Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

I’m all about the quick skillet meals because, let’s face it, sometimes after a long day of work you don’t really want to cook anything… but you still gotta eat. This super quick Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli combines the vibrant flavors of basil pesto with tangy cream cheese to make a deliciously […]

The post Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I’m all about the quick skillet meals because, let’s face it, sometimes after a long day of work you don’t really want to cook anything… but you still gotta eat. This super quick Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli combines the vibrant flavors of basil pesto with tangy cream cheese to make a deliciously rich sauce to smother the pasta, chicken, and broccoli. The pesto provides all the garlic and herbal flavor needed, so there’s no need to even dice an onion, mince garlic, or measure any herbs and spices—it’s already in the sauce! The whole dish cooks very quickly so you can have this one on the dinner table in about 30 minutes.

Originally posted 11-24-2013, updated 8-9-2020.

Creamy pesto pasta with chicken and broccoli in the skillet, viewed from above

Can I Use a Different Pasta Shape?

Yep! Any short shaped pasta, like penne, rotini, or even macaroni will work fine for this recipe. You can use a longer type pasta, like fettuccine or linguine, but it’s a little harder to stir chunky ingredients, like the chicken and broccoli, into long pasta. Sometimes breaking it in half before cooking can help.

What Kind of Pesto Do You Use?

I used basil pesto from ALDI for this recipe because it’s super affordable. If you don’t have an ALDI store near you, Classico brand pesto and Barilla brand pesto also tend to be very affordable. 

Can I Substitute the Cream Cheese?

If you’re not into cream cheese, you can make a similar creamy sauce by substituting the cream cheese with about a ½ cup heavy cream, or replace both the chicken broth and cream cheese with 1 cup half and half. The sauce will be nice and creamy, but it won’t have that tangy cream cheese flavor that some people are not a fan of. You may need to add a pinch or two of salt at the end if you’re skipping the chicken broth.

Make it a Vegetarian Creamy Pesto Pasta

This Creamy Pesto Pasta can easily be made vegetarian. Just use a little extra broccoli, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and you’re good to go!

Front view of a bowl of creamy pesto pasta with chicken and broccoli, a fork lifting one bite

 
A bowl full of creamy pesto pasta with chicken and broccoli, a black fork on the side

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

A super fast creamy pesto sauce drenches tender pasta, chicken breast, and broccoli for an easy weeknight dinner.
Total Cost $5.48 recipe / $1.37 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 606.33kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. bow tie pasta $0.67
  • 8 oz. frozen broccoli florets $1.00
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.12
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast $2.49
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto $0.73
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth $0.07
  • 4 oz. cream cheese $0.40

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once it reaches a full boil, add the pasta and continue to boil just until the pasta is tender, but still slightly firm in the center (7-8 minutes). Once the pasta is tender, add the frozen broccoli florets to the water with the pasta and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. Drain the pasta and broccoli in a colander.
  • While the pasta is cooking, cut the chicken breast into ½-inch pieces. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken and continue to cook until the outside of the chicken pieces are white, but they're still tender in the center (they will continue to cook as more ingredients are added).
  • Add the chicken broth to the skillet with the chicken and allow it to heat through. Once hot, add the cream cheese (cut into small pieces) and pesto. Continue to stir and cook until the cream cheese has melted and created a smooth, creamy sauce with the pesto and chicken broth.
  • Finally, add the cooked and drained pasta and broccoli to the skillet and stir to coat it in the cream sauce. If the sauce becomes too dry or thick, add another splash of chicken broth to loosen it up. Serve hot.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Serving | Calories: 606.33kcal | Carbohydrates: 53.58g | Protein: 37.18g | Fat: 28.33g | Sodium: 725.78mg | Fiber: 7.15g

How to Use Your Leftover Pesto

Not sure what to do with the rest of the jar of pesto? Try these recipes:

How to Make Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli – Step by Step Photos

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add 8oz. bowtie pasta and continue to boil for 7-8 minutes, or just until it’s tender with a little firmness in the center. Add ½ lb. frozen broccoli florets and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes more or just until the broccoli is tender. Drain the pasta and broccoli in a colander.

Diced chicken breast on an orange cutting board

While the pasta and broccoli are cooking, cut one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast into ½-inch chunks.

Broth being poured into a skillet with cooked chicken pieces.

