Why you’ll love it
Full of wholesome ingredients and quick to make, this creamy chicken penne pasta dish features juicy chicken, sweet sundried tomatoes, and tender baby spinach. Perfect for a weeknight dinner, it’s creamy, rich in flavour, and comforting.
- Quick and easy to make — just two pots and a strainer.
- Garlic and sundried tomatoes add a punch of umami.
- The Tuscan seasoning adds an even more complex taste with ease.
- Those punchy flavours, chicken, and pasta are all laced in a lovely light creamy sauce.
- It’s versatile, too. Use whatever type of pasta you’d like!
Chicken penne pasta — or if you want to test out your Italian, penne con pollo — is almost like a quicker version of my One Pan Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake. It’s also a got a bit of Creamy Tuscan Chicken and Chicken and Spinach Pasta vibe to it, too. I was so pleased to bring together three of my favourites and introduce you to this chicken penne pasta recipe.
This recipe was first published here on February 15, 2019 and has been updated with new photos and a slightly simplified recipe. It’s no less delicious though.
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Ingredients you’ll need
- Penne Pasta: I’ve used penne here, which is one of my favourites, and it catches the sauce really well. You could also try orecchiette, fusilli, shells, farfalle, rigatoni, elbows (macaroni) – the list goes on; just about any dried pasta variety will work here.
- Chicken Breast: I like boneless skinless chicken breasts for this chicken penne pasta for ease of use. Alternatively, you can use another cut, but be sure to remove all of the skin and bones. You can also use leftover rotisserie chicken – see my notes at the bottom of the recipe.
- Tuscan Seasoning: I love Tuscan seasoning blend for Italian-inspired dishes like this one. You could also use simple Italian seasoning (not Italian herbs) if you can’t find it. These seasonings are not just herbs – they have additional spices like garlic powder, onion powder and salt too so it’s a big flavour hit in one very simple step.
- Oil: Vegetable or extra virgin olive oil are both fine.
- Garlic: For added warm and savoury flavour in your chicken pasta.
- Sundried Tomatoes: Sundried tomatoes are sometimes packed in oil and sometimes not – both are fine here. If you choose those packed in oil, drain the oil before measuring. That oil can be used in place of the cooking oil in the recipe for added flavour. If you don’t like sun dried tomatoes, you could add a cup of grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes sliced in half added at the same step.
- Butter: You can use salted or unsalted butter here. Unsalted allows you to control the salt levels yourself and you may need to add another pinch if you use it.
- Thickened Cream: Also called heavy cream, this acts as the base for the sauce.
- Chicken Stock: You could also use vegetable stock, but I would stay away from replacing it with water as you’ll lose too much flavour.
- Parmesan Cheese: Finely grated from a block is your best bet — it has the best flavour and isn’t coated in things to stop it sticking like the pre-shredded varieties.
- Baby Spinach: Adds colour and a pop of veggie goodness to the overall dish.
If you want a little spice, a good pinch of dried chilli flakes (red pepper flakes) are delicious. You can also add some fresh parsley or fresh basil for a herbal freshness.
How to make chicken penne pasta (step-by-step)
Get ready for your new favourite chicken pasta recipe. While the pasta boils in one pan, the chicken and creamy sauce all come together in another. It’s such a quick and easy dinner and wonderful paired with my pesto garlic bread.
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain (reserve ½ cup of pasta water for later) and set aside.
- Prep the chicken: Slice the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and place them in a bowl with the Tuscan seasoning. Toss to mix and coat evenly.
- Cook the chicken: Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the chicken breast strips. Cook without stirring until they are about ⅔ of the way cooked (photo 1). Flip and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
- Add the butter: Lower the heat to medium, add the butter, and let it melt (photo 2).
- Incorporate the garlic and sundried tomatoes: Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and sundried tomatoes and stir. Allow them to sauté for another minute or so (photo 3).
- Add the liquids: Pour the stock and cream into the pan and mix well to combine (photo 4).
- Cook: Bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow it to cook for about 2-3 minutes so that it thickens slightly (photo 5). Stir in the Parmesan until it’s melted and combined.
- Assemble the chicken penne pasta: Add the cooked pasta and raw spinach to the pan (photo 6) and stir for another 2-3 minutes until the spinach wilts. If you want to loosen the sauce, now is the time to add the pasta water.
- Garnish and serve: Top your creamy chicken penne pasta with some freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Enjoy!
