One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

$10.41 recipe / $2.60 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.84 from 125 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 125 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! 
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Close up of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta in a shallow bowl with a black fork.
Servings 4
Prep 5 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 25 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast ($5.56)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.26)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1/2 lb. penne pasta ($0.40)
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth ($0.20)
  • 1 cup milk ($0.32)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese* ($0.29)
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto ($0.73)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.44)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.03)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper ($0.02)

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.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

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
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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. Not entirely sure why this shows up as a video?

    Recipe looks nice but I found this off a google search including videos and unless I am missing something fairly critical cannot see a video of any kind, would like to know what I am doing wrong

    Cheers

  2. I had (well, technically still have, but its days are numbered) a cherry tomato plant this summer that produced so much fruit I wound up sun-drying most of my crop in the oven, and I picked this recipe for their maiden voyage. It’s so dreamy and cheesy and perfect for these dreary Fall days, and the sun-dried tomatoes (if you made them like I did, soak the tomatoes in warm water for at least an hour before using) cut the richness of the cheese well. If you grate the parmesan fresh, try tossing the rind in with the pasta and chicken in Step 4. I’ve heard that people toss parmesan rinds into fresh tomato sauce for extra flavor, and I feel like it helped here, too. I also used spinach and served it with some green beans to make it a more substantial meal.

  3. You have to try it, it looks delicious, and the recipe is not difficult.
    I have already prepared several pastas with chicken according to other recipes, and it was always delicious in its own way.

  4. This was delicious, however we found it too very watery. Adding less milk may have been a better option! 

  5. This was SO good and easy! I ended up using oat milk because I ran out of cow’s milk and I was scared the pesto falvor wouldn’t come through, but it really did! I also ran out of chicken stock but I used vegetable stock and added a little half cube that’s granulated Knorr Chicken Flavor Bouillon. Will definitely make again <3

  6. I really need to stop checking this blog before lunch LOL Literally changing what I am having everytime I pop to read the new recipes

  7. Oh. My. Gosh. I am in love with this recipe! I used pesto made with fresh basil from the garden and my “sundried” tomatoes were cherry tomatoes I had dehydrated from the garden. I did use the spinach and, for this reason, it could have used a little more cream but I’ll just add some milk when we reheat the leftovers. I cannot thank you enough for this and many other recipes you’ve shared. Know that you are greatly appreciated and talented!

  8. This is okay, but it’s almost too creamy with the milk and the cream cheese. Barely any pesto flavor gets through. 

  9. My husband and child are very difficult to cook for, if I wanted to add in some fresh green beans or asparagus, at what point should I add them? Thanks!! I live by your recipes and have gained so much confidence in the kitchen. I love that you use pantry staples and don’t have me running all over town to find some rare spice or ingredients!

  10. OUTSTANDING! I am so glad I stumbled across your website today. I had to stay at my sister’s house overnight to meet the A/C guy to fix their unit and all I grabbed out of my house in a hurry was frozen chicken breasts and my frozen homemade pesto from the garden. I had 1/3 bag left of pasta so grabbed that and figured I’ll create a meal when I get to her place. Then stumbled across your recipe. Found a similar pasta in my sister’s cupboard to equal the recipe amount and off to cooking. Followed instructions exactly and it came out perfect – the chicken breast was super tender and the pasta cooked PERFECTLY. I did not have any cream cheese on hand so I didn’t add but I know that would take it to the next level. I did use 2% milk and it was absolutely perfect. I read some comments where folks were iffy about cooking pasta altogether vs separately but your instructions specifically state to continually lift lid, stir and quickly replace lid “until pasta is just about done”. Adding the milk and pesto will continue to finish off the pasta until it’s al dente. I read thru directions several times before cooking – definitely a keeper recipe and will make again, espec in the fall when my garden will have leafy greens I can add w/ sun dried tomatoes. Thank you for sharing!

  11. My husband can’t eat chicken, so I used Daring plant chicken pieces. This meal was absolutely amazing! Thanks you Budget Bytes for ANOTHER yummy recipe! I’m never disappointed

  12. Delicious recipe, however, it was too rich and salty for my family. Next time, will use less pesto or substitute water for chicken broth. We did double the recipe which may have been the issue as well. Otherwise, this is a very good recipe.