This creamy chicken pesto pasta is packed with delicious flavors and veggies. This dish is a perfect clean out your fridge meal and use whatever vegetables you have on hand. I will of course show you my perfect version, but this is crazy easy to customize to your own liking and fridge!
This pesto pasta is always a big hit with my family (and friends! I once brought this to school as lunch and my good friend ate it all, LOL!) So yes, this is a meal we have had on our dinner rotation ever since I went to middle school, I suppose. The funny thing is that I haven’t found it necessary to alter it much either. It was that good.
Don’t forget to save some for lunch!
Just like this creamy pasta salad, it is the perfect dish to bring to work, school or even on picnics and trips. Always double the recipe so you can have it as a warm dinner the first day, and then cold lunches throughout the week. I am always so sad whenever we eat it all on the first day.
I actually think I prefer chicken pesto pasta as a cold lunch the next day. The flavors deepen and the veggies are still crispy! I’m telling you now, double the recipe (which is already kind of big).
As I mentioned in the introduction, this is a dish for when you want to clean out the veggie drawer of your fridge. So what to add to pesto pasta is what you have, essentially. Almost all kinds of veggies can work beautifully in this dish. I have however some ingredients I always add, which are:
- Chicken (omit if you want it vegetarian)
- Pasta (any shape, I prefer fusilli for optimal sauciness)
- Pesto (store bought for easy, homemade for epic – both are delish)
- Mushrooms (#1 veggie, it soaks up all the delicious flavors. I ALWAYS add mushrooms)
- Onion (#2 veggie, I also always add onion because YUM)
- Carrots (I always add carrots chopped as matchsticks for an interesting texture)
- Red bell pepper (a little extra crunch and color)
- Garlic (depending on your pesto, you may not need it, but who’s talking about need, it’s about wanting extra garlic, because hello it’s garlic)
- Pine nuts (I also always add roasted pine nuts, that nuttiness wins every time!)
- Parmesan (a little extra parm on top never hurt nobody, unless you’re vegan or vegetarian!)
- Fresh basil (If I have it, I use it)
So these are the ingredients I usually always use. But I also often use small broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, chillis for extra heat, more garlic if I crave it, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomaties, zucchini, artichoke hearts, or even baby corn. The fridge is your oyster!
The best pasta shapes
You can use whatever pasta shape you have and that you like. My go-to for this recipe and other thick sauces, are fusilli. The screw shape is perfect for nestlening pesto in it. I also often use penne, which is good, but not as amazing. Sometimes you get the pesto inside the tube shape of the penne, although not always.
My mom often uses the farfalle, and I quite like that as well. We have never used spaghetti or linguine, but I don’t see why not. Go with whatever you have and you should be fine.
I honestly use store bought pesto for this recipe. Use your favorite kind, you don’t need to buy the most expensive ones, just one you personally like. If you have anything leftover, use them in this pesto eggs green shakshuka for breakfast.
I do not have any green pesto recipe yet, but if you want to make everything from scratch, you could make this with red pesto instead! Use this recipe for pesto pasta with veggies, but instead of the classic pesto, use this sun-dried tomato pesto. It is amazing!
How to make it
Start by cooking the pasta according to package instructions for al dente pasta. Drain and set aside while you prepare the rest. On high heat, add oil to a large saucepan along with chicken pieces sprinkled with salt and pepper (4). Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until cooked through and with a nice sear. Set aside.
In the same saucepan, add all the vegetables and cook until onion is translucent and mushroom is soft (5). About 7 minutes. You may want to add some vegetables that require shorter time, at the end of the cook time (like red bell pepper), but I usually don’t bother with that for this quick dish.
In a small and dry non-stick pan, add pine nuts and roast on medium heat until they smell really nutty and they have got some char to them. A couple of minutes. Set aside.
To the large saucepan, add the cooked chicken and pasta and the pesto (6-7). Stir to combine and it is ready to serve (8). I like to serve each bowl with a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese and fresh basil too – and don’t forget the roasted pine nuts!
This dish is so satisfying on its own, with creamy, crispy, nutty and fresh that I don’t feel the need to serve anything with this pesto pasta. It is enough on its own. If you want to stretch the meals however, I always recommend some delicious dinner rolls or bread with butter. Always butter. Enjoy!
Did you like this recipe? Here are more pasta dishes I think you would enjoy:
- Creamy pasta salad with chorizo (also awesome cold)
- Healthy summery pasta salad with zucchini and tomatoes
- Extra veggie bolognese (not strictly pasta, but who are we kidding, we eat this with pasta)
- Easy rosemary sun-dried tomato pasta with chicken
- Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter
- Parmesan pumpkin pasta
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