This pesto chicken pasta is a creamy, healthy take on a restaurant favorite. Restaurant Pesto Chicken pastas can clock in at almost a thousand calories per serving. Made with questionable chicken and drowned in cream, the restaurant fare is anything but healthy. Despite what its green hue might suggest, this dish is down right trouble for your waistline. Unless you cook it at home.
It’s clear that ordering a giant plate of pesto cream drenched noodles won’t help you get swimsuit ready but you can make the dish at home with healthier ingredients and fewer calories. For starters, I make this dish with lean skinless, boneless chicken breast. The chicken is simply seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked in olive oil for a delicious golden exterior. The pesto is made using this recipe, which requires less oil and more basil, making it healthier than most versions. You’ll use the starchy pasta water, instead of calorie dense oil, to thin out the pesto. For a healthy dose of smoothness I use whole milk Greek yogurt instead of heavy cream. Another win for health benefits!
Lastly, you can customize the noodles to suit your palate and diet. Whole wheat, brown rice, and regular pasta all work beautifully for your pesto chicken pasta. You’ll toss the hot, creamy pasta with raw baby spinach for an added vitamin boost and your tasty meal is ready!
Serve this dish hot for dinner or jazz up the leftovers with a couple fried eggs. The runny yolk does wonders for next day servings.
Here are some other pasta recipes I think you’ll enjoy!
⅓ cup Greek yogurt, use full fat yogurt for best flavor and superior creaminess
3 ounces fresh baby spinach, very roughly chopped (just quickly run your knife through a pile of the leaves)
Juice of ½ fresh lemon (about 2 Tablespoons)
⅓ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Grated parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
Red chili flakes for serving (optional)
Place a chicken breast on a cutting board. Place your non-knife hand on top of the breast to keep the poultry in place. Holding a kitchen knife (in your opposite hand) with the blade parallel to the cutting board. Cut the chicken horizontally into two thin cutlets.
Repeat this step with the other breast.
Pat the chicken breast cutlets dry with a paper towel.
Season both sides of chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat.
When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken cutlets to the pan in a single layer.
Let the chicken brown, undisturbed, for 4-6 minutes per side, until the exterior is golden brown and the chicken is fully cooked (165 degrees on a meat thermometer).
Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board while you prepare the pasta.
Bring 8 cups of water plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt to a boil in a large pot.
Add the pasta and cook until al dente, check the recommended time on the package of pasta you’re using.
Meanwhile, cut the cook chicken into thin strips.
Place a colander in the sink with a cup set inside the colander to collect some of the pasta water.
Drain the cooked pasta, reserving the cup of hot starchy water, and return the drained pasta to the hot pot.
Add the chicken strips, pesto, Greek yogurt, spinach, and lemon juice to the hot pasta in the pot.
Add a splash of the hot water and toss until the yogurt and pesto have combined and become creamy and the spinach has slightly wilted.
Add more pasta water, a splash at a time, until you get the creamy consistency you like.
I used ½ cup of pasta water. Be careful not to add too much or the sauce will be too runny.
Taste the pasta and add salt, pepper, or lemon juice to suit your preference.
Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and top with the chopped walnuts for added texture.
Serve with parmesan and chili flakes for diners can help themselves.