Chicken, Bacon, Pesto Pasta

posted by Andrea | 10/8/2014
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chicken bacon pesto pasta

Several months ago, a reader sent me a super delicious pasta recipe. I tried it, we LOVED it, and of course, I wanted to share it on the blog. However, I felt like it had a few too many steps as it involved marinating chicken, marinating vegetables and then grilling the chicken and vegetables before you even started making the meal.

Although the recipe was amazing, I know I personally don’t have the desire to grill meat and vegetables on a weekday with 2 tiny people huddling around my legs — not to mention we usually don’t grill in the winter.

So I simplified it… A LOT. 

I also added cheese!

If you’re looking for a ridiculously simple (like 15 minutes prep-time max), amazingly tasty pasta dish that’s a little less “every day” than spaghetti and meatballs, you need to try THIS recipe!

I haven’t tried freezing it yet, but I can testify that the leftovers are amazing (so feel free to make a double batch!)

Recipe for Chicken, Bacon Pesto Pasta

{print recipe}

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 chicken breast; cut into bite-size chunks (I use a kitchen scissors for this)
  • 1/2 c. Italian salad dressing (optional meat marinade)
  • 1/2 16oz. box Penne pasta (8 oz. total)
  • 2 T. oil or butter
  • 1 small onion; diced
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 1 6oz. container prepared pesto sauce (or you can make your own from scratch)
  • 1/4 c. real bacon chunks
  • 1/2 shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  • {OPTIONAL} marinate chicken chunks in Italian dressing for 30 minutes – 2 hours before preparing meal
  • In a medium sauce pan, boil water for pasta (add pasta and cook as directed on the package)
  • While the pasta cooks, sauté onions, garlic, and chicken in oil in a medium frying pan until chicken is cooked through.
  • Add pesto sauce, bacon chunks, and cheese to cooked chicken mixture, stir, and simmer on low until warm.
  • Drain pasta (don’t rinse) and add to sauce mixture. Stir until combined.
  • Serve and enjoy.

See… I told you it was simple! 

I’ve tried this recipe with marinated chicken and without — and I honestly don’t notice much of a difference. Sometimes, when I’m thinking far enough in advance, I’ll quickly toss a little dressing on the chicken. Other times, I totally forget and I know the meal will turn out just fine anyway.

Definitely don’t stress about that step — I just wanted to include it for those of you who really like marinated meats.

Oh, and I should mention that even though I only showed two plates above, Nora DID eat this (and she really liked it).

If you’re looking for a dish to pass at a potluck or holiday party, I could easily see doubling (or tripling) this recipe, putting it in a large casserole dish, adding extra cheese and bacon on top, and baking it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. It would be SO delicious!

This recipe is definitely a winner for our family, and something I will be making more often now that the weather is cooling down.

chicken bacon pesto pasta

What are your favorite cooler weather foods?

Visit my virtual recipe box for more simple, delicious, family friendly, recipes!

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17 comments

  1. Linda

    06/08/2016

    Thank you for posting this. I saw it on FB when you posted it. Not feeling well today so it was a quick fix for dinner! Smells wonderful!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh no — sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. Hope the dinner was a hit and that you start feeling better soon!

    [Reply]

  2. Jody

    02/19/2015

    I am a new reader and have enjoyed going back through your old posts for the past month. I made this tonight and we all loved it!! I double the meat, onion, garlic, bacon, and used 3/4 of a box of penne. There are three of us enjoying it and we’ll have it for two nights. It worked out perfect! I was able to prep the penne and chicken/onion/garlic in the morning. Then I warmed it up in the evening and added rest of the ingredients. Nice and quick for a busier night!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jody! Glad you liked the pasta dish (and that you have leftovers!) Hope you enjoy it all week!

    [Reply]

  3. Lisa

    11/15/2014

    Made this tonight…wanted to make it as soon as I saw it but kept running out of open nights for new recipes 🙂 I made a double batch and served 7 kids and one adult with plenty of leftovers. I put the leftovers in a casserole dish and plan to bake it (with more cheese, of course!) next week.

    I made one slight change….I think I accidentally used too much pesto (I get the large jar from Costco so I kind of guessed on the 12 oz for a double batch) so it was pretty strong when I tasted it. I quick added about 1/3 cup heavy cream and mixed that into everything. It toned down the strong pesto taste a bit and made it a bit creamier as well.

    My kids are pretty adventurous eaters, so I figured they would like it…but we had 3 child guests here as well that I was a little nervous about. Much to my surprise, they all gobbled it up and most of them asked for seconds. It probably helps that the 2 1/2-year-old’s favorite color is green, so when I told him we were having green pasta he was very excited!

