A Spicy Perspective

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Basil Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe – Our easy homemade basil pesto recipe adds fresh and bright summer flavor to chicken pasta for a simple, satisfying weeknight meal your family will love. Plus it’s a perfect stress-free make-ahead dish!

basil pesto pasta

Basil Pesto Chicken

When you think of fresh summer flavors, you certainly think of pesto, right? Right.

Bright, bold pesto adds herbaceous earthiness to nearly any dish. Typically made with aromatic basil, pine nuts, and a hint of citrus, it absolutely screams summer.

We love incorporating homemade basil pesto in a variety of our family’s seasonal meal plans, like weekend favorites Healthy Pesto Chicken Kebabs with Cool Quinoa Pilaf and Pesto Pizza with Burrata Prosciutto and Microgreens recipe.

For an unbelievably quick, refreshing, and utterly delicious summer weeknight dinner that’s ready in less than 30 minutes, you’ve got to try this Basil Pesto Chicken Pasta!

chicken pesto pasta

The Best Homemade Pesto Pasta Recipe

Basil pesto is positively the star of this otherwise simple chicken pasta dish.

I mean, aren’t pasta dishes with chicken a pretty common combination for any busy household? There are so many ways to jazz up these staples with great flavors and textures, but adding homemade pesto is probably my favorite. I just love the light, zesty, familiar yet still exciting taste of a perfect Basil Pesto Chicken Pasta!

Not only is this a great recipe for summer because it includes seasonal ingredients, but chicken pasta with pesto is also actually meant to be served at room temperature or cold. It’s so wonderfully refreshing and filling, without being too heavy.

chicken pasta

What Ingredients You Need

Every home chef needs to have a basic homemade pesto recipe on hand. Our easy version of classic basil pesto might just be your new go-to recipe!

Here’s what you need to make the Best Basil Pesto from scratch:

  • Fresh basil leaves – brings in the lovely green pesto color and bold herbaceous flavor
  • Pine nuts – the blended texture provides thickness and a light nutty essence
  • Pecorino or parmesan cheese – adds a little sharpness to the flavor
  • Garlic – add a little or a lot: You can always add more if you like extra garlicky flavor.
  • Lemon juice – to brighten and balance the pesto
  • Extra-virgin olive oil neutralizes the acidity in the lemon juice and offers a subtle flavor
  • Salt and pepper – always

PRO TIP: You can turn this traditional basil pesto into a brilliant creamy pesto sauce by adding ½ – 1 cup of heavy cream at the end.

It’s important to mention, people tend to want to overdo the garlic in pesto. Typically the more garlic the better, but that’s not necessarily the case for this recipe. Because the garlic is raw, it can have a very sharp flavor that does not complement the sweet basil. One raw clove is usually plenty!

To make the Chicken Pasta portion of this recipe, all you need is:

  • Small pasta, such as ziti, fusilli, or gemelli
  • Shredded cooked chicken

This is a terrific quick recipe to include in a weeknight meal plan. It’s perfect for using chicken breasts cooked during your weekly meal prep session, or leftovers from a previous roasted chicken dinner.

Basil, pine nuts and garlic

How To Make Homemade Basil Pesto

It is so incredibly easy to make fresh pesto from scratch in only a few minutes! Here’s how:

  1. Set out a food processor. Place the basil leaves, pine nuts, pecorino cheese, garlic clove, and lemon juice in the food processor. Cover and pulse until finely ground.
  2. Then add in the olive oil, salt, and ground pepper. Pulse again until a smooth, thick pesto sauce is formed.
  3. Taste, then salt and pepper more as needed.

This basil pesto will keep well for up to 4-5 days total in the fridge when stored in an airtight container. It is great for making a day or so ahead of the complete chicken pasta dish.

How To Make Pesto Pasta

Once you’ve got your pesto made from scratch, on hand, the rest of this dish comes together very quickly.

