One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

$10.41 recipe / $2.60 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.84 from 192 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 192 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! 
Close up of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta in a shallow bowl with a black fork.
Servings 4
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Total 25 minutes

Ingredients

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.

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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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Video

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! :)

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  1. This has become one of our families go to recipes! We substitute the pasta with gluten free penne or fettuccine. The noodles take a bit longer to cook and we measure the chicken broth from the heart. We’ve also used a mix of chicken broth and water when we ran out of broth. We also use almond milk instead of whole and it’s still very good. I think the almond milk makes it a little sweeter – I imagine whole milk would be a richer flavor. Either way, this is a great recipe, easy to make, and is easy to substitute items for dietary needs.

  2. I just made this with the spinach and tomatoe add ons and it is a huge hit at my house!

  3. I’ll certainly try this but cooking the chicken the same amount of time as the pasta will result in hard overcooked chicken. Much better to fry off the chicken remove from pan then add it at the end.

  4. Yum!! I’ve made this recipe a lot lately, it’s so easy and delicious. I’ve played around with it and made it in my instant pot with 12oz gluten free pasta (jovial fusilli.) I do the chicken and then garlic in the butter on the sauté. Add 3.5 cups broth (I don’t use milk) and make sure any browned bits dissolve. Then add pasta. Pressure cook on high for 9 minutes, quick release, add the other ingredients (minus the milk). I use 4oz cream cheese. Yum!

  5. This creamy pesto chicken pasta from Budget Bytes is a game-changer for weeknight dinners – easy, flavorful, and all cooked in one pot, making cleanup a breeze!

    1. You can! You’d be fine to freeze it at the end of cooking, just make sure it’s fully cooled before transferring it to the freezer. I like to leave the pasta a bit al dente so it doesn’t overcook upon reheating.

  6. Love this recipe! Son-in-law cooked it for us over the holidays. Got the recipe from him and just made it again tonight. The left overs are great the next day as well.

  7. This is amazing! Made this tonight for my college kiddos. Subbed arugula for spinach since that’s all I had. SO good!!!!! They all loved it!

  8. I made this tonight, but only had about 1/2 the amount of cream cheese on hand, and the only fresh vegetables I had were zucchini, so I put them in after the cream cheese melted. I like my zucchini crisp-tender :). It was delicious! I also used gemelli instead, but penne would have been great, also.

  9. This was delicious! Very easy to make, and I love that there is only one pan to wash. Hubby who is a chef commented that it was delicious. Normally that compliment doesn’t come easily from him. A keeper recipe!

    1. You can, but it may be difficult to get the pasta to cook evenly in a larger quantity since one-pot methods do not use a lot of liquid like boiling pasta in a big pot of water.

    2. I doubled it and just used the last cup of chicken broth after the first 3 cups we’re absorbed and let it simmer a little longer! I had to transfer that over to my stock pot to add all the veggies. I did sun dried tomatoes, spinach & broccoli. It’s cooling now but I’m sure it will be delicious!