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Once hot, add the diced chicken and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken is white on the outside, but still slightly tender inside (it will continue to cook as more ingredients are added). Add ½ cup chicken broth to the skillet and allow it to heat through.

pesto and cream cheese added to the skillet with the chicken and broth

Add 4oz. cream cheese (cut into small chunks) and ⅓ cup basil pesto to the skillet. 

Smooth and creamy pesto sauce in the skillet

Stir and cook over medium heat until the cream cheese has melted and created a smooth sauce with the pesto and broth. The cream cheese might look a little chunky as it’s melting, but keep stirring and cooking, it will smooth out once fully melted.

Finished creamy pesto pasta with chicken and broccoli in the skillet with a spatula

Finally, add the cooked and drained pasta and broccoli to the skillet and stir until it is all coated in the creamy pesto sauce. If the sauce becomes too dry or too thick, add another splash of chicken broth to loosen it up.

A bowl full of creamy pesto pasta with chicken and broccoli, a black fork on the side

And that’s that! So easy! If you like ranch flavored foods, I think this tangy, garlicky sauce almost tastes ranch-like. So yum!

The post Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Y’all know I’m obsessed with meatballs, right? They’re just so easy, delicious, and something that I’m always in the mood for. So, when I got an unexpected pound of ground chicken in my Instacart order a couple of weeks ago, I knew exactly what to do with it—Chicken Parmesan Meatballs! While ground chicken isn’t my […]

The post Chicken Parmesan Meatballs appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Y’all know I’m obsessed with meatballs, right? They’re just so easy, delicious, and something that I’m always in the mood for. So, when I got an unexpected pound of ground chicken in my Instacart order a couple of weeks ago, I knew exactly what to do with it—Chicken Parmesan Meatballs! While ground chicken isn’t my favorite, you can never go wrong with a meatball. Plenty of Parmesan and a few simple herbs and spices turned that lack luster ground chicken into something totally crave-worthy. Meatballs for the win!

And don’t worry, even though I did not actually order the ground chicken, I still paid for it. ;)

Simple Chicken Parmesan Meatballs and Pasta

A bowl of spaghetti with sauce and chicken parmesan meatballs, a black fork twirled in the pasta on the side.

The recipe for these Chicken Parmesan Meatballs is one that you’ll want to memorize. It’s just a really good, simple, basic meatball that you can use with any ground meat that you have on hand. 

Can I Bake the Meatballs?

Yes, if you prefer to make the meatballs in the oven instead of a skillet, simply line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 400ºF oven for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meatballs reaches 165ºF. Do keep in mind that baked meatballs will not achieve the nice browning on the outside that you get with cooking in a skillet. The browned surface does provide additional flavor.

Can I Freeze the Chicken Meatballs?

Yes, you can freeze the meatballs either cooked or uncooked. Either way, freeze the meatballs on a lined baking sheet first to prevent them from sticking together. Then, once frozen solid, transfer to a zip top freezer bag for long term storage (about 3 months).

To cook meatballs that were frozen raw, let the meatballs thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then cook in a skillet just as directed below.

To cook meatballs that are frozen after cooking, simply drop them into a pot of hot pasta sauce directly from the freezer, and allow them to heat through in the sauce.

Can I Use a Different Kind of Ground Meat?

Yes. This mixture of Parmesan and herbs is so versatile that it goes great with just about any type of ground meat. Try it with pork, turkey, or even beef.

Two chicken Parmesan meatballs on a wooden spoon held above the pot of sauce.

 
Close up side view of chicken Parmesan meatballs on a pile of spaghetti with sauce
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Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

This simple recipe for Chicken Parmesan Meatballs is an easy weeknight dinner win! Swap out any ground meat you have for a quick and delicious dinner.
Total Cost $7.57 recipe / $1.89 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 5 meatballs each
Calories 728.83kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

  • ½ cup breadcrumbs $0.13
  • cup ground Parmesan $0.59
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder $0.02
  • ½ tsp dried basil $0.05
  • ½ tsp dried oregano $0.05
  • ¼ tsp salt $0.02
  • ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper $0.02
  • 1 lb. ground chicken $3.29
  • 1 large egg $0.23
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil $0.08

