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Chicken and Spinach Pasta

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Chicken and Spinach Pasta is a quick and easy comfort food dinner perfect for busy days. Chicken and spinach are cooked in a creamy, garlicky sauce and nestled in tender penne.


Chicken and spinach pasta in a pan with a serving spoon.


This wholesome dish is easy to prepare and flavorful, making it an ideal choice for an easy weeknight dinner or a weekend gathering with friends and family.

You’ll love how the tender pieces of chicken pair perfectly with the velvety spinach, creating a colorful and satisfying meal. 

Plus, pasta is a versatile ingredient that allows you to customize the dish to your taste preferences.

As you prepare this delicious dinner, don’t hesitate to get creative and add your favorite ingredients. Some popular additions include sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for spice lovers. With its vibrant colors and delicious taste, chicken and spinach pasta will quickly become a go-to recipe for the whole family to enjoy.

Why You’ll Love Creamy Spinach Chicken Pasta

Chicken and spinach pasta is a delicious and comforting meal that will surely become a family favorite in your household. Here are a few reasons why you’ll love this dish:

  • Quick to make: Ready in 30 minutes or less, this quick meal is perfect for busy weeknights and is always a huge hit. With a short list of ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions, you can have this easy dinner on the table in no time.
  • Nutritious: Combining lean chicken and nutrient-rich spinach, this pasta dish is a great way to add essential vitamins and minerals such as protein, iron, and calcium. You can even include the benefits of fiber and antioxidants by choosing whole wheat pasta.
  • Customizable: Feel free to personalize the dish by adding your preferred ingredients or swapping out components for healthier options. For example, consider using fresh cherry tomatoes or roasted bell peppers instead of sun-dried tomatoes. You can also opt for an alternative pasta like a gluten-free or low-carb variety.
  • Incredible flavor: Chicken and spinach pasta flavors are brought together through a creamy and savory sauce, elevated by adding garlic and Parmesan cheese. The tender pasta absorbs the rich flavors of the dish, making each bite an explosion of taste.

Ingredients

  • Penne pasta: Cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Used for sautéing the garlic and building the sauce.
  • Fresh garlic: Adds a wonderful, aromatic flavor to this dish.
  • Salt: Enhances the flavor of all the ingredients.
  • Black pepper: A little spice for added depth to the pasta.
  • Red pepper flakes: Adjust according to your taste for a hint of heat.
  • Chicken broth: Adds richness and depth to the sauce.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: Provides a nutty, salty flavor to the sauce and creates a creamy texture.
  • Heavy cream: Creates a luscious, velvety sauce for the pasta.
  • Spinach: Adds color, texture, and nutrients to your dish.
  • Shredded rotisserie chicken: A convenient, time-saving option for cooked chicken, or use any leftover chicken!
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: Offer a tangy, concentrated burst of flavor in every bite.
Ingredients to make chicken spinach pasta.

How to Make Chicken and Spinach Pasta

  • Step One: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the pasta to the boiling water. Allow the pasta to cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until it’s just under al dente. Before draining the pasta in a colander, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water for later use.
  • Step Two: While your pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, and cook it for 1 to 2 minutes until it’s softened. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, stirring well to combine everything.
Steps to make chicken and spinach pasta.
  • Step Three: Pour in the chicken broth, Parmesan cheese, and heavy cream, and stir the ingredients to combine them well. Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low.
Steps to make chicken and spinach pasta.
  • Step Four: Add the pasta with the spinach to the pot containing the sauce once the pasta is cooked. Stir everything so the pasta and spinach are well-coated with the sauce. Allow the spinach to wilt for about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Step Five: Add the chicken into the mixture gently. If you find the sauce too thick, add some reserved pasta water, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring until you achieve your desired consistency.
  • Step Six: Stir in sun-dried tomatoes, serve the chicken and spinach pasta hot, and enjoy your delicious meal.
Steps to make chicken and spinach pasta.

