Chicken Pesto Linguine is a quick and easy pasta recipe perfect any night of the week. With juicy succulent chicken pieces and a creamy pesto sauce you will love the variety of textures in this recipe. Pesto linguine with chicken will fast become a dinner recipe for busy weeknights that the whole family will love!
🤍 Recipe Highlights
I have summarised everything that you will come to know and love (LOVE ❤) about the creamy pesto pasta recipe in the points below:
- Simple ingredients: there is 10 total ingredients needed for the recipe. 11 if you count salt as one and pepper as other. They are all easy to get your hands on at your grocery store and they create a winning combination.
- Budget friendly: this recipe uses simple ingredients that will allow you to stick to your budget. Bring the pesto linguine with chicken together on a week night or night that you would normally have gone out to eat and save time, energy and effort all at once 😉.
- Homemade basil pesto: is surprisingly easy and straightforward to make your own pesto. You know exactly what ingredients go into the pesto and can switch up the nut for a change. It all gets combined in the food processor.
- Protein packed: this chicken pesto pasta recipe offers a nice change from a traditional spaghetti bolognese recipe yet still combines pasta and a satisfying protein. 👍😊.
- Taste and texture: linguine pesto offers freshly cooked al dente pasta mixed together with garlicky, herby, citrus freshness. It is packed with flavour and yet very simple to bring together as a dish.
The photo below is to show you everything you need to make the chicken pesto pasta linguine. Please refer to the printable recipe card for specific ingredient measurements as well as detailed instructions.
As you can see the recipe calls for:
- Olive oil: we use a little bit of olive oil to cook the chicken breasts as one of the initial steps in the recipe.
- Salt and pepper: we use salt and a little bit of black pepper to season the chicken before we cook it.
- Chicken: we are using chicken breast to make this recipe. 2 will be enough for 4 adult servings of the dish (as it is paired with pasta). Boneless skinless chicken is best and requires minimal prep work.
- Garlic: fresh garlic cloves are best for pesto. We use 2-3 and they give a great depth of flavor to the recipe.
- Pecorino romano cheese: freshly grated using a microplane zester is best if you can. The cheese is so soft and blends very well in the pesto.
- Pistachio nuts: a fantastic robust nut to use when making pesto.
- Lemon juice: this gives the pesto a lovely citrus zing flavor.
- Olive oil: this is the ingredient that acts as the 'glue' to hold the pesto together.
- Basil: this is our primary ingredient needed to make the homemade basil pesto. We only need the leaves so you can trim the stems using kitchen scissors.
- Linguine: this is a flat pasta, similar to fettuccine yet less wide. It is like spaghetti yet with a flatter not round form.
Tasty Tip: I like to provide you with a number of substitutions and variations giving you an array of options when making the recipe. If in doubt of any of the above ingredients, or wanting alternatives, read this section (further below) before jumping into the instructions on how to make the recipe which are coming next 😉👌.
Here are the step by step instructions to make the chicken basil pesto pasta. We start by making the pesto. You will need your food processor to begin.
- Add basil (Photo 1)
- Then add pistachios (Photo 2)
- Add garlic (Photo 3)
- Add pecorino romano cheese (Photo 4)
👩🍳 How to Make Chicken Pesto Linguine
Start the recipe by making the pesto. To do this add the basil leaves, pistachio nuts, garlic cloves and pecorino romano cheese to the bowl of a food processor.
Give it a blitz to combine then pour in the olive oil, like you see me showing you in the photos below.
- Add the olive oil (Photo 5)
- Then add the lemon juice (Photo 6)
- Slice the chicken breasts in half lengthways and season (Photo 7)
- Add the chicken to the pan with olive oil (Photo 8)
Next add the lemon juice, blitz, scrape down the insides of the bowl, blitz again and then transfer the combined pesto to a small bowl.
The pesto can then be set aside whilst we start on the chicken.
Use a knife and chopping board to slice the chicken in halves lengthways.
Once done season each side with salt and black pepper.
Then place a large saute pan or frying pan onto the stove top, turn the heat to high and add the olive oil.
Next use kitchen tongs to place the sliced seasoned chicken into the pan. Cook the chicken on the 1st side for 4 minutes and then use the tongs to flip the pieces and cook the 2nd side for 4 minutes also.
