from the pot, the basil darkens and the dish won’t look as appetizing.
chicken pesto pasta in scalloped bowl withpasta twirled around fork

What should I serve with this dish?

Here are some starters for this easy dinner idea:

Sweet corn arancini

Asparagus salad with tomatoes and basil

Panzanella salad

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Chicken Pesto Pasta

  • Author: Nicole Triebe
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Scale

1 lb chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into 1″ pieces (or leftover rotisserie chicken)

1/2 cup pesto

1012 oz pasta of choice (see blog notes for my favorite)

2 tsp salt

3/4 cup pasta cooking water

Parmesan, for serving

Red pepper flakes, optional


Instructions

Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil.

If you’re not using leftover rotisserie chicken, in a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to warm plate.

Add pasta to the boiling water and reduce heat to medium. Cook for the length of time per the packaging.

Just before draining, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Drain pasta in a colander, leave it for a minute.

Transfer pasta to a serving bowl (do not use pot you cooked the pasta in)

Add pesto and 1/4 cup of pasta water. Toss to coat pasta in pesto, adding more water if required to make pasta silky and saucy, rather than dry and sticky.

Taste, add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parmesan and basil.


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