Chicken bacon ranch pasta is made in a single pan and ready in 30 minutes. Chicken, bacon, and penne pasta are coated in a creamy cheese sauce with tangy ranch seasoning.
There's nothing better than preparing a satisfying meal in just thirty minutes. Plus there's less clean up because you're using only one pan! You're going to love this recipe for chicken bacon ranch pasta because it's a quick, flavorful meal that's perfect for a busy weeknight.
Cubed chicken, bacon, and penne pasta are tossed in a creamy cheese sauce that has a tangy herb flavor from the addition of ranch seasoning.
This recipe serves four on its own, and can be stretched to feed more when served with a side salad and some crusty bread.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Bacon - Can be substituted with bacon bits if needed (but fresh bacon will add the best flavor). If using bacon bits, add olive oil before cooking your chicken, since you won't be utilizing the bacon grease.
- Cubed chicken - Can be substituted with a cooked and shredded rotisserie chicken to save time.
- Penne - Any medium shaped pasta will work in this recipe. Bow ties (farfalle), macaroni, or cavatappi are great options.
- Sharp cheddar cheese - Can be substituted with pepper jack cheese or monterey jack cheese. I highly suggest shredding your cheese fresh from a block. Many pre-shredded cheeses are dusted in powders to prevent clumping. When melted, this can make your sauce grainy.
- Ranch seasoning - can be homemade (here's my recipe for ranch seasoning) or store bought.
- Heavy cream - Can be substituted with sour cream for a tangier flavor.
Tips and tricks
Measure pasta and liquid exactly - This recipe is cooked in a single pan, so it's very important to measure your pasta and liquids exactly to avoid a thin or dry skillet meal. The pasta soaks up the liquid as it cooks, and only a small amount of liquid should be left once your pasta is cooked to al dente.
Food sticking to the pan? - Add a bit of liquid and turn the heat down - your stove is too hot. Stoves all run at slightly different temperatures, even if they're turned to the same setting.
Sauce look thin? - If your sauce looks thin, remove the finished dish from the heat and allow it to set, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Your sauce will continue to thicken as it stands.
Use freshly shredded cheese - Pre-shredded cheeses are coated in anti-clumping powder that makes your sauce grainy as it melts.
Add veggies - Try adding a cup of vegetables to your skillet meal for a more nutritious, filling meal! Add any of these options with your pasta: Frozen corn, frozen peas and carrots, or chopped broccoli florets. You could also add a handful of fresh spinach just before the heavy cream step.
Frequently asked questions
There are no thickening agents added to this recipe (like flour or cornstarch). Instead, we're using the starches released by the pasta as it cooks to thicken the sauce on its own. It's extremely important to properly measure the pasta and liquid in the recipe to prevent it from turning out thin. If your sauce looks thin after cooking, remove it from the heat and allow it to set for 5 minutes undisturbed. The sauce will continue to thicken as it stands.
Leftovers will keep for 3-4 days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and can be reheated on the stovetop over medium heat or in the microwave. You may want to add a splash of cream or milk to help thin the sauce while it reheats.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
- 6 slices bacon, chopped
- 16 ounces boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cubed
- 18 ounces water
- 8 ounces penne pasta, uncooked
- 1 tablespoon ranch seasoning
- 4 ounces heavy cream
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, add chopped bacon and cook until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease. If needed, add olive oil to equal 2 tablespoons of total oil/grease in your pan.
- Add cubed chicken and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from pan, set aside, and cover to keep warm.
- Add water, penne pasta, and ranch seasoning to pan, stirring to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook to al dente according to pasta's package directions. Most of the liquid should be absorbed. If pan starts to look dry, add another 1-2 ounces of water.
- Add cooked chicken, bacon, heavy cream, and shredded cheese to pan. Stir until cheese has melted. Remove from heat and allow to set for 5 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Top with fresh parsley and serve.
- Want to add vegetables? Stir in a cup of peas, cooked broccoli, or a handful of spinach before adding your heavy cream.
- Heavy cream can be substituted with sour cream.
- Cheese should be freshly grated. Bagged, pre-shredded cheese is coated in a powder to prevent clumping, which can cause your sauce to be grainy.
- It is important to accurately measure your broth and pasta for this recipe. As written, you'll have just enough liquid to cook your pasta, without leaving excess liquid in the pan.