Chicken Parmesan Pasta

Chicken Parmesan Pasta is an astonishingly easy one pot wonder on your table in 30 minutes!

This Chicken Parmesan Pasta is hot, saucy, cheesy comfort food at its most addictive and a must have recipe for your easy dinner arsenal!  Juicy, seasoned chicken is sautéed then simmered WITH pasta, crushed tomatoes, and Italian seasonings all in one pot, so the pasta soaks up tons of flavor then is loaded with nutty Parmesan and pools of buttery mozzarella.  This Chicken Parmesan Pasta is fabulous as is, or you can add zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli etc. and even swap the chicken for sausage or ground beef.  Serve this Chicken Parmesan Pasta recipe with Parmesan asparagus and  garlic bread or garlic breadsticks for an easy, cheesy weeknight dinner win with little cleanup and TONS of YUM!

Who said easy weeknight dinners couldn’t be bursting with flavor?!  For more one-pot pasta meals, try my One Pot Lasagna Soup, One Pot Cheesy Penne, One Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta, One Pot Tortellini Toscana, and my One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese.

top view of Parmesan Chicken Pasta in a skillet with mozzarella cheese

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What is chicken parmesan pasta?

Chicken Parmesan Pasta is named for its liberal use of Parmesan cheese that infuses the sauce with its signature nutty, salty, savory, umami taste as well as the blanket of mozzarella cheese.  It reminds me of classic Chicken Parmesan – without the hassle of breading.  If you want to make this pasta taste even more like Chicken Parm, you can add toasted panko on top or use store bought breaded Parmesan chicken.   

Chicken Parmesan Pasta recipe

There is nothing as universally comforting as a cheesy, hearty pasta, and there is nothing as universally appealing as easy cleanup – enter this Chicken Parmesan Pasta recipe!  You will be obsessed with how easy and tasty it is! 

EASY.  Are you familiar with one pot pasta dishes?  They are culinary changing!  You don’t have to wait for the pasta water boil, drain the pasta or dirty another dish for the sauce.  Instead, the pasta boils in the sauce so it’s not only more convenient, but more flavorful as well!  This technique works well for short pasta dishes with a tomato-based sauce – so let your imagination run wild! 

TASTY.  There are a few Chicken Parmesan Pasta recipes out there, but this one stands out above the rest due to the perfectly seasoned, exquisitely delicious homemade marinara sauce instead of relying on store-bought marinara sauce.  But don’t let the word “homemade” scare you – the whole dish still takes less than 30 minutes!  We are simply elevating crushed tomatoes with sautéed onions, garlic, celery and carrots, plenty of herbs, freshly grated Parmesan, mozzarella and a splash of heavy cream to create this lick-the-plate scrumptious home run!

WHAT KIND OF PASTA SHOULD I USE?

My personal favorite pasta to use in Chicken Parmesan Pasta is rotini pasta but you can use any hearty small or medium pasta shape with plenty of spirals, grooves or ridges so the sauce has something to cling to and doesn’t slip right off.  Some good options are radiatori, medium shells, rotini, rigatoni, penne, fusilli, penne or cavatappi. 

  • Pastas to avoid: I would stay away from more delicate pastas such macaroni, smooth pastas such as ziti, and long pastas such as spaghetti. 
  • Pastas types:  you can use classic pasta, whole-wheat pasta or gluten free pasta.

What chicken is best? 

I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts but you are welcome to use chicken thighs, leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken.   You can also use baked, chopped Parmesan chicken tenders and stir them into the pasta at the end of cooking.

chicken Parmesan pasta smothered in mozzarella cheese and garnished with pars

What INGREDIENTS for MARINARA SAUCE?

