This creamy pesto rigatoni recipe is packed with flavor and will be ready in less than 20 minutes! It’s quick to prepare on weeknights and perfect for sharing with your dinner guests on the weekend. If you’re a pesto pasta lover, then you may also want to check our delicious creamy pesto tortellini bake with mozzarella recipe.
Have people forgotten about pesto?! We always see red and white sauce on pasta, but how about green sauce (aka pesto)?! Rigatoni with pesto sauce tastes super fresh and delicious and is so easy to make! We’re using store-bought pesto in this pesto pasta dish because if you’re like me, you like to keep things quick and easy and spend less time cooking and more time indulging!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- COMFORT FOOD AT ITS FINEST: There’s nothing like coming home to a big bowl of pasta to devour after a long day at work or sharing at family dinners on the weekend. Just like our creamy pesto tortellini bake with mozzarella and mac and cheese bake with bacon, this rigatoni pesto pasta is filling, hearty, full of flavor, and super comforting.
- QUICK: With just a few basic ingredients, you’ll whip up a creamy pesto recipe to slather your rigatoni noodles in. This rigatoni recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners because it’ll take you less than 20 minutes to make!
- EASY: Using store-bought pesto sauce and enhancing it with just a few simple ingredients instead of making the pesto from scratch makes this rigatoni pesto recipe super simple to make any day of the week.
- RIGATONI: Rigatoni pasta noodles are used in this recipe to make it extra hearty with the thicker noodles, but it can be made with any pasta noodle you prefer.
- OLIVE OIL: Olive oil is used to saute the onions and cook the chicken.
- ONION: Diced yellow onion is used in the pesto sauce to add flavor and texture to the pasta dish.
- CHICKEN: One chicken breast is mixed with the pasta and pairs well with the pesto sauce. If you’re vegetarian, you can remove the chicken, and this pasta recipe will taste just as amazing.
- GARLIC POWDER: The garlic powder enhances the garlic in the pesto and makes the pasta more garlicky and delicious.
- RED CHILI FLAKES (OPTIONAL): Optional red chili flakes are added to make a spicy pesto pasta full of flavor and spice. The spice is subtle, but if you’re sensitive to spice, then you can opt out of including this ingredient.
- SALT & PEPPER: A pinch of salt and pepper help enhance the overall flavor of the pesto pasta with chicken recipe.
- RESERVED PASTA WATER: Some of the pasta water is reserved and included in the creamy pesto sauce to make it thicker and give it a more velvety texture.
- PESTO: Any brand of store-bought pesto works, and it’s used as the base of the cream sauce for this basil pesto pasta with chicken recipe.
- HEAVY CREAM: Heavy cream makes the sauce extra creamy and balances out the concentrated flavor of the pesto.
See the recipe card below for the ingredient measurements.
- LARGE POT: For cooking the pasta in.
- KNIFE: For dicing the onion and slicing the chicken.
- CUTTING BOARD: For safely chopping without damaging your counters.
- STRAINER/COLANDER: For draining the pasta noodles.
- LARGE FRYING PAN: For making the pesto pasta sauce.
- MEASURING SPOONS AND CUPS: For measuring the ingredients.
- Pasta Noodles: Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Reserve ⅓ cup of pasta water before draining the noodles.
- Pasta Sauce: In a large frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and onions and cook on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Slightly increase the heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the chicken to the center of the pan. Sprinkle the chicken with garlic powder, optional chili flakes, salt, and pepper, and cook until the chicken is no longer pink. Add the reserved pasta water, pesto, and cream. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 seconds.
- Serve: Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cooked pasta. Serve immediately, and garnish with parmesan cheese.
Storage and Leftovers
The chicken and pesto pasta should be stored in an airtight container and can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- Cook/boil the pasta to al dente. This will ensure that it doesn’t overcook once you add it to the saucepan.
- Keep the pasta in the colander until the sauce is ready. Instead of putting the cooked, drained pasta back in the pot you cooked it in, keep it in the colander until you can mix it in with the sauce. If you put it back in the pot, it may stick to the pot and start overcooking because the pot is still hot.
- Use store-bought or homemade pesto. This chicken and pasta with pesto recipe uses store-bought pesto to make it a quick and easy pasta dish, but you can also make basil pesto yourself if you’d like. Either works, and both will taste amazing!
- Don’t skip adding the reserved pasta water. The rigatoni chicken pasta will have the best texture if you add the reserved pasta water to the sauce and the pasta dish is served right away. The pasta water will help keep the sauce from getting absorbed by the noodles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Adding a small amount of reserved pasta water to your sauce can help with achieve the right consistency. Pasta water is the secret to a superior sauce because it acts as a binder and thickener and gives it a silky smooth texture.
If you’re wondering what al dente means, it’s a technique for cooking the pasta just right. It means that the cooked pasta should be soft yet firm and chewy. It's common for people to cook pasta for a few minutes less than the package says, and sometimes the package will give you a range for cooking time; in that case, you should cook it for a lesser amount.
Yes, you can, and that’s what we’re doing in our pasta recipe. Store-bought jarred pesto is made with preservatives and can be eaten/used in dishes immediately, and leftovers can be stored in the fridge afterward.
One of the key ingredients in pesto pasta sauce is reserved pasta water. It will help keep the noodles from soaking up the noodles and drying out the pasta.
You can store pesto pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Cherry Tomatoes: The addition of cherry tomatoes will add a burst of freshness and sweetness and an acidity that will help balance the creaminess of the pesto sauce.
- Fresh Basil or Spinach Leaves: Consider adding some fresh herbs like basil or spinach to the pesto sauce before tossing the pasta noodles in. Basil will add color to the dish and, at the same time, enhance the basil that’s in the pesto. Spinach will also add color, and also add nutrition.
- Lemon Zest: Just half a teaspoon of lemon zest mixed into the sauce is all you would need to brighten up and enhance the flavors of the pasta.
The alternative ingredients are just suggestions and have not been tested.Print