Pesto Pasta with Chicken

5 from 53 votes

Pesto pasta topped with smoky grilled chicken a squeeze of lemon and fresh basil. This pesto pasta is easy to make and is dairy-free!

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Pesto pasta with grilled chicken – perfectly charred and seasoned grilled chicken breast paired with a herbaceous pesto pasta. This grilled chicken pesto pasta is one of my go-to meals when I’m short on time but still want something tasty and satisfying. It’s a quick and easy meal that comes together in less than 30 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknights. Plus, it’s a great way to use up any leftover chicken you might have.

Finished pasta in dish tossed in pesto and topped with sliced chicken, basil, and lemon.

Pesto is one of my all-time favorite sauces. It’s so flavorful and versatile and goes great with just about anything. I especially love it paired with grilled chicken. The combination of the savory chicken and the bright, herby pesto is irresistible. I have my own recipe for pesto that I prefer to use for this recipe, but you can use any pesto you like.

why you’ll love this easy chicken pesto pasta

  • Filling and delicious. This pasta is packed with flavor and nutrients and will leave you feeling satisfied.
  • Quick and easy. This meal comes together in less than 30 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknights.
  • Great for leftovers. If you have leftover chicken, this is a great way to use it up. Also, the pasta itself makes great leftovers and can be taken to lunch or even eaten on a different night!
  • Kid-friendly. Get your kids to eat fresh herbs with this kid-friendly pasta dish.

Ingredients to make pesto pasta with grilled chicken

  • Spaghetti: If you’re not a fan of white pasta, you can use wheat, gluten-free, or a veggie mix.
  • Pesto: I have my own recipe for pesto that I prefer to use for this recipe, but you can use any pesto you have on hand.
  • Parmesan cheese: Because everything is better with cheese.
  • Butter: The butter adds a richness to the pesto and helps bring everything together.
  • Grilled chicken: Seasoned and grilled to perfection. You could also use rotisserie chicken if you’re short on time.
  • Seasoning: A sprinkle of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika is all you need to season the chicken.
  • Lemon: The lemon juice adds a finishing pop of brightness to the pasta and chicken.
  • Olive oil: Keeps the chicken from sticking to the grill pan or grill.
Ingredients for the recipe before being prepped: spices, butter, dry pasta, Parmesan cheese, pesto, lemon, oil, and raw chicken.

How to make chicken pesto pasta

You can use an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan for the chicken. I really like the convenience that an indoor grill pan brings to the home. You can have smoky, charred grilled chicken even in a blizzard.

Grill Chicken

  1. Preheat a grill pan. Add the olive oil. Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and transfer to the heated skillet.
  2. Cook the chicken on each side or until golden brown and cooked through.
2 image collage of chicken before and after being cooked in a grill pan.

cook pasta & toss with pesto

  1. Add the pesto, Parmesan cheese, and butter to the cooked pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix together and add in reserved pasta water gradually until the sauce is glossy.
  3. Add the sliced chicken strips on top of the pesto pasta.
  4. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.
4 image collage of past in pot being mixed with ingredients and topped with sliced chicken and fresh squeezed lemon.

Tips for making pesto chicken pasta with no cream

  1. Cook the noodle to al dente. Pasta is best when it’s cooked to al dente, which means it’s cooked through but still has a bit of bite to it. This prevents the pasta from becoming mushy and overcooked.
  2. Shock the pasta. After the pasta is cooked, shock it in cold water to stop the cooking process. This will help keep the pasta from becoming overcooked and mushy.
  3. Make sure the chicken is fully cooked. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
  4. Use fresh herbs. If you have them on hand, use fresh basil and parsley in the pesto. It makes a big difference in flavor!
Spoon scooping out pasta with chicken from pot.

popular substitutions & additions

  • Use chicken thighs instead of breasts. If you prefer dark meat, you can use chicken thighs instead of breasts. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Add vegetables. You can easily add veggies to this dish to make it even more nutritious. Try adding some sautéed mushrooms, grilled zucchini, or roasted red peppers.
  • Make it vegan/dairy-free. To make this dish vegan or dairy-free, simply omit the Parmesan cheese from the pesto. You can also use a vegan pesto recipe.
  • Use any pasta you have on hand. If you don’t have spaghetti, no problem! A box of elbow macaroni, fusilli, or even penne would work just fine.

how to store & reheat chicken pesto pasta

Store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge. To reheat, simply microwave the pasta or reheat it on the stove over low heat. You may need to add a splash of water or chicken broth to moisten it up.

how long will pesto pasta last in the fridge?

If stored properly, this pasta will last in the fridge for up to four days. After that, the pesto will start to lose its bright green color, and the flavors will become muted.

can i freeze pesto pasta?

Yes! Because there is no cream in the pesto, it freezes really well. I like to portion out individual servings so that I can thaw and reheat them as needed.

To freeze, simply store it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

Close up of finished dish of pasta with pesto, sliced chicken in pot garnished with basil and lemon wedges.

Frequently asked questions

What pasta is pesto best with?

Pesto is traditionally made with Ligurian basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. It’s typically served with spaghetti or another long, thin pasta noodle.

What can I use instead of chicken?

If you’re not a fan of chicken, you could try this recipe with shrimp, salmon, or even tofu. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

What can I serve with pesto chicken pasta?

This dish is pretty hearty on its own, but you could round it out with a simple side salad or some garlic knots. For dessert Banana Nice Cream, Greek Yogurt Brownies, or Cinnamon Baked Apples.

Shallow bowl with the pasta topped with chicken and garnished with lemon and basil with a fork in bowl.

So there you have it – a delicious, easy, and quick recipe for grilled chicken pesto pasta. I hope you’ll give it a try the next time you’re looking for a simple but tasty meal.

More pesto recipes:

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This Pesto Pasta with Chicken recipe was originally published on May 5, 2018. The recipe has been slightly modified and the post now includes new step-by-step photos for how to make the Pesto Pasta.

Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Pesto pasta topped with smoky grilled chicken a squeeze of lemon and fresh basil. This pesto pasta is easy to make and is dairy-free!
5 from 53 votes
Servings 6 servings
Course Main Course
Calories 465
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound spaghetti pasta
  • ½ cup pesto
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 6- ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Fresh basil for garnish

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain.
  • Return drained pasta to the same pot over low heat and add the pesto, Parmesan cheese and butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in reserved pasta water gradually until the sauce is glossy.
  • Preheat a grill pan to medium high heat. Add the olive oil. Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika and transfer to the heated skillet. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes, then slice into strips and add on top of the pesto pasta.
  • Add the lemon juice on top and garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Notes

Storage: If you have extra pesto sauce, store it in a jar or airtight container in the fridge for one week or in the freezer for up to 6 months. To prevent oxidizing in the fridge, you can pour olive oil on top or wrap with a plastic wrap directly touching the surface. Store leftover pasta with chicken in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 465kcal, Carbohydrates: 59g, Protein: 20g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 573mg, Potassium: 293mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 631IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 151mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

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Finished pasta in dish tossed in pesto and topped with sliced chicken, basil, and lemon.

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