Chicken Pasta

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This is our all-time favorite Chicken Pasta– starting with creamy Italian-seasoned rotini pasta that is tossed with tasty bites of chicken, succulent sun-dried tomatoes, and tender spinach.

We love a good creamy pasta! Try this mushroom and herb Creamy Chicken Pasta next time, or, if you’re looking for a lighter pasta dish, this Chicken Penne Pasta is a great option.

Overhead image of Chicken Pasta in a bowl

Chicken Pasta

Nothing beats a big plate of creamy, delicious chicken pasta, and this indulgent meal rivals any restaurant’s version. Not to mention, you can make it for a fraction of the cost, in the comfort of your own home, in about 30 minutes total.

This creamy pasta is loaded with sun-dried tomatoes, tender bites of chicken, and fresh baby spinach. The simple and quick Alfredo is ridiculously flavorful without a million extra ingredients. The secret? A good-sized scoop of basil pesto — this adds so much flavor and a nice complexity to the sauce without any additional effort on your part!

Process shots-- images of the chicken being prepped and then cooked

More On Pesto

Adding a scoop of pesto to this rich and indulgent Creamy Chicken Pasta brings a nice freshness and also cuts through some of the richness. The pesto is so flavorful — we’re basically adding a whole cacophony of fresh herbs, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, and we’re accomplishing this with just one ingredient. Note that this pasta isn’t intended to taste heavily of pesto — rather, the pesto is a subtle flavor that adds freshness to the dish.

We recommend refrigerated, freshly made basil pesto. You’ll find it near refrigerated fresh pasta and gourmet cheese. Rana’s® Basil Pesto is our personal favorite store-bought pesto sauce (not sponsored).

Freshly made pesto may be spendy, but it stays fresh quite a while and a little goes a long way to add loads of flavor to so many dishes.

Consider adding some leftover pesto to some of our favorite dishes like: 

QUICK TIP

You can make this dish without pesto if you prefer. Replace the 1/4 cup of pesto with an additional 1/4 cup heavy cream. Add a touch more salt and Italian seasoning, and then garnish the dish with fresh herbs like Italian parsley or basil.

Process shots of Chicken Pasta-- images of the chicken being covered with foil and the butter, garlic, and chicken broth being added to the pot

Emulsifying Chicken Pasta

The final step of this recipe is one of the “secrets” to great Italian pasta dishes. Toss the Alfredo sauce, hot pasta, and reserved pasta water together –this is called emulsifying and that’s how you get a luxuriously smooth and incredibly flavorful sauce.

After draining the pasta, the cooking water looks a bit murky and less than appetizing but it’s filled with leftover starch from the boiling pasta and plenty of salt. Once you combine that water with a hot fat (the Alfredo sauce), the two emulsify to create that perfect, smooth sauce.

QUICK TIP

Do you struggle to remember to reserve some pasta water before draining the pasta? I know I do! Here’s a trick: Place your colander in the sink with a mug or heat-safe measuring cup in the center. When you go to drain the pasta, you’ll see the mug and be reminded to pull out some water first!

Process shots-- images of the cream, tomatoes, and cheese being added to the pot and the pasta being cooked and drained

Chicken Pasta Tips

  • Salt the pasta water: Salting the water is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta, so make sure the pasta is well salted as it cooks. Add the salt when the water is boiling, and then wait until the water returns to a full boil before adding in the rotini pasta. (Read more on how to properly salt your pasta water here.)
  • Choose the best sun-dried tomatoes: We love using these sun-dried julienne-cut tomatoes with herbs. The herbs in the tomatoes add lots of flavor (so we don’t need additional ingredients) and the julienne cut saves chopping time. These tomatoes are savory, a little sweet, chewy, and a great complement to the creamy textures in Chicken Pasta.
  • Increase the sauce as desired: Sometimes the pasta absorbs more sauce or you just want an extra saucy meal. Don’t be afraid to add in a few splashes of the reserved pasta water until the sauce is exactly how you like it!

Process shots-- images of the chicken being diced, spinach, pasta, chicken, and pesto being added

Chicken Pasta Tips, Cont.

  • Grate Parmesan on the small holes of the grater: For the perfect melt and to ensure the measurement is accurate, grab a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of your cheese grater.
  • Coarsely chop the baby spinach. While the spinach doesn’t have to be chopped, it does integrate better in the dish that way. Plus, you’ll get spinach in more bites and the smaller pieces are easier to eat. 
  • Let the chicken rest. Tenting the plate of chicken with foil and letting it rest before dicing it up will result in juicy and tender bites of chicken. I like to dice it while the cream sauce is simmering and thickening.

Up-close overhead image of Chicken Pasta in the pan

STORAGE

Chicken Pasta Storage

As with most pasta dishes, this recipe is best enjoyed the minute the sauce is emulsified (this is when all Italian-type pasta dishes taste their best)!

