Pesto Chicken Pasta

This pesto chicken pasta is a fresh summer dinner made with cherry tomatoes, pesto, mozzarella and tender chicken. It’s an easy 30-minute dinner.

overhead photo of pesto chicken pasta in a skillet

This post and recipe have been updated from the archives. First published May 2009.

This time of year, I can subsist on pretty much three things: tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. It’s a habit I picked traveling around Italy a few years back and serves as my main motivation for growing my own tomatoes, which most years doesn’t exactly work out. I like to blame the weather, but I’m pretty sure my tomato fails are due to gardener error. But, this year, there’s hope! My plants are heavy with tomatoes that aren’t yet ripe but are very much alive, so fingers crossed.

And the original plan was to use those tomatoes in this pesto chicken pasta I’m sharing today. It’s a riff on my three favorite summer ingredients with some pasta and chicken tossed in to make it a proper dinner. Luckily, seeing as my tomatoes are on the slower-ripening end of the stick, it’s easy to find summer-fresh tomatoes in other places besides my backyard.

Besides all the summer tomato goodness, this pesto chicken pasta is an easy stovetop dinner that comes together in about the time it takes to boil the pasta. The tomatoes are cooked just until they’re softened so they retain their summery freshness. Their juices combine with the pesto to create a light and flavorful sauce that’s tossed with tender chicken, fresh mozzarella and pasta. In other words, it’s an easy-breezy summer recipe.

I love some easy-breezy cooking, don’t you?

Ingredients

  • Penne
  • Olive oil
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Pesto
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Parmesan cheese

Tips for Making Pesto Chicken Pasta

  • If you saw my post a few days ago with an easy pesto recipe and wondered what you might do with it besides just tossing it with some pasta (although, this is an excellent idea) this chicken pasta recipe puts it to good use.
  • That said, I totally get if you’d rather just buy some pesto instead of making your own. If you do, be sure to buy fresh refrigerated pesto that’s usually near the produce department. Stay far away from any pesto sauce that’s sitting in a middle aisle at room temperature – it’s the opposite of fresh.
overhead photo of a bowl of homemade pesto
  • While you wait for the pasta water to boil prep the chicken by pounding it out to an even thickness. This will tenderize the chicken and it will cook evenly in the pan.
  • Cook the chicken first in a large skillet and then cook the tomatoes in the juices left behind by the chicken. The tomatoes only need a few minutes in a hot skillet. They will release juices as they break down which will mix with all the flavor left behind by the chicken.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, I like to use a large slotted spoon to transfer from the pasta water to the skillet. That way, it brings along some of the starchy pasta water which helps give the sauce a little body. If you drain your pasta with a colander, be sure to save a couple of tablespoons of the water to add to the pan.
  • Once you’ve added the pasta you can add the chicken (slice it into bite-sized pieces first), the pesto, and the mozzarella and toss it all together to combine.
  • For serving, garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Check your pasta stash before you buy a box of penne because any short pasta shape will work in this recipe. Farfalle, rotini, gemelli, orecchiette, and cavatappi are all good choices.
  • If you can’t find cherry tomatoes (or your tomato plants are slow like mine) you can use grape tomatoes, too.
  • I used fresh mozzarella pearls, which are small balls of mozzarella typically sold in 8-ounce packages. If you can’t find them, just get a regular ball of mozzarella and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
  • As far as the pesto, you aren’t limited to classic basil pesto. For a twist, try tossing it all with some beet tops pesto or spinach and parsley pesto.

Happy cooking,

overhead photo of a plate of pesto chicken pasta

More Chicken Breast Recipes

Print

Pesto Chicken Pasta

photo of pesto chicken pasta

This pesto chicken pasta is a fresh summer dinner made with cherry tomatoes, pesto, mozzarella and tender chicken. It’s an easy 30-minute dinner.

  • Author: April @ Girl Gone Gourmet
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale
  • 6 ounces penne or other short pasta
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound (1/2″-thick) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 10 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup pesto (see note)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls (see note)
  • 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the penne and cook it according to package directions (approximately 10 to 12 minutes)..
  2. While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil over medium-heat high in a large skillet. Place the chicken breasts in the skillet and cook them on one side for five minutes. Turn them and cook them for another 3 to four minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  3. In the same skillet, cook the tomatoes over medium heat until they are softened and have released some of their juices. Adjust the heat to medium-low until the pasta has finished cooking.
  4. Transfer the cooked penne to the skillet with the tomatoes and stir to coat them in the juices released by the tomatoes. 
  5. Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add them to the skillet with the tomatoes and penne. Add the pesto and until the pasta and chicken are evenly coated. Add the mozzarella pearls and stir again. Garnish with the grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Notes

  • You can use store-bought pesto or make a batch of my quick and easy pesto that makes just enough for this recipe.
  • Mozzarella pearls are small bite-sized balls of fresh mozzarella. If you can’t find them, you can cut a regular ball of mozzarella into bite-sized pieces.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 730
  • Sugar: 3.9g
  • Fat: 41.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 39.4g
  • Fiber: 3.5g
  • Protein: 49.6g

Keywords: pesto chicken pasta, easy chicken pasta recipe

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