How to cook pasta al dente
Pasta is al dente when it is mostly cooked through and no longer has a raw pasta flavour, but it still has a bite to it. This texture is really important, as it means the pasta won’t end up mushy and will catch the sauce perfectly too.
This recipe has total weeknight convenience from using dried pasta, and it’s always best to stick to the instructions on the side of the packet when cooking it. Just make sure to test it for your personal preference as you get towards the end of the cooking time.
Tips and tricks
- Get your ingredients ready before starting. This creamy penne pasta with chicken recipe moves quite quickly. Have all the ingredients ready and the pasta on to boil before you start cooking so that you don’t overcook the chicken.
- Always keep some pasta water. Pasta water makes for a wonderful ingredient. Not only does it add seasoning (provided you’ve properly salted your pasta water), but it also adds a silky element to your sauce thanks to all the starch from the pasta. It can be used to adjust the consistency of your pasta sauce without watering down the flavour.
- You don’t need to brown the chicken for this recipe or you may end up overcooking it. If you do accidentally cook it through before beginning the sauce, you can set it aside on a warmed plate covered with foil and add it back with the pasta at the end.
This recipe is best eaten fresh, however, you can store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Reheat your chicken penne pasta in the microwave for a couple of minutes. When it comes out of the microwave the sauce will seem quite watery; just give it a good stir to re-emulsify and get it nice and creamy again. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
If your sauce is too thick, remember that you can thin it out by adding a little pasta water. You could also add more thickened cream or chicken stock. If it’s too thin, you can let it simmer for a bit longer to reduce and thicken naturally. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
Absolutely. Popular options include roasted red peppers or fresh tomatoes. You can either cook the vegetables separately and mix them into the pasta, or sauté them along with the garlic and sundried tomatoes before adding the cream.
I can’t say this enough: don’t overcook it! In this recipe, you don’t have to worry about fully cooking the chicken before adding the other ingredients. It will continue to cook as the other ingredients are added.
Once you’ve opened a jar of sundried tomatoes in oil, they’ll need to be stored in the fridge. Make sure they are covered with oil, topping up with some extra virgin olive oil if needed. They can last for a few months, but do check for colour changes, mold or a musty smell before using them. Alternatively, you can drain the oil away and puree the sundried tomatoes, then freeze in ice cube trays before transferring to a container or ziplock bag in the freezer. This sun dried tomato paste keeps for at least 6 months and is a great easy addition to sauces and pastas.
Did you try this creamy chicken penne pasta recipe?
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Creamy Chicken Penne Pasta
- 250 g dried penne pasta (9 oz)
- 500 g skinless boneless chicken breast (1.1lb)
- 1 tablespoon Tuscan seasoning (or Italian seasoning) (notes 1)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil (notes 1)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅔ cup sundried tomatoes, not packed, drained & roughly chopped (85g / 3oz)
- 2 tablespoons butter (28g/1oz)
- ¾ cup chicken stock (or chicken broth) (180ml)
- ⅔ cup thickened cream (heavy cream) (160ml)
- ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese (45g / 1.5oz)
- 3 cups baby spinach (120g / 4oz)
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water to packet instructions. Drain, reserving ½ a cup of the pasta cooking water, and set aside.
- Slice the chicken breast into 1cm thick, bite size strips and add to a bowl with the Tuscan seasoning. Mix well to combine.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breast strips and cook without moving until you can see it’s cooked about ⅔ of the way up the sides. Turn and cook for another 30 seconds or just enough to seal the other side (it doesn’t need to be cooked through).
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter and let it melt, then add the garlic and sundried tomatoes. Saute, stirring for another minute or so.
- Add the stock and cream to the pan, mix well and bring to a simmer. Allow it to reduce and thicken slightly – 2-3 minutes.
- Add the parmesan and mix through until melted and combined.
- Finally, add the cooked pasta and spinach and stir well for another 2-3 minutes until the spinach is wilted and the sauce is coating the pasta. If you want to loosen the sauce, just add a little of the pasta water.
- Serve immediately with some freshly cracked black pepper to season to taste.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- Tablespoons: I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons). Check yours before measuring.
- Chicken: You can swap the chicken breast for chicken thighs. You could also replace it with leftover rotisserie chicken – skip steps 2&3 then add the shredded chicken at the same time as the stock and cream.
- Pasta: Other types of dried pasta will also work.
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