Equipment Needed

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  • Large skillet: A good-sized skillet is essential for cooking the chicken, spinach, and sauce. Make sure it has a sturdy, heat-resistant handle and a non-stick coating for easy food release and clean-up.
  • Pot for boiling pasta: You’ll need a large pot to cook your pasta to the perfect al dente texture. Choose a pot with a built-in strainer, or use a separate colander for draining the pasta after it’s cooked.
  • Cutting board and sharp knife: You’ll need a sturdy cutting board and a sharp knife to prep your ingredients. These tools are essential for slicing chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and chopping fresh spinach or garlic.
  • Wooden spoon or spatula: A wooden spoon is a versatile tool for stirring the pasta and sauce in the skillet. You can also use a heat-resistant silicone spatula if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Measuring cups and spoons: These are necessary to accurately measure ingredients such as chicken broth, and spices. Accurate measurements ensure your dish is well-balanced and flavorful.
Tips
  • Go for fresh baby spinach for a more tender and mild flavor. 
  • Ensure the spinach leaves are vibrant green and free of yellowing or wilting.
  • Thoroughly wash the spinach before using it to remove any dirt or grit.
  • Add seasonings to taste– don’t be afraid to adjust the spices to suit your preferences.
  • You can use non-dairy milk alternatives like almond milk or coconut milk.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta. Remember that it will continue to cook in the sauce. Cook until it’s al dente.
  • If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta water. I recommend only adding 1/4 cup at a time. If you add too much at once, the sauce can become runny.
  • Us a large pot or skillet for this recipe so it won’t overflow out of the pot and leave a mess on your stove.
  • Chop the veggies while the pasta water is coming to a boil, and make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
  • I used sun-dried tomatoes soaked in oil. If you are using oil-free sun-dried tomatoes, soak them in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes before using. 
  • If you need a thickening agent to make the sauce thicker, add a teaspoon or so of cornstarch.
Chicken and spinach pasta on a serving spoon.

What to Serve with this Easy Pasta Dish

  • Salad: A simple, fresh garden salad with a light dressing complements the pasta dish without overwhelming your palate or adding too many extra calories.
  • Garlic Bread: Who doesn’t enjoy some warm, buttery garlic bread accompanying pasta? It’s a classic choice that adds a touch of comfort to your meal.
  • Roasted Vegetables: For a healthier side option, roasted vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, or cherry tomatoes are seasoned with herbs to enhance the flavors.
  • White Wine: A crisp, citrusy white wine like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc pairs beautifully and offers a refreshing contrast to the creamy sauce.

Garnishing Ideas

  • Lemon Zest: Give your pasta a burst of freshness by adding some grated lemon zest right before serving. This will brighten up the dish and enhance the lemony flavors.
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: If you like a bit of heat in your dish, sprinkle some crushed red pepper flakes on top for a subtle kick.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Grate some extra Parmesan cheese on top for a beautiful presentation and an added layer of flavor. Remember, you can never go wrong with more cheese!
  • Fresh Herbs: To make your dish more visually appealing and flavorful, garnish with freshly chopped herbs like basil or parsley.
Chicken and spinach pasta on a serving spoon.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Go meatless: Tofu or tempeh make excellent substitutes for chicken in your spinach pasta dish. Simply cube or crumble them, cook them in a skillet, and add them to the rest of your ingredients. You can also try incorporating other protein-rich plant-based options such as chickpeas, lentils, or even a variety of mushrooms.
  • Switch out the pasta: You have a wide range of pasta varieties to choose from. Classics like spaghetti, penne, or fettuccine work well. Don’t be afraid to experiment with less common options like farfalle pasta (bow-tie), fusilli, whole wheat, or gluten-free pasta.
  • Add veggies: Adding extra veggies can bring more depth of flavor and nutrients to your dish. Some tasty additions include bell pepper, broccoli, zucchini, or roasted butternut squash. 
  • Add fresh herbs: You can also add fresh herbs like basil, oregano, or thyme to enhance the overall flavor of your dish. Italian seasoning is also yummy.
  • Optional add-ins: For added crunchiness, sprinkle your pasta with toasted nuts like pine nuts or walnuts. For extra cheesiness, try using a blend of different cheeses, such as mozzarella, provolone, or fontina, along with the classic Parmesan. 
  • Try a different protein: Add shrimp, scallops, crispy bacon, or turkey sausage to create a unique and satisfying meal. You can also use cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of rotisserie chicken.
  • Swap out the heavy whipping cream: Try whole milk or even a block of cream cheese instead to make the cream sauce.
  • Add a touch of pesto: Add a few tablespoons of basil pesto to the sauce to change the flavor.

Storage Instructions

To keep your chicken and spinach pasta fresh in the refrigerator, follow these simple steps:

  1. Allow the pasta to cool down to room temperature.
  2. Use an airtight container or plastic wrap to cover the dish.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Can I Freeze?

