When you want a delicious, quick family dinner, try this Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake. In just 35 minutes you can have a flavorful baked pasta filled with basil pesto, tender chicken, sundried tomatoes, peas, and gooey mozzarella cheese ready to serve. It’s SO simple to throw together on even the busiest night, and makes a super tasty, kid-friendly meal with easy to find ingredients.
Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake – The EASY Way!
I’m a BIG fan of all-in-one baked dinners. Chicken bakes, casseroles, and of course amazing pasta bakes like this one. It’s always a great way to deliver fantastic flavors to my family but they’re also super easy to make even when life has us running. This chicken pesto pasta bake is no exception. The simplest ingredients come together to make an Italian inspired cheesy baked pasta that my kids adore!
It’s also SO versatile! You can add in any vegetable your family likes, make it extra cheesy, or use your kid’s favorite noodles to entice them to eat every bite. With basil pesto and sundried tomatoes, you’ll be wowed by how fast you can build amazing flavor into a quick and easy dinner without any stress at all.
Why I LOVE this recipe!
- Quick & Easy – The hardest thing about this recipe is cooking pasta! It’s truly as simple as boil, mix, and bake!
- Easy Ingredients – You’ll be able to find these ingredients at most grocery stores very easily so you can always throw this together when you’re in a hurry.
- BIG Flavor – It takes just a few flavor packed items like basil pesto and sun dried tomatoes to transform a simple recipe into something special.
- Super Versatile – This baked chicken pesto pasta is super easy to make your own! If you don’t want peas, add in fresh or frozen spinach, cherry tomatoes, fresh zucchini, or bell peppers. Whatever you like (and your kids will eat)!
What to Serve with Baked Chicken Pesto Pasta
Since this chicken pasta bake has the classic flavors of basil pesto, it will pair well with many of your favorite traditional or Italian side dishes. There are both classic options and some healthy options to keep it light.
Side Dish Ideas
- Green Salad – A light, leafy salad with tomatoes, black olives, red onion, and croutons with a creamy Italian dressing or healthy balsamic vinaigrette is wonderful, healthy, and simple to throw together.
- Cucumber Tomato Salad – This is crisp and refreshing salad is a classic that would be perfect alongside a baked chicken pesto pasta.
- Pesto Roasted Vegetables – Reinforce those pesto flavors and cut down on the grocery list by roasting your favorite veggies in it too!
- Garlic Cheese or Pesto Cheese Bread – Pasta and bread are always a happy match. Either of these flavors will be a hit with family’s of all ages.
- The BEST Garlic Bread – If you want simple perfection, then this is it! It’s so good and so easy!
- Tomato Mozzarella Salad – This is a great make-ahead salad you can enjoy alongside your pasta.
- Garlic Parmesan Broccoli – Cheesy, roasted broccoli is an easy but delicious healthy vegetable side.
You can choose one or add a few sides to make a wholesome, well rounded dinner.
This baked chicken pesto pasta recipe is as simple as promised! Just 35 minutes for a family friendly meal.
In this section I am going to go through a few tips and tricks I use when making this recipe to get the absolute best and most delicious results.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for the FULL recipe card.
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Dried Pasta – We used a full 16 ounce, or 1 pound, box of curly noodles. You can use whatever style you like! Penne, bow-tie, fusilli, or shells are all great.
- Pesto – For the pesto feel free to use store bought or homemade pesto. I generally go with store bought for convenience and highly recommend that you use a refrigerated basil pesto instead of the jarred kind. I think it has a much fresher flavor that will make your pesto chicken pasta bake that much more delicious. If you’re up to it, you can always make your own pesto too!
- Heavy Cream – I love the richness and moisture heavy cream gives the baked pasta. But, you can substitute milk or half and half if you prefer and it will still be super tasty!
- Shredded Chicken – Any type of Italian or neutrally flavored chicken is perfect. I love using leftover chicken and making it into an entirely new dinner. Rotisserie chicken is a great option, whether you purchase one just for this recipe or have some leftover. I use shredded pieces of my homemade slow cooker or oven baked rotisserie chickens and it’s delicious!. You can also boil, bake, or grill fresh chicken then chop it up for the pasta.
- Frozen Peas – Frozen peas make a fabulous quick addition that gets a veggie into dinner so easily. I use an entire 12 ounce bag and there’s no need to thaw. Just pop them straight into the mixture frozen.
- Sun Dried Tomatoes – I recommend using the julienned strips just to save yourself a bit of time chopping. If you can only find the whole or halves, just chop them up quickly yourself so they can be evenly distributed through the pasta bake. I like the ones packed in oil, but be sure to drain them completely before you add it to the pasta.
