I often crave pasta but this time I was craving some spice too so, with just the right kick of cajun spice and chilli flakes, this spicy chicken pasta is also easy to make. The heat level can be customised too.
Table of contents
Why you’ll love it
This recipe is now a favourite around here. For me, it’s the simplicity married with the huge flavour that makes this delicious pasta recipe a must-make.
- Creamy and rich
- Balanced hearty flavour – umami lovers unite!
- Perfectly spiced but still customisable
- Easy to make
- It reheats like a dream
Ingredients in this spicy chicken pasta
With simple, everyday ingredients and literally the ingredients I always have on hand, you’ll love how they combine to give a delicious, punchy dish.
Detailed quantities and directions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- Chicken: I most often use just skinless chicken breasts. The sauce is loaded with flavour so the added flavour thighs give isn’t absolutely necessary and chicken breast is a lighter option that we always have in our freezer. That said, feel free to use breast or thigh meat.
- Cream: You’ll want thickened / heavy cream for this. You can use a lighter cream if you prefer but it may not thicken so nicely and light creams have more chance of splitting when heat is applied.
- Stock: Use a very good quality chicken stock or homemade if you have it. Try a few different types – you’ll be amazed at the difference in flavour between brands. Some are basically water while others have a more robust flavour.
- Onion and garlic: These are used for an wonderful umami flavour.
- Tomato paste: This is a very thick tomato puree with a spreadable consistency, loads of flavour and a touch of sweetness.
- Spinach: Spinach is a wonderful option to add some vegies to this dish. It doesn’t have a dominating flavour but gives a little colour. Feel free to add mushrooms, capsicum (bell pepper) or tomatoes too.
- Parmesan: Please buy a real block and grate it by hand – you’ll get the best flavour this way. You don’t need a lot, parmesan goes a long way.
- Pasta: I use dried penne pasta for this but to be honest, the sauce has a good coating consistency so it works with many styles of pasta. Choose your favourite here.
- Spices: Salt and pepper are always great. Cajun spice brings both flavour and heat. A little added kick of heat from dried chilli flakes and paprika is another great grounding flavour. Feel free to use smoked paprika if you love it.
- Parsley: Last but not least, just a little parsley brings a fresh touch to the dish. You can swap this for oregano too.
How spicy is it?
It’s hard to say how spicy is too spicy or not spicy enough since everyone has different tastes. I add a little spice here and there to dishes and to me this is a medium spice level. It will make your mouth tingle but not blow your head off or make you sweat.
If you’re nervous about it being too spicy, feel free to cut out the chilli flakes or just cut them down to a pinch.
How to make spicy chicken pasta (summary)
This creamy spicy chicken pasta recipe comes together pretty quickly once you start so I recommend, having your ingredients ready to go and having water on the stove heating, so that it’s boiling when it’s time to add the pasta.
See the recipe card below for the full recipe details.
- The chicken: Season the chicken (photo 1) then saute over medium-high heat until it’s just cooked through and a little golden on the outside (photo 2). Then set it aside.
- The sauce: Start by sauteing onions, followed by garlic and chilli flakes (photo 3). Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute (photo 4) before adding and reducing the stock a little (photo 5). Add cream and parmesan, melt it in (photo 6) then let it come to a bubble.
- The pasta: You’ll start cooking the pasta around about the time the garlic and chilli are added to the onions. This should make it perfectly cooked just in time to add to the sauce.
- Combining it all: Add back the chicken along with spinach and parsley (photo 7). Let it heat through and the spinach wilt, then add the drained pasta (photo 8) and voila!
Serve with a big grin, a glass of wine and a hungry belly.
Tips and tricks
- The pasta: Make sure to cook the pasta just until al dente. This means it should be just cooked through but still have bite when you chew it. Don’t cook your pasta until it’s totally soft and mushy.
- Which pasta? Because the creamy, spicy, tomato sauce has a wonderful way of hugging the pasta, just about any shape will work, so use your favourite.
- Seasoning pasta water: Your pasta water should be salty, almost like the sea. Don’t worry, it doesn’t all stick to your pasta, just enough to stop it from being bland.
- Reserve pasta water, always! Whenever you cook pasta, do yourself and your meal a huge favour and save 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. Pasta water is seasoned and starchy. If you add it to your dish before serving, it will add a touch of flavour, while thinning the sauce if need and also making the sauce extra silky.
- The sauce consistency: You can thin or thicken the sauce to your preference. For a thicker sauce, make sure to reduce the stock well. You can thin the sauce out by adding a touch of the pasta water until it’s perfect for you.
What to serve with spicy chicken pasta
To be honest, I serve this as it, on it’s own but to make it super special some garlic bread or parmesan toast is perfect on the side or to dunk into the sauce.
It reheats well
Any leftovers? Lucky you! This spicy chicken pasta reheats beautifully, on the stove top or in the microwave. If using the microwave add a little dribble of water first.
Store any leftover in the fridge in an airtight container.
If you want to freshen the meal, just a lightly dressed side salad is lovely.
If you try this creamy spicy chicken pasta recipe, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you and it helps other readers too! You can also take a photo and tag @sugarsaltmagic on Instagram.
More recipes you’ll love
- Celery Pesto Rigatoni
- Homemade Italian Meatballs
- The Best Spaghetti Bolognese
- Meatball Pasta Bake
- Chicken Penne Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes
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Spicy Chicken Pasta
- 2 chicken breasts, sliced into strips
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (notes 1)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ medium red onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (notes 1)
- ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- ⅖ cup cream
- ½ cup lightly packed finely shredded parmesan (35g / 1.2oz)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (notes 1)
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 200 g dried penne pasta, or other dried pasta (roughly 2 1/2 cups)
- Large frying pan or skillet
- Bring a large pot, half full of well salted water, to a boil.
- Season the chicken in the cajun seasoning, paprika, salt and pepper. Give it a good mix.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat, then drop the temperature down to medium. Place the chicken in the pan. Cook, turning every so often until just cooked through 6-7 minutes – set aside.
- In the same pan, still over medium heat, cook the onion for a few minutes until it softens. Don’t let it burn.
- Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook, stirring for a minute.
- Place the pasta into the boiling water.
- Add the tomato paste to the frying pan and stir it around with with the onions and garlic for one minute.
- Add the chicken stock and stir to combine and deglaze the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the cream and parmesan and stir to melt and combine.
- Return the chicken to the pan, along with the spinach and parsley. Stir well and heat until the spinach has wilted.
- Retain 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the frying pan and mix everything together. If you need to thin the sauce add a little pasta water at a time until you have the consistency you like.
- I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons worldwide).
- Chicken: Use skinless chicken, breast or thigh.
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