Perfect for weeknights, this Red Pesto Chicken Pasta can be on the table in just 25 minutes. Seasoning the chicken with mixed herbs and smoked paprika before pan frying will give it maximum flavour.
For the pasta, we’ll add shop-bought sun-dried tomato pasta for speed and ease. To make it creamy we’ll add marscapone, and balsamic vinegar for a little acidic sweetness. Then we’ll finish it off with some chopped fresh basil. You can also stir through a couple of handfuls of spinach too, otherwise, it’s delicious paired with just a simple salad.
If you have a toddler, weaning baby or fussy eater and are wondering how to adapt this recipe for your family, see here >
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The Stars of my Red Pesto Chicken Pasta
By using shop prepared chicken mini fillets (tenderloins US), will save you time on a busy weeknight. I chose this cut of chicken because you get more surface area for the seasoning to coat compared to using whole chicken breasts. The chicken will also cook a lot quicker. I prefer to use mini fillets for this meal over diced chicken as it means less pieces of chicken to turn during frying. You can of course use shop prepared diced chicken if you prefer.
You can use any red / sun-dried tomato pesto you like here. I’d recommend sticking with your favourite brand.
I love marscapone and it works beautifully in this pasta dish. You can substitute it for cream cheese if you need to, it won’t make a major difference.
The Balsamic Vinegar
Adding balsamic vinegar gives the pasta a slightly sweet, slightly tangy edge. Do not be tempted to add any other type of vinegar as that will just give you an acidic tang without the sweetness.
The spinach is optional, it just gets stirred through the pasta at the end of cooking along with the pesto and marscapone. If you don’t add in spinach, I’d recommend serving this pasta dish with a simple salad.
FAQ’s For My Red Pesto Chicken Pasta
Can I prepare this Red Pesto Chicken Pasta in advance?
You can prepare the chicken in advance by adding the oil and seasonings and then refrigerating. You’ll stir through the pasta elements at the end of the cook, but you are welcome to measure them all out into a bowl together and chill until ready to use if you’d like.
Can I feed more people with this recipe?
You certainly can! If you are cooking more chicken you will need to fry it in two batches, keeping the first batch warm on a plate covered in foil.
How can younger children help make it?
Get the kids to add and stir-through all the pasta elements once it’s cooked and off the heat.
Can I Store Red Pesto Chicken Pasta leftovers?
You can store any leftovers in an air-tight container or resealable food bag in the fridge for up to 3 days (cook day + 2). Leftovers can also be frozen, just defrost for 24 hours in the fridge before reheating. Add a little water and reheat in the microwave, stirring the pasta halfway, until steaming hot all the way through. You can reheat the chicken separately or pop it in one side of the container so you can still stir the pasta.
For more on safe food storage and reheating read here >
What diets is this recipe suitable for?
My Red Pesto Chicken Pasta is egg and nut-free. You can make it gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta.
Adapting My Red Pesto Chicken Pasta For Your Family
Eating together is beneficial for families of all ages and stages, for a multitude of reasons; nutritional, behavioural, psychological and for healthy family functioning. This section will show you how to tweak this Red Pesto Chicken Pasta recipe for sharing with a weaning baby, toddler or a fussy eater, which will help make it easier to eat together as a family.
Keeping Picky Eaters Happy
Pesto is usually accepted by fussy eaters, but if you have a child who doesn’t like pesto, I’d still give this a go. Because the marscapone makes the pasta creamy and the addition of balsamic vinegar, it won’t taste the same. Particularly try it if you have a child who tends to like creamy pasta. If you have a spinach hater, serve some of their favourite salad veggies alongside instead.
See more from me on fussy eaters here >
Add On’s for Adults
This pasta dish is lovely as it is, but if you are a spice fan, you can sprinkle your serving with some dried chilli flakes for a heat kick.
Making My Red Pesto Chicken Pasta Suitable for Baby Weaning
Leave out the salt from the cook and add to your plate instead, or stir it through once baby’s portion has been removed.
How to Serve to Babies & Toddlers
For under 1’s eating this by hand is the way to go. Choose a pasta shape like penne or rigatoni that baby can grip. Slice the cooked chicken mini-fillets into finger-size strips longways.
1 YEAR +
Spaghetti would be my recommended pasta to use as it can be chopped through and served with a fork to get them using cutlery. Cut their chicken into bitesize pieces.
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RED PESTO CHICKEN PASTA
FOR THE CHICKEN
- 650 g chicken mini fillets / tenderloins US
- 1 tablespoon flavourless oil
- 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Black pepper & salt to taste
FOR THE PASTA
- 120 g sun-dried tomato/red pesto
- 150 g marscapone cheese
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil finely chopped, more to serve if you like
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 350 g wholewheat pasta I use spaghetti
- 2 handfuls spinach optional
FOR THE PASTA
- Cook your pasta in a large pan of salted hot water, according to packet instructions. When done, reserve a little of the cooking water, about a ladle full and drain the pasta. Return the pasta and the water to the pan, followed by the pesto, marscapone, balsamic vinegar, chopped basil and salt & pepper. Toss well to combine, then add in the spinach if having and toss again.
FOR THE CHICKEN
- Add your chicken fillets to a medium mixing bowl and add the oil and seasonings. Toss through well. For maximum flavour, prep these earlier on in the day and refrigerate.
- Then while the pasta cooks, heat your largest frying pan over a high heat for 1-2 minutes. Then add the chicken fillets and fry on one side for around 3 minutes and then the other for another 3-4 minutes or until deep golden both sides and cooked through. Slice the mini fillets.
- Add the pasta to bowls and top with the sliced chicken. Sprinkle over some extra chopped basil if you like.