- Mozzarella – The final cheesy and delicious layer is made with just a cup of shredded mozzarella sprinkled over the top. If you like it extra cheesy, feel free to double it and mix half right into the cream pesto mixture.
- Boil the pasta al dente – Since you’re popping this back into the oven, it’s best to underboil the pasta. Pull it from the water a few minutes early so it doesn’t get soggy or mushy while it bakes.
- Mix while it’s hot – There’s no need to wait for the pasta to cool after draining it, in fact it’s better that you don’t! Mix it with the pesto, cream, and other ingredients while it’s nice and hot so everything can incorporate smoothly.
- Make a 9×9 or 9×13 – I like to use a full box of pasta, which gives us 8 hearty servings to use for dinner and leftovers. It’s a big batch that needs a 9×13 pan to cook properly. If you’d like less portions feel free to use only half a box of pasta and swap an 8×8 or 9×9 pan in for the larger casserole. Be sure to half the other ingredients as well.
- Customize to your family’s tastes! – This really is so easy to make your own. One of my favorite ways to change it up is to make it extra cheesy by doubling the mozzarella and stirring half in with the cream pesto mixture before baking. You could also add parmesan on top! Changing the vegetables is also a great, delicious way to customize it. Fresh or thawed frozen spinach, sliced cherry tomatoes, diced zucchini, fresh or roasted bell peppers, or canned artichokes would all be really great in this!
If you choose to use a harder vegetable, like carrots for example, I recommend sauteing them on the stove first before adding them into the pasta. That gives them a chance to soften a bit, so they’re nice and tender instead of crunchy when your chicken pesto pasta bake comes out of the oven.
Recipe Short Cuts
If you need to make this recipe, but are extra short on time, here are a few ideas that can help make this recipe even faster!
- Use prepared ingredients– Purchasing julienned strips of sun-dried tomatoes, prepared pesto, and pre-shredded cheese make this so much faster to prepare! You won’t even need a knife, everything will be ready to just dump in and go.
- Prep and refrigerate– You can easily prepare the entire pesto chicken pasta bake right up to the point of putting it in the oven. Pop it into the fridge instead, and when dinner time comes, slide it into a hot, preheated oven to bake. It may take an extra 10 minutes to bake properly since it will come out of the fridge cold.
If you love this recipe as much as we do and want some quick ways to change it up for variety, these little tips will do the trick!
- Chicken Pesto Alfredo Pasta Bake– Boil the pasta, then mix the pesto, peas, chicken, and sun dried tomatoes with your favorite jarred or homemade alfredo sauce. Top with mozzarella and bake as directed.
- Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake with Mushrooms– While the pasta boils, sauté 2 cups of sliced mushrooms in 1-2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. When golden brown remove them from the heat and mix with the chicken, pesto, peas, tomatoes, and cream. Continue with the recipe as directed.
- Pesto Pasta Bake with Sausage– Skip the chicken and sauté Italian sausage in a hot pan until cooked through. Then combine the cooked pasta and sausage with the cream, peas, pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes. Top with cheese and bake as directed.
Freezer Meal Instructions
Making this chicken pesto pasta bake recipe into a freezer meal is simple! Follow the steps below and you can store this recipe in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- Assemble the entire dish in a freezer safe casserole dish like a foil pan.
- Top with cheese and cover tightly with foil or plastic wrap.
- Bake from frozen, covered with foil, at 350°F for 30-40 minutes.
- Uncover and bake until cheese is melted and the dish is hot throughout.
Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake Leftovers
If you have leftovers after making baked pesto chicken pasta, then it is your lucky day! They save and reheat well, and can make the start of another delicious dish.
To save leftovers, separate into meal sized portions and then place in an airtight container and store:
- in the refrigerator for 3-4 days
- in the freezer up to a month
More Chicken Pasta Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe, I really hope you will take a moment to grab a few more easy recipes for another busy night!
You can check out all of my easy chicken recipes here, or see a few of our readers favorite recipes below.
- Chicken Fritta with Garlic Cream Sauce
- Chicken Taco Tortellini Skillet
- Caprese Chicken Ravioli Bake
- Lasagna Chicken Bake
- 16 oz pasta, any shape
- 8 oz pesto, prepared (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, milk or half and half will also work
- 2 cups shredded chicken, (or chopped) Rotisserie works well
- 12 ounces frozen peas
- 1 jar julienne cut sun dried tomatoes in oil, 8.5 ounce jar, drained
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, or Italian blend
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Boil the pasta in salted water per package directions.
- Drain pasta, and stir in pesto, cream, chicken, peas (no need to thaw,) and sun dried tomatoes.
- Pour into a 9×13" casserole dish and sprinkle cheese over the top.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is piping hot. Serve immediately.