Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken


Sun Dried Tomato Pasta loaded with juicy, flavorful chicken bathed in creamy, sun-dried tomato, Parmesan, garlic, herb sauce on your table in 30 MINUTES!


Sun Dried Tomato Pasta is guaranteed to become a family favorite!   It’s quick and easy for a busy weeknight dinner yet tastes restaurant delicious for any special occasion.  It’s exploding with creamy, cheesy, sun-dried tomato, garlic herb flavor in each luxurious forkful.  I’ve include ways to customize the pasta for a lighter version as well as with chicken breasts, thighs or rotisserie chicken AND you can also customize the veggies!    

side view of spice rubbed chicken in Sun-dried tomato pasta

Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Pasta

Guys, I know it is the middle of summer, but I couldn’t wait to share this epic Sun Dried Tomato Pasta with you all.  Because sometimes, we all need a little comfort food in the form of creamy cheesy pasta and chicken.  Hello delicious.  From my Worlds’ Best Lasagna to my Lemon Garlic Shrimp Fettuccine to my Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta, and more, I’ve got you covered in the creamy comforting pasta area!

There are a lot of Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta recipes out there, but I promise this recipe is the most flavorful and bewitchingly creamy while still only using ½ cup heavy cream (or see the notes for no heavy cream option). It starts with buttery, pan fried shallots, sundried tomatoes and garlic and is finished with sharp, salty Parmesan and smooth, rich mozzarella.

The rich, bold, ultra creamy layers create a dreamy, cheesy sun dried tomato and garlic herb sauce that bathes the tender, juicy, spice rubbed chicken, pasta and spinach in every nook and cranny.  You will want to drink the sauce.  And the pasta.  Or at least inhale it as fast as you can.  No judgement here.

Another unique feature of this Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta recipe is the chicken.  I’ve used a brined, spice rubbed chicken to create the ultimate juicy Italian style chicken – no bland or dry chicken here!  Read on for more on brining chicken.  If you don’t want to brine your chicken, that is totally okay!  I’ve included other options as well.  Just promise you’ll make this Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta recipe before the year is over because I can guarantee it’s going on menu repeat!

top view of Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

Sun Dried Tomato Pasta Ingredients

To make this easy sun dried tomato chicken pasta recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts: Need to be sliced horizontally through the equator and pounded to an even thickness.
  • Seasonings: This dish is packed with spices and herbs! The chicken is coated in garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. The sun dried tomato pasta sauce is flavored with red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, and parsley.
  • Pasta: Use any kind you’d like. I made this dish with cellentani.
  • Sun dried tomatoes: Buy the kind packed in oil. (see my notes below for more details).
  • Butter: Use unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt in this dish.
  • Shallot: Half of a small yellow onion may be substituted, if needed.
  • Garlic: 4 whole cloves flavor this dish.
  • Flour: Helps thicken the cream sauce.
  • Chicken broth and bouillon: Packs in lots of flavor. Use low-sodium chicken broth to control the amount of salt in the dish.
  • Milk and heavy cream: Makes the sauce super creamy. Use whole milk or 2% milk for best results.
  • Cheese: I used a blend of freshly grated Parmesan and shredded mozzarella.
  • Spinach: Optional, but a nice addition.

showing how to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta by rinsing sun-dried tomatoes

Which SUN-DRIED TOMATOES SHOULD I BUY?

For this Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta. you want to purchase the sun-dried tomatoes in a jar packed in oil, not water. They are usually located near the olives or pickles at your grocery store. Don’t be tempted to buy the dry shriveled ones that come in a package. 

We are going to be rinsing off most of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes so you don’t have to worry about them being too oily, but the oil keeps them bold and moist and we are going to be using the oil they are packed instead of regular olive oil for extra sun-dried tomato oomph throughout the recipe.

far away view of creamy Sun-dried tomato pasta with chicken

How to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

  • BRINE CHICKEN (OPTIONAL).  I’ve detailed the whys, do I have to’s? and shortcut chicken in the section below.  But in short, brining is the quickest way (15 minutes) to ensure juicy chicken every single time.  First, combine warm water and kosher salt together in a glass dish. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add chicken and let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.  This is the perfect time to prep the rest of your ingredients.  I like to begin boiling water for the pasta the last 5-10 minutes of brining so I can start cooking the pasta when I start cooking the chicken.
  • SEASON CHICKEN.  Brining gives us tender chicken and seasoning gives us flavorful chicken for our Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta.  Simply drizzle the tops of the chicken breasts with oil from your sun-dried tomato jar.  Next, whisk together garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper and rub all over the tops of the chicken.  Repeat for the bottom side of the chicken.

