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horizontal shot of finished chicken pesto pasta in skillet

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Chicken Pesto Pasta is a fairly easy, delicious, nutrient-dense meal that the whole family will love.

Yield: 8 servings 1x
Total: 30 minutes


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 16 ounces whole wheat pasta (suggested: rotini or penne)
  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, plus extra for serving
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional for serving: 1 cup slice cherry tomatoes (or more if you’d like)

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  1. Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water generously. (Tip: While water comes to a boil, move on to the next step.) Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Important: Before draining, save 1-2 cups of pasta water in case you need to thin out the pesto sauce. Drain pasta and set aside. 
  2. Saute the Chicken: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmery, add the chicken and sauté until cooked through (no longer pink), about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Make the Pesto Sauce: In a food processor or high-speed blender, combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Turn on the food processor and stream in 1 cup olive oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Serve: Gently stir in the pesto, chicken, and optional cherry tomatoes into the pasta. If the pesto sauce is too thick, thin it out with a little of the reserved pasta water. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil, if desired. 


How to Substitute Store-Bought Pesto: While Homemade Pesto will always taste better, it’s often not feasible year round. Instead, use about 2 cups store-bought pesto in place of the basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil in this recipe. We suggest buying the refrigerated pesto rather than the jarred kind.

Gluten-Free Version: Simply substitute your favorite gluten-free pasta in this recipe. I really like Banza brand rotini.

© Author: Thriving Home
Cuisine: Italian Method: Stove Top