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.
You're going to love this recipe for chicken bacon ranch pasta because it's a quick, flavorful meal that's easy to make on a busy weeknight. Bonus - the entire family will love it!
There's nothing better than coming home and preparing dinner in just thirty minutes. Plus there's less clean up because you're using only one pan.
This cheese sauce is creamy and smooth with a tangy herb flavor from the addition of ranch seasoning. Serves four on its own, and can be stretched to serve 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, use 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 doubled for a creamier skillet meal, or substituted with sour cream.
Try adding a cup of vegetables to your skillet meal for a more nutritious, filling meal! Add any of these options in after your pasta has finished cooking, before the heavy cream step.
- Frozen corn (thawed)
- Frozen peas and carrots (thawed)
- Cooked, chopped broccoli
- Handful of fresh spinach
Thickening your sauce
There are no thickening agents in this recipe, like flour or cornstarch.
Instead, you'll be using the starches released from your cooking pasta to help thicken your sauce naturally. If the ingredients are measured exactly, you'll have just enough liquid to cook your pasta and create a sauce.
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.
Skillet meal tips
If you've never made a homemade pasta skillet before, here are a few of my favorite tips for success:
- Is your 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 when you're done cooking, allow the pan to sit for 5 minutes, uncovered. The pasta will continue to absorb liquid as it stands.
- It is important to properly measure your liquids and pasta for this recipe. Everything is cooked in a single pan, so you'll need an exact amount of liquid to cook your pasta. Improper measuring can lead to a runny sauce.
- Use freshly shredded cheese (cheese grated from a block) instead of pre-shredded cheese in a bag. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated in anti-clumping powder that makes your sauce grainy as it melts.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
- 6 slices bacon chopped
- 16 ounces boneless, skinless, chicken breasts cubed
- 20 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.