This creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta is the colorful pasta of your dreams! It combines whole wheat pasta noodles, golden sautéed chicken, and bright, bursting cherry tomatoes in a luscious and vibrant pesto sauce.
Why You’ll Love This Easy, Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe
- Pesto. Pesto. Pesto! Say it three times, it’s THAT good. Pesto goes exceptionally well with pasta (as seen in this classic Pesto Pasta). Whether you use my homemade Basil Pesto recipe or store-bought pesto, this recipe is going to be delicious.
- It’s Hearty and Healthy. It’s filling and cozy, the way you’d expect a chicken pesto pasta bake (or a Chicken Alfredo Bake) to be. It’s also unexpectedly fresh and nutritious, thanks to veggies, whole wheat pasta, chicken, and Greek yogurt.
- It Can Be Made in Advance. Because pasta bake recipes like this one can be prepared entirely in advance, they’re fabulous not only for busy weeknights (meal prep win!) but for entertaining too. Assemble this pesto pasta with veggies entirely the night before and store it in the fridge. Then when you are ready to serve, all you need to do is pop it into the oven and bake.
5 Star Review
“This is one pasta casserole you will make again and again! The combination of flavors, and the fact that the sauce is lightened up with yogurt, makes this a favorite in my home. It also freezes well for future quick dinners :) Sooooo delicious!”— Jill —
How to Make Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Whole Wheat Pasta. One of my absolute favorite ways to instantly make any recipe healthier without a scrap of extra work is to use a whole grain option instead of white. Whole grains are higher in fiber, protein, and nutrients.
- Pesto Sauce. If using store-bought, choose one that’s fresh, pure, and tastes homemade.
- Chicken. Chicken is a meat that goes well with pesto pasta, because its mild flavor lets the pesto shine.
- Mozzarella. No chicken pesto pasta bake would be complete without some nice, melty Italian cheese. For an elevated flavor, try swapping fontina, smoked provolone, or a mix of cheeses.
- Parmesan. A sprinkle on top is the finishing touch.
- Cherry Tomatoes. A classic, perfect pairing with pesto. Their color makes the pasta beautiful too.
- Greek Yogurt. My sneak healthy addition that keeps this a creamy chicken pesto pasta bake with no cream.
- Frozen Spinach. Sneak healthy addition #2. Spinach is ultra mild and its green color is camouflaged by the pesto, so picky eaters won’t suspect it.
- Fresh Basil. A lively addition to give the pasta additional freshness.
- Saute the Chicken. Make sure it’s cooked through.
- Cook the Pasta. Reserve some of the pasta water.
- Prepare the Sauce. Combine the pesto and Greek yogurt.
- Add the Rest of the Sauce Ingredients. Start with the spinach.
- Layer the Pasta and Cheese. Alternate between the two in the baking dish.
- Bake. Cook chicken pesto pasta at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with more basil and cheese. ENJOY!
- Vegetarian Pesto Pasta. For a vegetarian pesto pasta dish, omit the chicken or add white beans like in this Cavatelli and Broccoli.
- Gluten Free Pesto Pasta. Swap gluten free pasta noodles for the regular noodles.
- Chicken Pesto Pasta with Bacon. For a creamy chicken bacon pesto pasta, add crumbled Air Fryer Bacon or Baked Bacon in the Oven.
- Chicken Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Make this recipe as directed, swapping in a sun-dried tomato pesto instead of a basil pesto. You can also simply swap the cherry tomatoes in this recipe for sun-dried tomatoes.
- Garlic Chicken Pesto Pasta. Use my post for How to Roast Garlic, and add roasted garlic with the chicken and tomatoes.
- To Store. Place the baked pasta in an airtight storage container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. You can freeze chicken pesto pasta, either before or after baking. Place your desired amount into a freezer-safe storage container or ziptop bag and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Meal Plan Tip
Assemble the entire chicken pesto pasta bake in advance and refrigerate unbaked for up to 1 day. When ready to bake, let it come to room temperature, then bake as directed just before serving.
What to Serve with Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Salad. Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad and Arugula Salad would be delicious paired with this pasta bake.
- Anti-Pasti. Make it a full Italian meal with a yummy spread of apps. Or try Antipasto Salad.
- Veggies. Serve this recipe with Sauteed Carrots, Air Fryer Broccoli, or Oven Roasted Vegetables.
- Mozzarella Sticks. Serving this chicken pesto recipe for a party or gathering? Don’t forget to kick things off with some crispy Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks or oven Mozzarella Sticks.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Dish. Perfect for this chicken pesto pasta bake.
- Mixing Bowls. These stack together for easy storage.
- Instant Read Thermometer. The best way to check if your meat is cooked through.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Don’t Overcook the Chicken. Watch your chicken closely while it’s sauteeing to ensure it doesn’t overcook. Since the chicken will cook a little more in the oven, you don’t want it to be too done already.
- Use Good-Quality Pesto. To ensure this is the best pesto pasta recipe, use a good-quality pesto that you enjoy. This pesto pasta relies on the pesto for flavor, so the quality matters. You can make a homemade version or use a store-bought variety you enjoy.
- Remove Excess Moisture. Both the spinach and tomatoes can harbor excess moisture that will make this chicken pesto pasta bake watery. Before adding these ingredients to the dish, make sure you’ve removed as much water as possible.
Chicken Pesto Pasta
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound whole wheat pasta penne rigate, rigatoni, fusilli, or similarly shaped pasta
- 1 (6.35-ounce) jar basil pesto or homemade Basil Pesto
- 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach thawed with as much of the liquid squeezed out as possible.
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes halved (or 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes of choice. If the tomatoes are very liquidy, blot away the excess liquid first)
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese or a blend of mozzarella and provolone
- ¼ cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves roughly chopped, divided
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the diced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken until golden on all sides and fully cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
- In a large stockpot of boiling, generously salted water, cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, then drain. Return pasta to the stockpot.
- While the pasta cooks, in a small bowl, whisk together the pesto and Greek yogurt until evenly combined.
- Stir in the spinach, breaking it up as needed and stirring until evenly combined.
- To the stockpot with the pasta, add the pesto/Greek yogurt mixture. Gently stir to coat the noodles in the pesto mixture. If the sauce is too thick, splash in some of the pasta water. It should be a little saucy.
- Add the cooked chicken, cherry tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Gently toss to combine.
- Pour half of the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup mozzarella and half of the basil. Layer the remaining half of the pasta over the top, spreading it into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and just barely starts to turn golden. Remove and sprinkle immediately with the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Serve warm.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: Assemble the entire chicken pesto pasta in advance and refrigerate unbaked for up to 1 day. When ready to bake, let it come to room temperature, then bake as directed just before serving.
- TO STORE: Place the baked chicken pesto pasta in an airtight storage container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO FREEZE: You can freeze individual portions or large quantities of this chicken pesto pasta, either before or after baking. Place your desired amount into a freezer-safe storage container or ziptop bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- TO REHEAT: Defrost chicken pesto pasta in the refrigerator overnight. Then, either bake at 375°F until hot in the center or microwave gently until warm.
- TO MAKE GLUTEN FREE: Swap gluten free pasta noodles.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Serve this chicken pesto mozzarella pasta with Sauvignon Blanc or Chianti.
Yes, you can use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. The thighs may take longer to cook, so make sure to check them for doneness before removing them from the skillet.
Italian sausage goes well with pesto and is a great alternative to the chicken in this recipe. I recommend choosing chicken or turkey sausage to keep the recipe lean and healthy. Pesto pasta with shrimp would also be delicious!