Pesto Chicken Pasta is an easy, 20 minute meal that’s made with just five shelf-stable ingredients. Bow tie pasta and chicken are coated in a rich and flavorful pesto sauce.
This recipe is perfect to keep on hand when you’re running low on fresh ingredients in the refrigerator, or can’t seem to get to the grocery store. Chicken pesto pasta is made with just five, shelf-stable, easy to find ingredients.
The best part is that this recipe is absolutely filled with flavor. Two main ingredients do the heavy lifting in this recipe – basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes in oil. You’ll use about half of each jar, meaning you can make several batches of this easy pasta recipe.
For this recipe, you’ll need a jar of pesto, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil (I like the julienne cut), dry pasta, garlic cloves (or garlic powder), and canned chicken breast.
I used bow tie pasta for this recipe, but you can use any shape or size of pasta you have on hand. Spaghetti, penne, fettuccine, or macaroni will all work too.
We’ll be utilizing some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, along with the basil pesto, to create a flavorful oil-based sauce for our chicken and pasta.
How to make chicken pesto pasta
First, you’ll want to cook your pasta in boiling water until al dente. Before draining your pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of your pasta water and set aside for later. We’ll use this to combine with our pesto sauce, which will emulsify with the starchy pasta water to create a ‘creamy’ sauce.
This is the same method used to make the classic Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti with garlic and oil), another 5 ingredient dish.
While your pasta is draining, return your pot to the stove over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes jar, then add your sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and minced garlic.
Cook for about 1 minute, then add your drained chicken, cooked pasta, and pasta water. Stir and toss to incorporate your ingredients, while cooking until your ingredients are heated through, about another 1-2 minutes.
Then, remove from heat and serve.
Additions and substitutions
Since this recipe has so few ingredients, it is difficult to make substitutions without completely changing the recipe. I do not recommend substituting the pesto or sun-dried tomatoes, since they provide most of the flavor in this recipe.
The canned chicken can be substituted with fresh cooked chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken. For a vegetarian option, use a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans instead.
Minced garlic can be substituted with garlic powder if you don’t have garlic cloves on hand.
If you’d like to add more to this recipe, try grating parmesan cheese over top before serving. Or, try adding a large handful of baby spinach with the pasta and chicken.
Pesto Chicken Pasta
- 8 ounces dry pasta
- 1/4 cup pesto
- 4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes in oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 12 ounces canned chicken drained
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water for a later step.
- In a pot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes, then add sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and minced garlic. Stir and cook for about 1 minute.
- Add cooked pasta, pasta water, and chicken. Toss until ingredients are evenly combined. Cook for another 1-2 minutes or until ingredients are heated through.
- Remove from heat, add salt and pepper as desired, and serve.
- Canned chicken can be substituted with: canned tuna, freshly cooked chicken, shredded rotisserie chicken, or a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.
- 2 garlic cloves can be substituted with 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Want to add more to this dish? Add a large handful of baby spinach when adding pasta and chicken to the pot. Top with grated parmesan cheese before serving.