Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

$5.01 recipe / $1.25 serving

I’m all about the quick skillet meals this week because, let’s face it, when you’re in the home stretch towards Thanksgiving, you don’t really want to cook anything… but you still gotta eat.

This quick skillet combines the vibrant flavors of basil pesto with tangy cream cheese to make a rich sauce that smothers the pasta, chicken, and broccoli. The pesto provides all the garlic and herbal flavor needed, so there’s no need to even dice an onion, mince garlic, or measure out herbs and spices—it’s already in the sauce! The whole dish cooks very quickly so you can have this one on the dinner table in about 30 minutes.

If you’re not into cream cheese, you can make this dish simply by substituting the chicken broth and cream cheese with a little half an half (1/2 cup or so). Just pour the half and half right into the skillet with the pesto and whisk until smooth. The sauce will be a little thinner, but it will have a distinctly creamy (and not so tangy) flavor. You may want to add an extra pinch of salt to make up for the chicken broth.

This can also easily be made vegetarian. Use a little extra broccoli, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and you’re good to go!

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

4.9 from 40 reviews
Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Total Cost: $5.10
Cost Per Serving: $1.25
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. bow tie pasta $0.63
  • 8 oz. frozen broccoli florets $1.15
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
  • 1 large (3/4 lb.) chicken breast** $1.50
  • ⅓ cup basil pesto $1.00
  • ½ cup chicken broth** $0.07
  • 4 oz. cream cheese $0.50
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once it reaches a full boil, add the pasta and continue to boil until the pasta is tender (7-10 minutes). Once the pasta is tender, add the frozen broccoli florets to the water with the pasta and continue to cook for 60 seconds. Drain the pasta and broccoli in a colander.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, thinly slice the chicken breast. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the sliced chicken, and sauté until it is no longer pink (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the pesto and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to combine and allow it to come up to a simmer. Add the cream cheese in chunks and whisk it into the hot liquid until a smooth sauce forms.
  4. Add the cooked and drained pasta and broccoli to the skillet and stir to coat it in the cream sauce.
Notes
** I buy my chicken breasts in value packs when they are on sale and freeze them for later use. The chicken broth is made from Better Than Bouillon brand soup base, which is less expensive than canned or boxed broths.

 

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

 

Step by Step Photos

Boil Pasta

First, cook 8 oz. of pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes, or until tender).

Frozen Broccoli

Once the pasta is tender, add 8 oz. of frozen broccoli to the pot of boiling water and continue to cook for 60 seconds. It’s okay if the frozen broccoli cools the water so much that it stops boiling. The hot water will thaw the broccoli just enough. Drain the pasta and broccoli in a colander.

Slice Chicken Breast

Meanwhile, slice one chicken breast (3/4 lb.) into very thin strips. I usually slice the breast across the grain and then lay each slice on their side and slice the thickness in half, too. And then if the pieces are long, I’ll cut the length in half. You want a lot of little pieces.

Cook Chicken

Cook the chicken breast in a large skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until it is no longer pink.

Pesto

This is the pesto that I use. It is usually stocked in the pasta aisle and it is usually at least a dollar less per jar than any other brand. This is a national brand and I’ve seen it in several stores, so be sure to check to see if it’s available in your area. It’s a very good price!

Pesto and Broth

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/3 cup pesto to the skillet with the chicken and then stir until they’re combined.

Cream Cheese

Let the broth/pesto mixture heat up and then add 4 oz. cream cheese in chunks (this is actually only 2 oz., I decided to add more after I took the photo). Whisk the cream cheese into the hot liquid until it forms a creamy sauce.

Creamy Pesto Sauce

The cream cheese will look a little chunky as you begin to whisk it in, but keep whisking and it will eventually create a nice creamy sauce.

Pasta and Broccoli

Finally, add the cooked and drained pasta and broccoli to the skillet and stir until it is all coated in the creamy pesto sauce.

Creamy Pesto Pasta Close

And that’s that! So easy! If you like ranch flavored foods, I think this tangy, garlicky sauce almost tastes ranch-like. So yum!

78 Comments

  1. Tiffini says:

    This dish was AWESOME! I added sun-dried tomatoes to it. I had to stop one of my kids from going back for thirds. I’m taking leftovers to my sister tomorrow given that I called her and talked about how delicious it was. This is a keeper and will definitely be added to our dinner rotation.

  2. Sabriena says:

    I made this tonight and it was delicious! I used Kranksy sausage instead of chicken and peas instead of broccoli but oh man..this is going in the dinner rotation. My 4 year old absolutely loved it also.

  3. Jenny says:

    Great recipe! All of my picky eaters were very happy, and so was I.

  4. Annie says:

    We made this last night with zoodles instead of pasta and it was SO good. It was so good that it was hard for us to split it into 4 servings instead of eating the whole thing! (We’re a family of 2.) We managed to do it and I couldn’t wait so I ate my 2nd serving today for lunch and it was just as good after being reheated on the stovetop.

    One note: We did use the whole package of cream cheese instead of half. I think it was totally worth it. It made it almost like a pesto alfredo, consistency-wise.

    Thanks for the killer recipe Beth, and for your awesome website!

  5. Bobbie says:

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was awesome! Thank you so much for this site I’ve been using it a lot since I’ve been living on my own in college and having to cook for myself. Can’t wait for new recipes!

  6. Chris says:

    Doubled the recipe, ate it happily for three days.

  7. Beth says:

    This is great! I added frozen peas with the broccoli, and fresh cherry tomatoes and basil at the end. On leftovers, I add a squeeze of lemon for freshness. For me, the key is the cream cheese and pesto together — I never thought of doing this and it’s delicious. This is now a standard in our household. Thank you so much for a wonderful recipe.

  8. Kathy says:

    By far the best tasting and easiest basil pesto pasta recipe out there. This one is a keeper! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Cristi-Lael says:

    Made this tonight and got a thumbs up from my whole family, even the picky 6 year old! Score!

  10. Nora says:

    I love this flippin’ recipe. Dead easy, super quick and cheap–of course! Tonight I made it with some fresh broccoli that was about to go bad and a bag of frozen shredded chicken made for some of your other recipes. I was standing in the kitchen for probably two minutes total and spent the other ten minutes on my computer, waiting for the cooking to finish. An amazing recipe and the one I always recommend to people new to BB.

  11. Ellorie says:

    Excellent recipe – I substituted salmon for chicken and added some frozen peas as well as a few cloves of garlic, sprinkles of chili pepper, and a lemon’s worth of zest and juice.

    Tasted amazing :)

  12. Kelly says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and it is DELICIOUS!! Thank you so much for great recipes that save me some green!

  13. Sophie Wolford says:

    First of all, this recipe was so tasty…..in the words of my 5 year old son, after finishing his plate and have been given the okay to go get a dessert, “Nah. I want more of the pasta instead! It’s YUMMY!”. If a 5 year old passes over dessert to eat more pesto pasta, it’s really good! ;-)

    Secondly, this made enough for my family of 4 to eat AND have leftovers for my fiance for dinner tomorrow.

    Great recipe! Thank you for sharing it with everyone!

  14. Chelsea says:

    Didn’t have any chicken thawed out, so I just went without and added extra broccoli like you suggested. Absolutely loved it.

  15. Nandini says:

    This was so good Beth! And just so easy. Can’t wait to try your other recipes. Will keep you posted :)

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