showing how to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta by rubbing chicken with a spice rub

  • COOK CHICKEN.  Heat 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato olive oil in very large skillet with sides over medium high heat. Once very hot, add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 3-5 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil.  Wait until ready to serve to slice or chop chicken so that the juices that have been pushed to the outside of the chicken are redistribution throughout the whole chicken breast.

showing how to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta by cooking chicken in a skillet

  • SAUTE AROMATICS & BEGIN ROUX. Don’t clean out your pan from cooking the chicken so we can get all the leftover flavorful bits in our sauce.  Begin by melting 2 tablespoons butter in 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato olive oil over medium-low heat in the same skillet. Add sun-dried tomatoes and shallots and sauté 3-4 minutes, until shallots are tender, scraping up any brown bits left from chicken. Add garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) and cook an additional 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook while stirring for 1 minute (it will be thick).

showing how to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta by sauteing sun-dried tomatoes and onions in a skillet

showing how to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta by cooking sun-dried tomatoes with garlic and shallots

  • MAKE SAUCE.  Turn heat to low then slowly whisk in chicken broth, milk, and heavy cream, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in chicken bouillon and spices then increase heat to medium high to bring sauce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, stirring often. Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted, followed by mozzarella cheese until melted.

showing how to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta by stirring seasonings into sauce

  • ADD PASTA AND SPINACH.  Stir in pasta until well coated followed by spinach.  Add reserved pasta water a little at a time if needed to reach desired consistency. Add sliced or chopped chicken and stir into pasta. Garnish with additional Parmesan if desired.
  • EAT!

showing how to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta by whisking Parmesan into creamy sauce

LIGHTER SUN-DRIED TOMATO PASTA

This AH-mazing Sun Dried Tomato Pasta joins the cast of my other creamy alfredo-esque pastas including Margherita Pasta, Million Dollar Mac and Cheese, Caesar Chicken Tortellini, Cajun Chicken Pasta, Tortellini Toscana, and Shrimp Lemon Garlic Cream Ravioli, and on and on.

Each creamy pasta boasts a different flavor profile but they all start with a roux as the sauce thickener so we can use less heavy cream or no heavy cream at all.  This Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta tastes decadently creamy although we’ve only used ½ cup heavy cream as opposed to 1 ½ cups like several other recipes.

If you would like to omit the heavy cream all together, you can increase the flour to ¼ cup, increase milk to 1 ½ cups and omit heavy cream. 

showing how to make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta by stirring sauce and spinach into pasta

What is brining?

Brining chicken will change your life – or at least your culinary life.  Instead of dry, tough chicken, brining produces perfectly tender, juicy chicken, even chicken breasts, every single time!  So while you can use one of the “shortcut” chicken methods (below), for this Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta, and it will still be delicious, brining your chicken will be restaurant delicious.

You are probably familiar with brining a turkey, (and I always brine all my pork tenderloin), but have you ever brined chicken?  Brining is one easy extra step, but SO WORTH it, and it only takes 15 minutes AND unlike marinating, you don’t have to plan ahead!

You might be wondering how this easy step can completely transform your chicken for this Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta?  The answer is salt.  The salt increases the moisture capacity of the chicken.  It does this by breaking down the proteins of the bird so they can no longer contract when cooking.  This means less water will be squeezed out and lost, resulting in juicier chicken.   Another plus of brining is the chicken sits at room temperature which makes for more even cooking. Winning!

up close view of spice rubbed chicken in creamy Sun-dried tomato pasta

DO I HAVE TO BRINE MY CHICKEN for this Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta?

No! I like to write my recipes for the best possible results but I realize sometimes one extra step is one step too much 😊.   Just keep this brining method in your back pocket for future use.  I’ve outlined 3 easy options below to use in place of brining your chicken in this Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta recipe.   My husband favorite (he is a chicken critic/connoisseur) is by far the brined chicken but I think the other methods work fabulously as well.

SHORTCUT CHICKEN for Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

There are three options for shortcut chicken in your Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta if you choose not to brine your chicken breasts:

  • Use chicken thighs. Due to their higher fat content, chicken thighs are inherently juicer than chicken breasts and harder to overcook. Skip the brine and go straight to the chicken rub. Chicken thighs will cook faster than chicken breasts so adjust cooking time accordingly.
  • Use chopped chicken breasts. Chop your chicken breasts up before you cook them.  Add raw chopped chicken to a large bowl and add the oil and seasonings.  Toss to coat.  Heat one tablespoon oil over medium high heat, add chicken and cook chicken just until cooked through.  Remove to a plate then stir into pasta once done.
  • Use rotisserie chicken. Add shredded rotisserie chicken to a large bowl.  Add seasonings and toss to coat.  Stir into pasta once done.

top view of Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

TIPS AND TRICKS for Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta

This Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta is pretty straightforward, but here are a few helpful tips and tricks to help you achieve perfect pasta every time as well as customize it with different noodles, proteins and veggies.