You can certainly store leftovers, but you’ll likely need to add some more heavy cream to loosen the sauce up again as you re-heat the pasta. Leftover pasta will be softer, but still plenty flavorful. Because of the pasta and dairy in this dish, it isn’t a great candidate for freezing and thawing.

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Chicken Pasta

5 from 2 votes
This is our all-time favorite Chicken Pasta starting with creamy Italian-seasoned pasta that is tossed with tasty bites of chicken, succulent sun-dried tomatoes, and tender spinach.
Print Recipe

Chicken Pasta

5 from 2 votes
This is our all-time favorite Chicken Pasta starting with creamy Italian-seasoned pasta that is tossed with tasty bites of chicken, succulent sun-dried tomatoes, and tender spinach.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken pasta
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 529kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $6.21

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked rotini
  • 2 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic ( ~3 cloves)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese Note 1
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, coarsely chopped
  • 4 packed cups baby spinach Note 2
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil-pesto, optional -- see Note 3
  • For serving: finely chopped Italian parsley or basil, additional Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • PREP CHICKEN: Cut chicken breasts in half widthwise to make four pieces. Use a meat mallet/frying pan/your fist to give each piece a quick pound (don't flatten chicken; we just want all the pieces fairly even in width). Season both sides with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. I add about 1/4 teaspoon of each seasoning to one side, flip and add another 1/4 teaspoon of each seasoning to the other side.
  • PASTA: Set a large colander in the sink with a glass mug or liquid measuring cup in the center of the colander. (This is so you don't forget to grab some pasta water before draining the pasta!) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water and then cook the pasta according to package instructions, subtracting 1 minute from what the package indicates. Use the glass mug to remove and reserve a big scoop of pasta water and then drain the pasta and set aside. Don't rinse under cool water.
  • COOK CHICKEN: Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons butter to a large heavy bottom skillet. Heat on high heat to melt and then add the chicken pieces in one layer. Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side or until cooked through (registers 160 degrees/juices run clear); remove to a plate. Tent with foil and set aside.
  • GARLIC: Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet. Once melted, add garlic. Cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Pour in 1/2 cup of chicken broth. It should sizzle and boil; scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Once this 1/2 cup is mostly evaporated, add in the other 1/2 cup. Stir.
  • CREAM SAUCE: Add in the heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and the remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes or until it thickens and slightly reduces. The sauce shouldn't boil; reduce heat and stir more frequently if needed. While it is thickening, dice the chicken into small pieces or shred with two forks on the plate.
  • TOSS: Add the spinach, chicken (and any juices left behind on the plate), and pasta. Use tongs to toss ingredients into the cream sauce until the sauce thickens, nicely coats the pasta, and the spinach cooks down (1-2 mins). If the sauce is too thick, slowly add in the reserved pasta water. After tossing for about a minute, add in the pesto and continue to toss. Taste and adjust, adding more salt/pepper to taste.
  • SERVE: Serve immediately. Top individual plates with a touch more Parmesan if desired, and fresh herbs if used Pasta is best enjoyed right after being tossed.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Parmesan: Grab a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of a cheese grater to get an accurate measurement and the perfect melt in this sauce.
Note 2: Spinach: While the spinach doesn’t have to be chopped it does integrate better in the dish that way. Plus, you’ll get spinach in more bites and the smaller pieces are easier to eat. I just run a chef's knife through a big pile of spinach quickly!
Note 3: Pesto: We recommend using refrigerated, freshly made basil pesto. You’ll find it near refrigerated fresh pasta and gourmet cheese. Rana’s® Basil Pesto is our personal favorite store-bought pesto sauce (not sponsored). Note that this pasta isn't intended to taste heavily of pesto -- rather, the pesto is a subtle flavor and freshness add to the dish. If you don't love pesto or don't have it on hand, you can still make this Chicken Pasta and it will be plenty flavorful!  Replace the 1/4 cup of pesto with an additional 1/4 cup heavy cream. You may want to add a touch more salt and Italian seasoning.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 529kcal | Carbohydrates: 54.7g | Protein: 20.4g | Fat: 25.4g | Cholesterol: 77.9mg | Sodium: 299.4mg | Fiber: 2.6g | Sugar: 3.5g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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4 Comments

  1. I made this last night and it was wonderful! Even though I didn’t have pesto on hand, the sauce still had so much flavor and was a nice change of pace from the fettuccini alfredo I normally make. I don’t usually use sun dried tomatoes but I enjoyed them in this dish.

    1. I am so happy you loved this Chicken Pasta! The sun-dried tomatoes are definitely my favorite part of the dish! 🙂

  2. Am I missing the link to pinterest in the recipes? I follow you on pinterest but I had to do a search for this on pinterest to be able to save it. The recipe was posted on FB and many times that is where I decide to save a recipe. Thanks! Making this soon, btw

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