Meet me at the intersection of creamy comfort food and fabulously fresh for a big, cheesy, and (yes!) healthy serving of Chicken Pesto Pasta.
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This creamy pasta bake combines whole wheat pasta noodles, golden sautéed chicken, and bright, bursting cherry tomatoes in a vibrant pesto sauce.
It’s hearty, filling, and cozy, the way you’d expect a chicken pesto pasta bake to be.
It’s also unexpectedly fresh.
A bright basil pesto sauce infuses the pasta with light and sunny flavor. Cherry tomatoes and spinach add healthy servings of veggies.
You can just add pesto to pasta and call it a day, but I think the extra addition of veggies and herbs lifts the pasta right off of your plate
Whether you need a healthy, ultra tasty dinner option to feed a crowd, want leftovers to enjoy the rest of the week, or are looking for meals you can make in advance, this chicken pesto pasta is a fantastic choice.
5 Star Review
“This is one pasta casserole you will make again and again! The combination of flavors, and the fact that the sauce is lightened up with yogurt, makes this a favorite in my home. It also freezes well for future quick dinners 🙂 Sooooo delicious!”
— Jill —
Because pasta bake recipes like this one can be prepared entirely in advance, they’re fabulous not only for busy weeknights (meal prep win!), but for entertaining too.
You can assemble this pesto pasta with veggies entirely the night before and stored it in the fridge. Then when you are ready to serve, all you need to do is pop it into the oven and bake.
In the event of leftovers? It reheats like a dream for our dinner the next night.
How to Make Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes
Unlike many other chicken pesto pasta recipes, this pasta with pesto is healthy, flavorful, and guaranteed to impress anyone you serve it to!
Which Pasta is Best with Pesto
The best pasta for pesto has some kind of edges or texture so that the pesto clings to it. Penne, Gemelli, and fusilli are all fantastic choices for pesto.
- Whole Wheat Pasta. One of my absolute favorite ways to instantly make any recipe healthier without a scrap of extra work is to use a whole grain option instead of white. Whole grains are higher in fiber, protein, and nutrients.
DeLallo whole wheat pasta is my go-to. Unlike other whole wheat pasta brands I’ve tried, the texture of the pasta is spot-on al dente and its flavor is so mild, even the pickiest eaters won’t notice it is whole wheat.
- Prepared Pesto Sauce. A fantastic store-bought shortcut to keep the recipe easy-breezy! I used DeLallo Simply Pesto Traditional Basil. Its flavor is fresh, pure, and tastes homemade.
- Chicken. Chicken is a meat that goes well with pesto, because its mild flavor lets the pesto shine.
Italian sausage goes well with pesto also, so if you want to vary it up, sausage is a great choice. I recommend choosing chicken or turkey sausage to keep the recipe lean and healthy. Pesto pasta with shrimp would also be delicious!
- Mozzarella. No chicken pesto pasta bake would be complete without some nice, melty Italian cheese. For an elevated flavor, try swapping fontina, smoked provolone, or a mix of cheeses. A sprinkle of Parmesan on top is the finishing touch.
- Cherry Tomatoes. A classic, perfect pairing with pesto. Their color makes the pasta beautiful too.
- Greek Yogurt. My sneak healthy addition that keeps this as a chicken pesto pasta bake no cream. It makes the pesto pasta sauce rich and creamy without adding fat and provides protein.
- Frozen Spinach. Sneak healthy addition #2. Spinach is ultra mild and its green color is camouflaged by the pesto, so even picky eaters won’t suspect it.
- Fresh Basil. A lively addition to give the pasta additional freshness.
For a vegetarian pesto pasta, omit the chicken.
- Cook the pasta noodles. Drain and reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid. Pour the drained pasta right back into the pot you used to cook it.
- Saute the chicken.
- Combine the pesto and Greek yogurt.
- Add the spinach.
- Stir the pesto mixture together with the pasta. Stir in the chicken, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes.
- Layer the pasta and cheese together in the baking dish.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with more basil and more cheese, then ENJOY!
Serve this chicken pesto mozzarella pasta with Sauvignon Blanc or Chianti.
This tasty chicken pesto pasta is a meal-prep dream. It’s also freezer friendly and excellent leftover.
- To Store. Place the baked chicken pesto pasta in an airtight storage container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F.
- To Freeze. You can freeze individual portions or large quantities of this chicken pesto pasta, either before or after baking. Place your desired amount into a freezer-safe storage container or ziptop bag and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Meal Plan Tip
Assemble the entire chicken pesto pasta bake in advance and refrigerate unbaked for up to 1 day. When ready to bake, let it come to room temperature, then bake as directed just before serving.
I know you’re going to love this healthy chicken pesto pasta recipe as much as my pals and I did. It’s comfort food at its freshest and finest!
Looking for more fresh, healthy pasta recipes that are great for parties? Try my Skillet Lasagna with Basil, Italian Sausage, and Butternut Squash or my favorite healthy Turkey Bolognese.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Dish. Perfect for this pesto chicken pasta bake.
- Mixing Bowls. These stack together for easy storage.
- Instant Read Thermometer. The best way to check if your meat is cooked through.
High-Quality Baking Dish
You’ll love baking in this beautiful and heavy-duty baking dish. It’s an investment piece that will cook beside you for years to come.
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Chicken Pesto Pasta
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ¼ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound DeLallo Whole Wheat Pasta penne rigate, rigatoni, fusilli, or similarly shaped pasta
- 1 6.35 ounce jar DeLallo Simply Pesto Traditional Pesto flavor
- 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach thawed with as much of the liquid squeezed out as possible.
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes halved (or 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes of choice. If the tomatoes are very liquidy, blot away the excess liquid first)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese or a blend of mozzarella and provolone
- ¼ cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves roughly chopped, divided
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the diced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken until golden on all sides and fully cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
In a large stockpot of boiling, generously salted water, cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, then drain. Return pasta to the stockpot.
While the pasta cooks, in a small bowl, whisk together the pesto and Greek yogurt until evenly combined.
Stir in the spinach, breaking it up as needed and stirring until evenly combined.
To the stockpot with the pasta, add the pesto/Greek yogurt mixture. Gently stir to coat the noodles in the pesto mixture. If the sauce is too thick, splash in some of the pasta water. It should be a little saucy.
Add the cooked chicken, cherry tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Gently toss to combine.
Pour half of the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with ½ cup mozzarella and half of the basil. Layer the remaining half of the pasta over the top, spreading it into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup mozzarella.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and just barely starts to turn golden. Remove and sprinkle immediately with the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Serve warm.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: Assemble the entire chicken pesto pasta in advance and refrigerate unbaked for up to 1 day. When ready to bake, let it come to room temperature, then bake as directed just before serving.
- TO STORE: Place the baked chicken pesto pasta in an airtight storage container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO FREEZE: You can freeze individual portions or large quantities of this chicken pesto pasta, either before or after baking. Place your desired amount into a freezer-safe storage container or ziptop bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- TO REHEAT: Defrost chicken pesto pasta in the refrigerator overnight. Then, either bake at 375 degrees F until hot in the center or microwave gently until warm.
- TO MAKE GLUTEN FREE: Swap gluten free pasta noodles.
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I am sharing this post in partnership with DeLallo. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands and companies that make it possible for me to continue to create quality content for you!