This Chicken Parmesan Pasta may be quick and easy to make but the homemade marinara sauce tastes like it’s been simmering for hours! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sofrito: the best marinara sauces start with a sofrito of onions, celery and carrots sautéed in olive oil to build complex flavor. It also adds needed sweetness to help balance the acidity of the tomatoes.   The vegetables should be finely diced so they become tender and virtually disappear in the simmered sauce.  You won’t notice their texture but you WILL notice the depth of flavor they add.
  • Crushed tomatoes: will often be called crushed tomatoes in puree. They provide fresh tomato flavor and texture.  I recommend the brands San Marzano and Muir Glen.  San Marzano tomatoes are usually sold “whole” so you will want to pour them into a bowl and crush them with your hands first.
  • Tomato paste: adds rich, concentrated tomato flavor. I store unused tomato paste by the tablespoon in the freezer for easy use.
  • Fire roasted diced tomatoes:  are tomatoes that have been roasted which gives them a complex sweet smokiness and are far less acidic than traditional tomatoes. Fire roasted tomatoes are located next to the traditional diced tomatoes – just make sure you purchase the ones without any added seasonings. You can use plain diced tomatoes if you can’t locate fire roasted.
  • Garlic: feel free to use more garlic depending on your garlic love. For lazy day Chicken Parmesan Pasta, you can substitute fresh garlic with 1 teaspoon garlic, or more to taste.
  • Red pepper flakes: add just the right kick to the Chicken Parmesan Pasta recipe but they won’t make it “spicy,” just flavorful.  If you want a spicier marinara sauce, like marinara Arrabiata, then add ½ teaspoon or more red pepper flakes.
  • Herbs:  basil, parsley, oregano, and thyme bolster the sauce with Italian flavor. If using fresh herbs, you will need 3X the amount. Stir fresh herbs in the last few minutes of simmering so they don’t lose their flavor.
  • Chicken Bouillon The bouillon replaces the chicken broth which doesn’t have time to reduce in this quick and easy version and it infuses the sauce with intense flavor, just as if it had been simmering and reducing all day.
  • Sugar: tomatoes are highly acidic so they need to be balanced by some sugar.  The amount of sugar will vary (even between the times you make it), depending on personal taste and the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Cream:  traditional Bolognese is finished with a splash of heavy cream. I’ve borrowed that technique for this Chicken Parmesan Pasta recipe and it makes a world of difference! It tones down the acidity and adds a splash of swanky creaminess.  You may also stir in sour cream.  

can i use jarred marinara?  

You can absolutely use jarred marinara.  Simply swap the crushed tomatoes with a 24 oz. jar quality marinara sauce such as Rao’s.  You will still want to amp up the store-bought sauce with the all of the herbs and seasonings listed in the recipe but you may not need quite as much.  You will likely need less sugar as well. The sofrito isn’t as crucial if using jarred marinara, but will definitely elevate the recipe if you decide to add it.

CAN I USE FRESH TOMATOES?

Absolutely!  Using fresh tomatoes from your garden is a brilliant way to take advantage of their juicy freshness.  You will need the equivalent amount of canned tomatoes listed in the recipe (28 oz.).  Make sure you blanch and peel your tomatoes first, then working in batches, chop them in the food processor for a chunkier sauce or process further for a soother sauce.  Depending on how sweet or acidity your tomatoes are, you may need to add more or less sugar to the marinara sauce.

do i have to use heavy cream?

The marinara sauce will be too acidic without the heavy cream because it is not being simmered for an extended period of time.  The heavy cream levels the sauce to the perfect acidity.   You may try and level the acidity with sugar, sour cream or yogurt instead of heavy cream.  Alternatively, if you don’t want to add heavy cream, use store-bought marinara such as Rao’s or Barilla along with the herbs listed in the recipe (you may need to reduce the herbs).  The sofrito isn’t as crucial with a store-bought sauce but it will elevate the recipe.

What cheese for Chicken Parmesan Pasta?

  • Parmesan: the namesake for Chicken Parmesan Pasta!  Parmesan infuses the pasta with alluring salty, nutty flavor.  Please don’t use the powdered or pre-shredded cheese.  Freshly grated Parmesan cheese tastes far superior and melts much better.
  • Mozzarella: is creamy, buttery and melts beautifully.  It’s milky richness cuts through the tangy tomato sauce.  Please use freshly grated mozzarella as if melts far superior than pre-shredded mozzarella which is coated in anti-clumping chemicals.  You can also use thinly sliced fresh mozzarella but expect it to be slightly watery.
chicken Parmesan pasta smothered in mozzarella cheese and garnished with parsley

HOW TO ADD THE CRISPIEST PANKO TOPPING 

This Chicken Parmesan Pasta is fabulous as is or you can add the CRUNCH reminiscent of chicken parmesan with a simple panko topping.

TO MAKE PANKO TOPPING: 

Directions:  Melt butter in olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add panko and stir to coat. Continue cooking until crumbs become golden brown. Evenly sprinkle over Chicken Parmesan Pasta after the mozzarella has melted.