    Thanks for another great recipe! This one is getting pinned for sure under “Made and Loved” 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay!! So glad it met your approval (and your small guests!)

    [Reply]

  4. Michaela

    10/18/2014

    I made this last night, it was really good! but I will say that my husband and kids said it looked gross (I think because of the green color) I had to actually make my one daughter try a bite because she was refusing, then I asked her was it ok? she said yes and finished her plate without anymore complaints.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well looks can be deceiving! Nora was a bit weirded out by the color but she loved it!

    [Reply]

  5. Liane

    10/10/2014

    Hi Andrea,
    I make a nearly identical version of this. It was born of a bunch of odd ingredients tossed together prior to going camping. I did not marinate chicken but I did use salad dressing on the remaining part to make it into a salad and I also added some Greek olives on the salad.

    I use rice pasta due to a gluten intolerance and you cannot tell the difference.

    For readers with a Trader Joe’s — they have bacon pieces in a plastic pouch that is great for this kind of recipe. Other things you can add are frozen artichoke hearts (cooked of course) or marinated ones. Once I had some mozzarella string cheese I took in the motor home and cut it into cubes and put that in the salad. One other thing I love to do in this recipe (hot main dish or leftover salad version) is add snipped pieces of smoked sundried tomatoes. Tastes like bacon!

    And if you every feel like experimenting with non packaged salad dressing that does not take eons to make, I made a mix of a dozen or so herbs and aromatics that I whisk into lite olive oil, a slosh of champagne vinegar, a splash of water, a squeeze of lemon ((I have a tree very handy!) and the secret ingredient which is a smidgen of Dijon. For some reason the Dijon makes an emulsion of the oil and water parts and the dressing does not separate. Or get hard in the fridge. We try to avoid seriously processed oils like corn and canola while being thrifty. I use the light olive oil whichever is on sale and save the extra virgin stuff for special occasions. I think bottled dressing is overpriced for what you get. I have the herb mix in my recipe box app on my iPad and make a triple batch in a pint canning jar. Use a tablespoon for a bottle of dressing. I saved a couple old Trader Joe’s salad dressing bottles and use them. They have a big mouth and wash well in the dishwasher. I do remove the plastic-y disc thing from the cap. No problem with leakage at all even traveling over higher elevations.

    Cannot get recipe box app to not crash. Will email it from computer.

    [Reply]

  6. Kelly

    10/08/2014

    I have two picky boys (almost 5 and almost 2) who do love bacon. I am always looking for easy, affordable meals that they will actually eat. I will definitely be trying this since I love pesto! (My husband will eat anything so I don’t have to take his opinions into consideration

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, Nora is a bacon freak and will eat almost anything if I put bacon on it!

    [Reply]

  7. jenna

    10/08/2014

    Sounds great, thanks for the recipe! To make this a two pot meal you could even cook frozen broccoli in the water with the pasta (add at whatever point depending on how your like your broccoli cooked) and add both to the sauce mixture.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Good idea with the broccoli. My concern with doing this was I felt like there wouldn’t be enough sauce for everything then. However, you could always use 2 containers of sauce (or make your own and make a bigger batch).

    [Reply]

  8. Michelle

    10/08/2014

    I love the sound of this pasta and it may even make it on our rotation this evening, as I have all of the ingredients on hand; however, I also think that the original recipe that you describe that uses grilled chicken and grilled veggies sounds exceptionally good as well. Do you have a link to the original recipe that you based this one off of?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Michelle, I don’t have the original recipe anymore (and there wasn’t a link) but basically, just grill up a bunch of chicken and veggies and toss that in with the sauce and pasta instead of frying the chicken in the pan.

    Also, I added the cheese and bacon — so basically it used to be really healthy 🙂

    [Reply]

  9. Lynn

    10/08/2014

    I think this sounds so good! But, question…reading over the recipe you said 1 chicken breast. Did you mean 1 lb. chicken breast cut up? I have 4 kids, so I wanted to see if you all only used 1 chicken breast for your whole family? Thank you for all you do!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Lynn, Yes, the recipe is as stated — 1 chicken breast (not 1 pound).
    In my experience, one chicken breast is A LOT of meat and plenty for mixing with pasta. However, also take note that this recipe serves… so if you have 4 kids, you and potentially a spouse, you’d probably want to make a double batch (especially if your kids are older or big eaters). This is awesome as leftovers too, so a double batch probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for your larger family!

    [Reply]