Once cooked, use the tongs to remove the chicken and place it onto a paper towel lined chopping board. Whilst the chicken rests you can then get started on making the pasta.
Bring a medium sauce pan of boiling salted water to the boil and then add the linguine. Read and follow the instructions on the packet to cook pasta according to package directions.
Moments before it is al dente, use a heatproof jug to scoop out some of the pasta water as shown in the photo below.
- Reserve some of the pasta water (Photo 9)
- Absorb the excess oil in the pan (Photo 10)
- Slice the cooked chicken (Photo 11)
- Add the pesto to the pasta (Photo 12)
Next use tongs and paper towel to absorb the excess oil in the base of the saute pan.
Then use a knife to slice the cooked chicken into pieces.
Once done without rinsing the pan add the cooked linguine to it. Then dollop in the fresh basil pesto as I am doing in the photo above.
- Reserve pasta water (Photo 13)
- Toss to combine (Photo 14)
- Add the sliced chicken (Photo 15)
- Garnish for serving (Photo 16)
Next, we want to add ½ cup (125ml) of the reserved pasta water to the linguine and pesto. Then use a pair of tongs to toss and combine.
Once done add the sliced chicken pieces to the pan with the combined pasta as shown in the photo above.
Then get your garnish on with a sprinkling of freshly cracked pepper, pecorino romano and some basil leaves. These add a pop or 2 of colour and the trio tie the finished dish together nicely for serving.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
Otherwise you will likely find that this is a filling and satisfying recipe that will tick the boxes without needing more sides, vegetables or other 😉👍.
The combination of the cheese, pepper and basil leaves as garnish requires minimal work yet really helps to present the dish as a tasty, creamy, cheesy meal that you will turn to again and again!
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Store leftovers of the chicken pesto linguine in a sealed, airtight container in the fridge. They can be refrigerated for 3 days and are best reheated before being consumed.
How to Freeze
If wanting to be organised and have some ingredients on hand, my recommendation is that you purchase the raw chicken breast, freeze then thaw and use it to make the recipe. This however, means that you can't freeze leftovers as the chicken shouldn't be frozen again if it has already been frozen.
Allow the dish to fully cool before portioning into airtight containers and freezing for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat
The microwave is the most convenient and fastest way to reheat leftovers. 2 to 3 minutes on high will be enough to heat both the chicken and pesto linguine through.
Or thaw frozen portions and then reheat till warmed through.
😉 Substitutions and Variations
Here are my sub ins and outs that you might be thinking about as you read the post and I will tell you if I think they will work or why they won't:
- You can use parmesan cheese (equivalent amount) in place of the pecorino romano cheese if you would like too.
- Other options for the nut in the pesto are cashews, walnuts or pine nuts.
- You can use chicken thighs in place of the chicken breast if you wish too. If doing so, you may want to increase it to 4 as they are smaller than chicken breast.
- For a vegetable addition to the pasta you can add some fresh sliced in half cherry tomatoes.
- If you want to add some toasted pine nuts to the top of the dish to serve, that will work. Or some leftovers of the pistachio nuts, crushed.
- For other pasta types try fettuccine, spaghetti, tagliatelle or penne pasta.
💡 Tasty Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks that I want to share with you so that you master the recipe from the get go:
- A spatula will come in handy when you are making the pesto. You will want to scrape the insides of the bowl down along the way and use it to help transfer the combined pesto to a small bowl.
- We want the pesto and the chicken to be done and ready so that when the hot pasta is cooked, we add this to the pan and the heat from it helps melt and combine the pesto. We don't want the cooked pasta to sit for too long after draining as it will begin to stick together if it sits for too long.
- For the pasta water, I scoop out 1 to 2 cups initially and then I take a measuring spoon and measure ½ cup (125ml) from this. I find that it is easier to measure when the pasta is not bubbling and splattering away. Plus you can keep some of the pasta water in a jar with a tight lid in the fridge if you wish to as they can help juice up leftovers.
- You will find it easiest to 1st toss the pasta, pesto and reserved pasta water before then adding the sliced cooked chicken pieces and stirring to combine. The chicken will only need a stir whereas to get the pasta, pesto and pasta water consistently combined, you need to lift and toss and turn the pasta until the magic happens.
- The pasta water turns the pesto sauce into a creamy pesto texture which is delightful considering there is no actual cream used in the recipe 👌😁.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
What makes pesto taste so good?