WHAT KIND OF POT WORKS BEST FOR this recipe?

I recommend cooking this Chicken Parmesan Pasta in a Dutch oven or stock pot as opposed to a deep skillet/saucepan so you can stir without worrying about splashing sauce all over.  I cooked this recipe in my Dutch oven and took the photos in the shallower pan to showcase it better.

How to make chicken parmesan pasta

  • Season and cook chicken. While the chicken is still on the cutting board, pat it dry and season with salt, pepper and paprika.  Make sure you dab your chicken of excess moisture before adding the seasonings so the seasonings stick well and so your chicken will sear instead of just steam.  Cook chicken just until the outside is opaque because it will finish cooking with the pasta.  Transfer chicken to a plate.
showing how to make chicken Parmesan pasta with up close of cooking chopped chicken in pan
  • Sauté mirepoix.  To the now empty skillet, sauté onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
showing how to make Chicken Parmesan Pasta by sauteeing onions, carrots and celery in a large white pot
showing how to make Chicken Parmesan Pasta by adding crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and herbs to a large white pot
  • Simmer.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer.  Add chicken back to skillet along with pasta and stir to combine.  Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally and replacing lid, just until the pasta is al dente.  Taste pasta often as reaches the end of cooking to ensure you don’t overcook your pasta.
showing how to make Chicken Parmesan Pasta by adding chicken and pasta to pot
  • Stir in cheeses and heavy cream.  Stir in the Parmesan and ¼ cup of the mozzarella cheese, followed by heavy cream.  Evenly to top the pasta with remaining ¾ cup mozzarella cheese. Cover and cook another 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted.
showing how to make Chicken Parmesan Pasta by stirring in heavy cream
up close of scooping of Chicken Parmesan Pasta

TIPS FOR chicken parmesan pasta recipe

These simple tricks will ensure the best Chicken Parmesan Pasta every time:

  • Don’t chop chicken too small.  Error on chopping the chicken larger so it remains juicy and doesn’t overcook.
  • Shred cheeses yourself.  Always avoid pre-shredded bagged cheeses because the cheese is coated in anti-clumping chemicals used to prevent the strands from clumping together in the bag.  These same chemicals inhibit the cheese from melting beautifully.   
  • Parmesan.  You don’t want to use the powdered or pre-shredded Parmesan cheese.  Freshly grated Parmesan tastes far superior and melts much better.
  • Don’t overcook pasta!  There are several factors when it comes to the pasta doneness such as the material of the pot, size of the pot, actual temperature, etc., so start checking the pasta early.  The pasta should be al dente– meaning it should still be a little firm in the center/ have a “bite” to it.
  • Stir pasta.  Stir the Chicken Parmesan Pasta more frequently at the end of cooking so the bottom doesn’t stick and burn.
  • Add additional water if needed.  If the water is evaporating too quickly before the pasta is done, simply add additional water as needed.
  • Heavy cream tones down acidity.  Heavy cream creates a luxurious sauce and tones down the acidity.  If you are skipping the heavy cream, then you will want to use store-bought marinara.
  • Shortcut Chicken Parmesan Pasta.  If you’re in need of a zero-chop dinner, skip the sofrito, swap the onion and garlic for 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 teaspoon onion powder, and substitute quality store-bought marinara for the crushed tomatoes.   You will need less sugar when using store-bought marinara.

chicken parmesan pasta RECIPE VARIATIONS

This Chicken Parmesan Pasta is delicious as written or you can use the recipe as a base to customize it.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Swap protein.  Swap the chicken for ground chicken, chicken sausage, lean ground beef or Italian sausage.   You can even use sliced sausage, shredded rotisserie chicken, roasted or sautéed shrimp. 
  • Add veggies.  Add mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, green beans, or spinach to the sauce. You can also stir roasted veggies such as roasted broccoli, roasted cauliflower or zucchini into the sauce at the end of cooking.
  • Add artichokes.  For the artichoke lovers!  Artichokes aretender, slightly sweet and nutty. Purchase artichoke hearts in water NOT marinated. The marinated ones often have an acrid taste.  Chop and add to the simmering sauce.
  • Swap sauce.  You can swap the crushed tomatoes for a store-bought sauce with a different flavor profile such as sun-dried tomato, roasted red pepper, vodka cream, etc.
  • Make gluten-free.  To make gluten free Chicken Parmesan Pasta, use your favorite gluten free pasta.
  • Make it creamy. Stir in additional heavy cream at the end of cooking.
  • Crunchy topping.  Add panko toasted in butter and olive oil to the top of the pasta.

