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
This super fast skillet meal that combines a creamy pesto sauce, broccoli, and pasta is perfect for busy weeknights.
- 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
- 1/3 cup basil pesto $1.00
- 1/2 cup chicken broth** $0.07
- 4 oz cream cheese $0.50
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.
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).
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.
Add the cooked and drained pasta and broccoli to the skillet and stir to coat it in the cream sauce.
** 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.
Step by Step Photos
First, cook 8 oz. of pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes, or until tender).
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.
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 the chicken breast in a large skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until it is no longer pink.
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!
Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/3 cup pesto to the skillet with the chicken and then stir until they’re combined.
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.
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.
Finally, add the cooked and drained pasta and broccoli to the skillet and stir until it is all coated in the creamy pesto sauce.
And that’s that! So easy! If you like ranch flavored foods, I think this tangy, garlicky sauce almost tastes ranch-like. So yum!