  1. First, set a large pot of salted water over high heat, and set out a mixing bowl. Once boiling, stir the pasta into the water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta – do not rinse! – and place it in the mixing bowl.
  2. Then, gently combine the shredded cooked chicken with the pasta. Set aside and allow the pasta to cool a bit, so that you don’t wind up cooking the fresh, raw pesto.
  3. Once the pasta is no longer hot, stir in the basil pesto, one-half cup at a time, until it is as saucy as you like.
  4. Top this Basil Pesto Chicken Pasta with a bit of extra shaved pecorino or parmesan cheese for an even more delicious flavor.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Get the Complete (Printable) Homemade Basil Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe Below. Enjoy!

how to make pesto pasta

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I eat this creamy pesto pasta warm or cool?

You can serve this dish at room temperature, or if not enjoying it immediately, cover and chill until you are ready to eat.

Pesto is best when fresh, but does still taste amazing after several days if stored in an airtight container for 4-5 days.

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Yes, this is a great make-ahead up to 4 days in advance. Keep in the fridge in a sealed container and serve cold.

We hope you love making this fun, delicious summer dish as an easy weeknight meal or a yummy side at your next potluck!

Can I add in other ingredients?

Of course! This recipe would taste great with: cherry tomatoes, spinach, broccolini, kalamata olives, sauteed onions, and even try serving it with some chopped kale!

homemade pesto sauce

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Chicken Pesto Pasta Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Our easy homemade basil pesto recipe adds fresh and bright summer flavor to chicken pasta for a simple, satisfying weeknight meal your family will love!
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

For the Homemade Pesto:

For the Basil Pesto Chicken Pasta:

  • 1 pound small pasta ziti, fusilli, or gemelli
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken

Instructions

For the Basil Pesto:

  • Set out a food processor. Place the basil leaves, pine nuts, pecorino cheese, garlic clove, and lemon juice in the food processor. Cover and pulse until finely ground.
  • Then add in the olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground pepper. Pulse again until a smooth, thick pesto sauce is formed. Taste, then salt and pepper as needed.

For the Pesto Chicken Pasta:

  • Set a large pot of salted water over high heat, and set out a mixing bowl. Once the water is boiling, stir the pasta into the water. Cook to al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and place in the bowl.
  • Stir in the shredded cooked chicken. Allow the temperature of the pasta to come down a little, as to not cook the pesto. Once the pasta is warm (not hot) stir in the pesto, one half cup at a time, until it is as saucy as you like.
  • Serve at room temperature, or cold. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Video

Notes

Pesto is best when fresh, but does still taste amazing after several days. Therefore this is a great make-ahead up to 4 days in advance.
Pro Tip: Turn this classic basil pesto into a brilliant creamy pesto sauce by adding
½-1 cup of heavy creamy at the end.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup, Calories: 551kcal, Carbohydrates: 59g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Sodium: 139mg, Potassium: 267mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 487IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 131mg, Iron: 2mg
Course: dinner, Lunch, Main, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian

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13 comments on “Chicken Pesto Pasta”

  1. Thank you Sommer!
    Do you know how many calories does one serving of this chicken pasta have? I’m planning to include this in my regular weight gain diet, just want to make sure I know the calories that this meal will give me.

  2. My family loved it! Will be adding to dinner rotation!

  3. This dish was everything the recipe said it would be! Easy, fresh, and flavorful! This was a very satisfying mid-week dinner, thank you so much for sharing!

  4. This pasta recipe has such a good flavor and it is great for making a bigger batch!

  5. This was a delicious meal!  I’ve never made pesto before and this recipe made it not intimidating and turned our delicious. Highly recommend. 

  6. Pesto is so good and it pairs wonderfully with pasta. This is a dish I could eat every day. As a lunch, as a side, whatever. It is that good!

  7. Great recipe – I made it last weekend for a family gathering and everyone really enjoyed it.

  8. This was the perfect family dinner, and it was super easy to make as well! Loved every minute of this dinner!

  9. Pingback: 75 Best Cold Lunch Ideas for Everyone

  10. This is so delicious- and the pesto is just right on so many things! Definitely will be making more often!

  11. Made this last night, it was absolutely perfect!

  12. This quickly became a favorite at my house!! Yummy!

  13. Yum! My daughter loves anything pesto! I can’t wait to make this for the family! It looks so delicious!