CAN I Pep this recipe AHEAD OF TIME?

This Chicken Parmesan Pasta can be pepped ahead or even made all the way up to the point of adding the cheeses on top.  Here’s how: 

  • Prep chicken:  chop the chicken, toss the chicken in spices and/or brown (don’t cook through) then store chicken in an airtight container. 
  • Sofrito:  the celery, carrots and onions can be chopped and store in an airtight container.
scooping up up Chicken Parmesan Pasta showing how cheesy it is

CAN I MAKE AHEAD?

Yes, this Chicken Parmesan Pasta makes a great make ahead meal as the flavors further develop and meld overnight. To make ahead, prepare the recipe through adding the heavy cream, taking extra care the pasta is cooked al dente so it doesn’t become mushy when reheated. When ready to reheat, warm over medium-low on the stove, stirring the pasta occasionally, adding additional water if needed.  Top with mozzarella and cover to melt.

HOW to store and REHEAT

  • Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • Microwave:   Microwave small portions for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30 second intervals until warmed through.
  • Stove:  For larger portions, reheat pasta gently on the stove, stirring occasionally. 

HOW TO FREEZE

Chicken Parmesan Pasta is best fresh, but can still be frozen, just take are the pasta is al dente. 

  • Let Chicken Parmesan Pasta cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer to a freezer safe container.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat per instructions.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH chicken parmesan pasta RECIPE?

We love this Chicken Parmesan Pasta recipe with a big salad and Garlic Bread.  It is also delicious with any of the following:

LOOKING FOR MORE EASY ITALIAN PASTA RECIPES?

a bowl of chicken Parmesan pasta garnished with parsley and fresh basil
top view of Parmesan Chicken Pasta in a skillet with mozzarella cheese

Chicken Parmesan Pasta

This Chicken Parmesan Pasta is hot, saucy, cheesy comfort food at its most addictive and a must have recipe for your easy dinner arsenal! Juicy, seasoned chicken is sautéed then simmered WITH pasta, crushed tomatoes, and Italian seasonings all in one pot, so the pasta soaks up tons of flavor then is loaded with nutty Parmesan and pools of buttery mozzarella. This Chicken Parmesan Pasta is fabulous as is, or you can add zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli etc. and even swap the chicken for sausage or ground beef. Serve this Chicken Parmesan Pasta recipe with Parmesan asparagus and garlic bread or garlic breadsticks for an easy, cheesy weeknight dinner win with little cleanup and TONS of YUM!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breasts chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion chopped
  • 2 medium carrots chopped
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes not drained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tsp EACH dried basil, dried parsley, chicken bouillon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar more or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper
  • 16 ounces uncooked short pasta such as rotini or penne
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream see notes

Instructions

  • While the chicken is still on the cutting board, pat it dry and season with ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon paprika and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add chicken and cook just until the outside is opaque (it will not be cooked through); transfer to a plate.
  • To the now empty skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  • Stir in water, crushed tomatoes, fire roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken bouillon, sugar, and all seasonings.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer. Add chicken back to skillet along with pasta and stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally and replacing the lid, just until the pasta is al dente. Taste pasta often as reaches the end of cooking to ensure you don’t overcook your pasta.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in the Parmesan and ¼ cup of the mozzarella cheese until melted, followed by the heavy cream. Evenly top the pasta with remaining ¾ cup mozzarella cheese. Cover and cook another 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted.

Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • Use the correct pot:  I recommend cooking this recipe in a Dutch oven or stock pot as opposed to a deep skillet/saucepan so you can stir without worrying about splashing sauce all over.  I cooked this recipe in my Dutch oven and took the photos in the shallower pan to showcase it better.
  • Pastas:  some good pasta options include rotini (pictured) radiatori, rigatoni, penne, fusilli, penne or cavatappi. I would stay away from more delicate pastas such macaroni, smooth pastas such as ziti.
  • Chicken:  can be swapped for shredded rotisserie chicken, ground chicken, chicken sausage, lean ground beef or Italian sausage.   
  • Add veggies.  Add mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, green beans, or spinach to the sauce. You can also stir roasted veggies such as roasted broccoli, roasted cauliflower or zucchini into the sauce at the end of cooking.
  • Sofrito:  you can chop the onions, carrots and celery in your food processor to save time.
  • Fire roasted tomatoes:  boast a complex sweet smokiness and are far less acidic than traditional tomatoes. You can use plain diced tomatoes if you can’t locate fire roasted.
  • Chicken Bouillon you can use granulated chicken bouillon, better than bouillon or bouillon cubes.  For the cubes, crush them then add them directly to the pot without dissolving in water.
  • Sugar:  the amount of sugar will vary (even between the times you make it), depending on personal taste and the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Heavy cream:  tones down the acidity and adds a splash of swanky creaminess.  The pasta will be too acidic without it unless you use store-bought marinara instead of crushed tomatoes (see section below).  You may also try and level the acidity with additional sugar, sour cream, yogurt or cream cheese instead of heavy cream.
  • Cheeses:  Always avoid pre-shredded bagged cheeses because the cheese is coated in anti-clumping chemicals used to prevent the strands from clumping together in the bag.  These same chemicals inhibit the cheese from melting beautifully.   
  • Don’t overcook pasta!  There are several factors when it comes to the pasta doneness so make sure to check the pasta early so it doesn’t overcook. 
  • Stir pasta.  Stir the Chicken Parmesan Pasta more frequently at the end of cooking so the bottom doesn’t stick and burn.
  • Add additional water if needed.  If the water is evaporating too quickly before the pasta is done, simply add additional water as needed.
  • Shortcut Chicken Parmesan Pasta.  If you’re in need of a zero-chop dinner, skip the sofrito, swap the onion and garlic for 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 teaspoon onion powder, and substitute quality store-bought marinara for the crushed tomatoes.   You will need less sugar when using store-bought marinara.

To use jarred marinara 

Swap the crushed tomatoes with a 24 oz. jar quality marinara sauce such as Rao’s.  You will still want to amp up the store-bought sauce with the all of the herbs and seasonings listed in the recipe but you may not need quite as much.  You will likely need less sugar as well. The sofrito isn’t as crucial if using jarred marinara, but will definitely elevate the recipe if you decide to add it.  

HOW TO ADD CRISPY PANKO TOPPING 

This Chicken Parmesan Pasta is fabulous as is or you can add the CRUNCH reminiscent of chicken parmesan with a simple panko topping:
Directions:  Melt butter in olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add panko and stir to coat. Continue cooking until crumbs become golden brown. Evenly sprinkle over Chicken Parmesan Pasta after the mozzarella has melted.

MAKE AHEAD

Prepare the recipe through adding the heavy cream, taking extra care the pasta is cooked al dente so it doesn’t become mushy when reheated. When ready to reheat, warm over medium-low on the stove, stirring the pasta occasionally, adding additional water if needed.  Top with mozzarella and cover to melt.

HOW to store, freeze and REHEAT

  • Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • Freeze:  Chicken Parmesan Pasta is best fresh, but can still be frozen, just take are the pasta is al dente.  Cool pasta to room temperature, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Microwave:   Microwave small portions for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30 second intervals until warmed through.
  • Stove:  For larger portions, reheat pasta gently on the stove, stirring occasionally. 

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4 Comments

  1. Salesha says

    I made this tonight. It took me about 20 minutes to cook the pasta (we used bowtie per my husbands request). This recipe was delicious and it was nice to use up the rest of the carrots and celery I had on hand. If the veggies are pre-chopped, this recipe is super convenient for a weeknight dinner. We loved it!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Salesha, I’m so pleased this was a hit! I’m surprised it took that long to cook the pasta – I guess bow ties are extra hearty! 🙂 but I’m so glad it still turned out!

  2. Kristian Komar says

    Jen, you really knocked our socks off last night with this recipe! Wow!!! This pasta packs a ton of great flavor and was so easy to make all in one pot. Per my husband’s words: “This is easily one of my new favorite recipes you’ve tried this year!” I only deviated from your recipe slightly by reducing the amount of heavy cream to a quarter cup.

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m so pleased this recipe is a new favorite! Thank you so much Kristian!