Freezing your chicken and spinach pasta can be a handy option for meal planning. Just follow these guidelines:

  1. Allow the pasta to cool down completely.
  2. Divide it into serving-sized portions for easy reheating.
  3. Wrap each portion tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  4. Place portions in a freezer-safe container or a heavy-duty freezer bag.
  5. Keep in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

Label containers or freezer bags with the date and name of the dish to easily identify it later. Note that freezing may change the sauce’s consistency and texture.

Reheating Instructions

Whether your pasta has been refrigerated or frozen, follow these instructions to reheat it:

  • In the microwave: Place the pasta in a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap. Heat on medium power for 1-2 minutes at a time, stirring in between until fully warmed through.
  • On the stovetop: Transfer the pasta to a nonstick skillet and heat it over low heat, adding a splash of water or broth to prevent drying out. Stir occasionally until heated through.
Chicken and spinach pasta on a plate.

FAQs about chicken and spinach pasta

You might wonder if rinsing the pasta after cooking is necessary when making chicken and spinach pasta. The general rule is not to rinse your pasta after cooking it. It can be harmful to the texture and flavor of the dish.

When you rinse pasta with water, you wash away the starchy coating that helps sauces and other ingredients stick to the pasta strands. This makes the finished dish less flavorful, as the sauce doesn’t adhere as well as it should. So, it’s best to skip the rinsing step for delicious chicken and spinach pasta.

However, there are times when rinsing pasta can be beneficial. If you’re making a cold pasta salad, rinsing pasta with cold water can stop cooking and maintain a firm texture. It also helps keep the pasta from sticking together when mixing it with the other salad ingredients. But this approach is not recommended for a hot dish like chicken and spinach pasta.

Remember, save a cup of starchy pasta water when draining your pasta. This can be incredibly useful when making your chicken and spinach pasta sauce, as it helps to thicken the sauce and create a smoother, creamier consistency. The water also adds a nice glossy finish to the dish, making it more visually appealing.

When you cook pasta to al dente, you aim for a tender yet slightly firm texture. In Italian, “al dente” translates to “to the tooth,” signifying that the pasta should still have some resistance when you bite into it. Achieving al dente pasta is easy and results in a perfect balance between hard, uncooked pasta and mushy, overcooked noodles.

To start, boil a pot of water and add some salt. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add your pasta of choice. Give the pasta a good stir to prevent it from clumping together. While cooking, keep an eye on the pasta and start tasting it one to two minutes before the package instructions say it should be cooked through. 

Tasting your pasta is the most reliable method to determine if it’s cooked to al dente.

When you bite into a piece of al dente pasta, there should be a tiny white dot in the center, indicating that it’s tender but still firm. This optimal texture ensures that your pasta holds its shape in the sauce and provides an enjoyable eating experience.

Remember, cooking pasta to al dente perfection is not only about the timing but also about your preference. Feel free to adjust the cooking time for your ideal pasta texture. The key is to closely monitor the pasta during the cooking process and taste it regularly until you achieve the perfect al dente consistency.

Yes, you can definitely use frozen spinach in your chicken and spinach pasta. It can be a convenient and cost-effective alternative to fresh spinach. To use frozen spinach, thaw it and then squeeze out the excess water before adding it to your pasta dish. This prevents your dish from becoming too watery.

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Chicken and Spinach Pasta

This quick and easy comfort food dinner is perfect for busy days. Chicken and spinach are cooked in a creamy garlicky sauce and nestled in tender penne.
5 from 2 votes
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A plate of chicken and spinach pasta.
Prep Time:8 minutes
Cook Time:15 minutes
Total Time:23 minutes

Ingredients
 

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the pasta to the boiling water. Allow the pasta to cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is just under al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta in a colander.
  • While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Then add the garlic. Stir and cook until the garlic is softened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
  • Add the chicken broth, Parmesan cheese, and heavy cream. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Taste and season, if needed. Reduce heat to medium low.
  • Add the cooked pasta and spinach to the sauce and stir to combine. Allow the spinach to wilt (about 2 to 3 minutes).
  • Add the chicken and stir. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce seems too thick (about ¼ cup at a time).
  • Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes. Serve hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 802kcalCarbohydrates: 65gProtein: 39gFat: 44gSaturated Fat: 22gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 173mgSodium: 777mgPotassium: 809mgFiber: 5gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 8382IUVitamin C: 23mgCalcium: 225mgIron: 4mg
Servings: 6
Calories: 802kcal


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