Pesto tastes good because of the combination of ingredients used to make it. From the bold parmesan cheese, garlic, bright lemon and zesty fresh basil leaves.
What cuts bitterness in pesto?
Lemon juice is the secret ingredient to ensure the pesto is not bitter. Taste the combined pesto, then add lemon juice and once mixed in taste again. Then you can add more as desired.
What is a good substitute for pine nuts in pesto?
Traditionally pine nuts are used to make pesto, yet there are many good substitutes that taste just as good. Try using cashew nuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts or almonds.
😍 More Easy Dinner Recipes
Din dins, it can be the most enjoyable meal of the day. To achieve that it helps to have a variety of recipes up your sleeve that offer diversity through taste, texture and proteins. Here are some ideas that I hope will tick all of your boxes:
- Chorizo and Prawn Linguine
- Chicken Ribs
- Chorizo Pasta Bake
- Meatball Rigatoni
- Spinach and Feta Pizza
- Beef Mince Pasta Bake
- Air Fryer Chicken Meatballs
- Salmon Linguine
- Marinated Chicken Thighs
- Air Fryer Tortilla Pizza
Chicken Pesto Linguine
- 3 cups basil leaves firmly packed basil leaves, stems trimmed, Note 1
- ⅓ cup pistachio nuts Note 2
- 2-3 cloves garlic cloves Note 3
- ½ cup pecorino romano cheese Note 4
- ⅓ cup/80ml olive oil Note 5
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice Note 6
- 2 medium chicken breast Note 7
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 500 grams/16 oz linguine
- ½ cup/ 125 ml reserved pasta water
- black pepper
- pecorino romano cheese finely grated using a microplane zester
- basil leaves stems removed
- Basil pesto: add the basil leaves, pistachio nuts, garlic and pecorino romano cheese to the bowl of a food processor and then blitz to combine. Next pour in the olive oil and pulse to combine. Then use a spatula to scrape down the insides of the bowl before adding the lemon juice and combining. Then use the spatula to transfer the combined pesto to a small bowl.
- Chicken: use a knife and chopping board to slice each of the chicken breasts in half lengthways. Then season both sides with salt and pepper. Place a large saute pan on the stove top and turn the heat to high. Add the olive oil and then use tongs to transfer the seasoned chicken into the pan. Cook for 4 minutes then use the tongs to flip to the other side and cook this side for 4 minutes also. Once both sides are cooked, use the tongs to remove the chicken from the pan and place it onto a paper towel lined chopping board. Let it rest for 2-3 minutes before using a knife to slice it into pieces.
- Linguine: bring a medium sauce pan with salted water to the boil and add the dried linguine pasta. Read and follow the packet instructions to cook it. Moments before it is al dente (a little bit chewy) use a heatproof jug to scoop out 1 to 2 cups of the pasta water. Then use a colander over the sink to drain the pasta and discard the rest of the water.
- Combine: use tongs and paper towel to absorb the excess oil in the pan that you cooked the chicken then add the cooked linguine to the pan. Dollop in the pesto and then measure and pour in ½ cup (125 ml) of the pasta water. Use kitchen tongs to toss and combine the pasta, pesto and pasta water. Then add the sliced chicken to the combined pasta and gently stir to combine.
- To serve: generously garnish the dish with black pepper, pecorino romano and basil leaves. Provide bowls, forks and spoons to serving.
- Note 1 - Basil: this is our primary ingredient needed to make the homemade basil pesto. We only need the leaves so you can trim the stems using kitchen scissors.
- Note 2 - Pistachio nuts: a fantastic robust nut to use when making pesto.
- Note 3 - Garlic: fresh garlic cloves are best for pesto. We use 2-3 and they give a great depth of flavor to the recipe.
- Note 4 - Pecorino romano cheese: freshly grated using a microplane zester is best if you can. The cheese is so soft and blends very well in the pesto.
- Note 5 - Olive oil: this is the ingredient that acts as the 'glue' to hold the pesto together.
- Note 6 - Lemon juice: this gives the pesto a lovely citrus zing flavor.
- Note 7 - Chicken: we are using chicken breast to make this recipe. 2 will be enough for 4 adult servings of the dish (as it is paired with pasta). Boneless skinless chicken is best and requires minimal prep work.