For Serving

  • 12 oz. pasta $1.00
  • 1 24oz. jar pasta sauce $2.09

Instructions

  • Combine the breadcrumbs and seasoning first. In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan, garlic powder, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the ground chicken to a large bowl, then add the seasoned breadcrumb mixture and the egg. Use your hands to combine the ingredients until evenly mixed.
  • Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, about 1-1.5 Tbsp each. You should get around 20 meatballs.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot and the oil is shimmering, add half of the meatballs. Cook the meatballs about one minute on each side, until all six sides are browned and the meatballs are cooked through. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a clean plate. Add the second tablespoon of cooking oil to the skillet and cook the second batch of meatballs in the same manner.
  • While the meatballs are cooking, begin the pasta and sauce. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until tender (7-10 minutes). Drain the pasta in a colander. Add the sauce to a medium sauce pot and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
  • Once all the meatballs are finished cooking, add them to the pot of heated pasta sauce and stir to coat. If needed, allow them to heat for a few minutes in the sauce.
  • Serve the cooked and drained pasta topped with sauce and meatballs.

Notes

If you prefer to make your own pasta sauce, try my 5-Ingredient Butter Tomato Sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 728.83kcal | Carbohydrates: 88.25g | Protein: 38.75g | Fat: 23.63g | Sodium: 1259.88mg | Fiber: 6.48g

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

More Meatball Recipes

Do you love meatballs as much as me? Try these other meatball recipes:

Close up side view of chicken Parmesan meatballs on a pile of spaghetti with sauce

How to Make Chicken Parmesan Meatballs – Step by Step Photos

Breadcrumbs Parmesan and herbs in a bowl

First mix the dry ingredients for the meatballs. In a bowl, stir together ½ cup breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp dried basil, ½ tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper.

Ground chicken, egg, and seasoned breadcrumbs in a bowl

Next, add 1 lb. ground chicken, 1 large egg, and the seasoned breadcrumb mixture to a bowl.

Mixed chicken meatball mixture

Use your hands to combine the ingredients until they are evenly mixed.

Shaped chicken meatballs on an orange plastic cutting board

Shape the chicken mixture into meatballs, about 1 to 1.5 Tbsp each, or about 20 meatballs.

Cooked meatballs in a skillet

Add 1 Tbsp cooking oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Once the skillet is hot and the oil is shimmering, add half of the meatballs. Cook the meatballs for about one minute on each side, until all six sides are well browned and the meatballs are cooked through. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a clean plate, add another tablespoon of oil, and cook the second batch of meatballs in the same manner.

Cooked meatballs in a bowl

While the meatballs are cooking, begin the pasta and sauce. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and continue to boil until tender. Drain the pasta in a colander. Add the sauce to a medium sauce pot and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Cooked meatballs added to pot of pasta sauce

Add the cooked meatballs to the heated sauce and stir to combine. If needed, let the meatballs heat for a few minutes in the sauce.

A bowl full of spaghetti with sauce and Chicken Parmesan Meatballs, with a fork in the side.

Serve the cooked and drained pasta with sauce and meatballs. Enjoy!

The post Chicken Parmesan Meatballs appeared first on Budget Bytes.

One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

This One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta was inspired by those little packets of powdered pasta sauce mix I always see in the grocery store. While those little packets are probably great for camping, stocking a bomb shelter, or keeping in your emergency hurricane supplies, I think regular weeknights call for something better. Better but […]

The post One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta was inspired by those little packets of powdered pasta sauce mix I always see in the grocery store. While those little packets are probably great for camping, stocking a bomb shelter, or keeping in your emergency hurricane supplies, I think regular weeknights call for something better. Better but not harder. This Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta comes together in about 25 minutes, is super luscious and creamy, and uses just a few simple ingredients. ;)

Overhead view of a skillet full of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta with a wooden spoon in the side.

Chicken, Spinach, and Tomatoes Optional

This recipe idea started as just pasta and sauce. Because sometimes that’s all you need to be satisfied. But I like to rummage through my pantry, fridge, and freezer to find leftover ingredients that can be added to whatever I’m cooking. So I ended up with this creamy pesto chicken pasta, with spinach and sun dried tomatoes. But I ate it as just pasta and sauce during testing and it still made me do the happy chair wiggle.

What Type of Pasta Should I Use?

I used penne pasta, but bowties or rotini would also work well. Because this pasta to broth ratio is very important in one pot pastas I can’t vouch for alternative pastas like gluten-free, rice, chickpea, or even whole wheat pasta. They absorb broth differently than semolina pasta and may not work the same in this recipe.