  • Do NOT use table salt in your brining solution, only kosher salt. Table salt will make your chicken too salty.
  • You don’t have to brine your chicken, see my shortcut chicken alternatives below.
  • You can substitute ground turkey or beef for the chicken and use the same seasonings.
  • You can use a different pasta but I suggest something with ridges so the sauce wills stick to it.
  • You can substitute the shallot with yellow onion.
  • Purchase sun-dried tomatoes packed in OIL not dry packaged ones.
  • Use more or less sun-dried tomatoes depending on desired taste.
  • Rinse tomatoes very well so your pasta isn’t oily. You can chop your sun-dried tomatoes smaller instead of strips if you prefer.
  • If you don’t have enough sun dried tomato olive oil when called for, then use regular olive oil.
  • Use your favorite veggies such as mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.
  • Only use freshly grated Parmesan and mozzarella as packaged cheeses do not melt very well.

Recipe Variations to Try

  • Ground Italian sausage:  you can swap the chicken for ground Italian Sausage. 
  • Shrimp.  roasted shrimp or butter garlic shrimp would be fabulous.
  • Go vegetarian:  omit the meat altogether and add tofu, chickpeas or white beans in its place.
  • Artichokes:  are tender, slightly sweet and nutty and divine paired with tomatoes. Purchase artichoke hearts in water NOT marinated. The marinated ones often have an acrid taste. Chop and sauté with the shallots.
  • Make it gluten-free: use your favorite gluten-free pasta and gluten free flour in the sauce.

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken and spinach in a creamy Parmesan sauce

Can I Prep Sun Dried Tomato Pasta in Advance?

You can make the sun dried tomato chicken pasta 100% ahead of time and gently warm (see instructions) or prepare elements in advance so it can come together super quickly at dinner time.  That being said, it already is a super quick meal!  If you know you are reheating, take extra care that your pasta is al dente.

To prep ahead:

  • Pasta: cook the pasta al dente, drain with cool water and toss with a drizzle of oil to prevent it from sticking together.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Chicken: brine and cook the chicken, slice, and store in fridge.
  • Aromatics:  mince the garlic, chop the shallots, chop the tomatoes.
  • Cheese: grate the Parmesan.

How to Store Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta

Creamy sun dried tomato pasta should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  When properly stored, it is good for up to five days.

How to Reheat Sun Dried Tomato Pasta

This sun dried tomato chicken pasta recipe reheats well so you can enjoy leftovers for days!  Just be aware you always want to make sure your pasta is cooked al dente, especially if you are going to be reheating. 

  • Microwave:   Microwave for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30 second intervals until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of milk to add some creaminess back.
  • Stove:  For larger portions, reheat pasta on the stove.  You may need to add a splash of milk to thin the sauce as it will have thickened in the refrigerator. 

CAN I FREEZE Sun Dried Tomato PASTA RECIPE?

I do not recommend freezing this pasta recipe because the creamy sauce can break and become a funny texture. If you want to try freezing, use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream and omit the Parmesan.

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with pasta, spinach and chicken

What to Serve with Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

top view of Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta

Sun Dried Tomato Pasta loaded with juicy, flavorful chicken bathed in creamy, sun-dried tomato, Parmesan, garlic, herb sauce on your table in 30 MINUTES!
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

CHICKEN

  • 2 medium chicken breasts (approx. 1 pound) sliced horizontally through the equator, pounded to an even thickness
  • 4 cups warm water (optional for brine)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (optional for brine)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons oil from sun-dried tomatoes divided
  • 1/2 tsp EACH garlic powder, onion powder, paprika
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper

PASTA

  • 1 lb. cellentani or pasta of choice
  • 1 tablespoon oil from sun-dried tomatoes jar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 4 oz. sun-dried tomatoes in oil rinsed, chopped into strips (1 heaping cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups roughly chopped spinach optional

GARNISH

  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

CHICKEN BRINE (Optional for Juicier Chicken)

  • Combine warm water and kosher salt together in a glass dish. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add chicken and let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes while you prep the rest of your ingredients (30 minutes is preferable.) Begin boiling water for pasta the last 5-10 minutes of brining so you can start cooking pasta when you start cooking chicken. Remove chicken from the brine, rinse in cold water, pat dry and lay on a flat surface.

PASTA

  • Cook pasta al dente according to package directions in salted water. Remove 1 cup pasta water before draining. Toss pasta with a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Set aside.

CHICKEN RUB

  • Whisk together seasonings listed under “Chicken” in a medium bowl. Drizzle then rub tops of chicken evenly with ½ tablespoon sun dried tomato olive oil then rub with half of Chicken Seasonings. Flip chicken over and repeat using remaining Chicken Seasonings.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato olive oil in very large skillet with sides over medium high heat. Once very hot, add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 3-5 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil, do not clean out pan. Wait until ready to serve to slice or chop chicken.

PASTA SAUCE

  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato olive oil over medium-low heat in the same skillet. Add sun-dried tomatoes and shallots and sauté 3-4 minutes, until shallots are tender, scraping up any brown bits left from chicken. Add garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) and cook an additional 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook while stirring for 1 minute (it will be thick).
  • Turn heat to low then slowly whisk in chicken broth, milk, and heavy cream, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in chicken bouillon and spices then increase heat to medium high to bring sauce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, stirring often. Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted, followed by mozzarella cheese until melted.
  • Stir in pasta until well coated followed by spinach. Add additional reserved pasta water a little at a time if needed to reach desired consistency. Add sliced or chopped chicken and stir into pasta. Garnish with additional Parmesan if desired.
  • Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and basil if desired.

Notes

TIPS AND TRICKS for Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken

  • Do NOT use table salt in your brining solution, only kosher salt. Table salt will make your chicken too salty.
  • You don’t have to brine your chicken, see my shortcut chicken alternatives below.
  • You can substitute ground turkey or beef for the chicken and use the same chicken seasonings.
  • You can use a different pasta but I suggest something with ridges so the sauce wills stick to it.
  • You can substitute the shallot with yellow onion.
  • Purchase sun-dried tomatoes packed in OIL.
  • Rinse tomatoes very well so your pasta isn’t oily.  You can chop your sun-dried tomatoes smaller instead of strips if you prefer.
  • Use more or less sun-dried tomatoes depending on desired taste.
  • If you don’t have enough sun dried tomato olive oil when called for, then use regular olive oil.
  • Use your favorite veggies such as mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.
  • Only use freshly grated Parmesan and mozzarella as packaged cheeses do not melt very well.

SHORTCUT CHICKEN

There are three options for shortcut chicken in your Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta if you choose not to brine your chicken breasts:
  • Use chicken thighs. Due to their higher fat content, chicken thighs are inherently juicer than chicken breasts and harder to overcook. Skip the brine and go straight to the chicken rub. Chicken thighs will cook faster than chicken breasts so adjust cooking time accordingly.
  • Use chopped chicken breasts. Chop your chicken breasts up before you cook them.  Add raw chopped chicken to a large bowl and add the oil and seasonings.  Toss to coat.  Heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat, add chicken and cook chicken just until cooked through.  Remove to a plate then stir into pasta once done.
  • Use rotisserie chicken. Add shredded rotisserie chicken to a large bowl.  Add seasonings and toss to coat.  Stir into pasta once done.

*LIGHTER PASTA

If you would like to omit the heavy cream, increase the flour to ¼ cup, increase milk to 1 ½ cups and omit heavy cream.  This is the same method I used in my Lighter Margherita Pasta with excellent results.

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6 Comments

  1. Wendy says

    This looks absolutely delicious!! I have made numerous recipes from your site and really have been happy with everything I’ve made. Your recipes have so much flavor and I bet this one is out of this world flavorful. Planning on making this for dinner this week and can’t wait to taste this one. Thanks for another great recipe Jen☺

    • Jen says

      Hi Wendy, I love hearing you are enjoying my recipes, thank you! I hope this becomes another favorite! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Virginia Graves says

    Lady you do make beautiful pics. I just want to eat the page. The Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta looks so yummy. I hope to try it real soon like for a potluck.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Virginia! I didn’t expect to love the photography part of blogging so much when first started (I had never held a “nice” camera before), but I love it! And I hope you absolutely love this Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta!

  3. Suzanne says

    Yumilicious!!!! Seriously, I could have eaten all of it myself but I had to share….all votes are this is definitely a do-over meal in our home and is now in my recipe book. This is a meal I will make when those around me need some extra love and care and a warm yummy meal! Thanks so much for sharing your gift of deeelish.

    • Jen says

      Wahoo! I loved waking up tot your awesome comment and am so happy it is a new favorite! Thanks so much Suzanne!