Tips for Success with “one pot” Pastas

One pot pastas can be tricky for some because the pasta is cooked in a much smaller amount of liquid than traditional pasta cooking methods. Here are a few tips to make sure your one pot pasta cooks evenly and to the right texture:

  • Make sure you’re using quality cookware. Use cookware that is thick, heavy, and transfers heat evenly. Thin cookware will leave some pasta overcooked and some pasta undercooked.
  • Use a burner that is close in size to your cookware. This will help the pot heat evenly and cook the pasta evenly.
  • Make sure the broth maintains a strong simmer throughout the cooking time. If it’s not simmering, the pasta will become mushy.
  • Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking and make sure the pasta cooks evenly.
  • Keep the pot covered to trap steam, which will help cook the pasta.

Close up of One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta in the skillet with a wooden spoon.

 

One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

This super lush and Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta is perfect for busy weeknights. Everything cooks in one pot and is done in under 30 minutes! 

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast ($5.56)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.26)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1/2 lb. penne pasta ($0.40)
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth ($0.20)
  • 1 cup milk ($0.32)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese* ($0.29)
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto ($0.73)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.44)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.03)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper ($0.02)

Optional Add-Ins

  • 3 cup fresh spinach ($0.90)
  • 1/4 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes ($1.10)
  1. Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch pieces. Add the butter to a deep skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the chicken is slightly browned on the outside.

  2. While the chicken is cooking, mince the garlic. Add the garlic to the skillet with the chicken and continue to sauté for one minute more.

  3. Add the uncooked pasta and chicken broth to the skillet with the chicken and garlic. Stir to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the broth up to a boil.

  4. Once the broth comes to a full boil, give the pasta a quick stir, replace the lid, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the pasta simmer over medium-low heat for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the broth has been absorbed. Stir the pasta briefly every two minutes as it simmers, replacing the lid quickly each time.

  5. Once the pasta is tender and most of the broth absorbed, add the milk, cream cheese (cut into chunks), and pesto. Stir and cook over medium heat until the cream cheese has fully melted into the sauce. Finally, add the grated Parmesan and stir until combined.

  6. If using, add the fresh spinach and sliced sun dried tomatoes. Stir until the spinach has wilted, then remove the pasta from the heat. Top the pasta with freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper, then serve.

*Cream cheese usually has markings on the outer wrapping showing lines for each ounce. Use this as a guide to cut three ounces from the block.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Close up of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta in a shallow bowl with a black fork.

Love one pot pasta? Check out my One Pot Meals category for more! 

How to Make Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta – Step by Step Photos

Browned chicken pieces in a deep skillet

Cut one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast into 1-inch pieces. Add 2 Tbsp butter to a deep skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and sauté until the chicken is slightly browned on the outside. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and sauté for one minute more. (I’m using an OXO 4-quart covered skillet)

Uncooked pasta and chicken broth added to the skillet

Add 1/2 lb. uncooked penne pasta and 1.5 cups chicken broth to the skillet. Stir briefly to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Lid being placed on the skillet with uncooked pasta and chicken

Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the broth to come up to a full boil.

Cooked pasta in the skillet with a spatula pulling the pasta to the side to show no broth remains

Once the broth comes to a full boil, give the pasta a brief stir, replace the lid, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it continue to simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the broth absorbed. Stir the pasta every two minutes or so as it simmers, replacing the lid each time.

Milk being poured into the skillet with chunks of cream cheese and pesto.

Add 3 oz. cream cheese (cut into chunks), 1/3 cup pesto, and 1 cup milk to the skillet. Stir and cook the mixture over medium until the cream cheese has fully melted and the sauce is creamy.

Finished creamy pesto pasta sauce and pasta in the skillet

Once the cream cheese has fully melted in, add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and stir to combine.

Spinach and sun dried tomatoes added to the skillet

If you’re adding spinach and sun dried tomatoes, like I did, add them once the sauce is finished and stir just until the spinach has wilted, then remove the skillet from the heat.

Finished creamy pesto chicken pasta in the skillet topped with black pepper and crushed red pepper

Whether you are using spinach and sun dried tomatoes or not, finish the creamy pesto chicken pasta off with some freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. The little pops of flavor that these two bring to the dish really take it to the next level!

Close up of One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta in the skillet with a wooden spoon

Dive in! :)

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