Chicken and Pasta With Lemon Pesto

Chicken and Pasta With Lemon Pesto

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
808 Calories
52g Fat
38g Carbs
46g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 808
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 52g 67%
Saturated Fat 19g 93%
Cholesterol 156mg 52%
Sodium 603mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 46g
Vitamin C 12mg 59%
Calcium 240mg 18%
Iron 4mg 21%
Potassium 600mg 13%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Pesto is a beautiful Italian recipe that combines fragrant basil leaves with pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil, making a thick and flavorful paste that is usually eaten on pasta. Our take on this traditional sauce adds a touch of lemon to bring out the herby brightness of the basil and enhance the overall flavor of the cheese and nuts. Fresh and undeniably tasty, this lemon pesto makes a great dish when combined with chicken breast and pasta. In just a few minutes, you'll have a complete dinner that everyone will love. Serve with bread and salad for an easy and beautiful meal.

Our recipe uses jarred pesto, a shortcut to greatness. Many pesto brands you find at the store are laden with preservatives and additives to extend the shelf life of the product. If you can, buy an organic jar of pesto with only a few natural ingredients. Mixing it with cream, juicy chicken, and al dente pasta makes for the whole recipe. Easy-peasy. Baby green peas adds the finishing touch for a bright and succulent pasta dish.


  • 1 (16-ounce) package linguine, or any long or short pasta

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 (9-ounce) package basil pesto, divided

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 2 cups frozen baby peas

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Chicken and Pasta With Lemon Pesto ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente according to package directions. 

    Cook pasta in salted water

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. When pasta is done, drain well and keep warm. 

    Drain cooked pasta in a colander

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. In a large saucepan, combine the butter, oil, and garlic over medium-high heat.

    Combine the butter, oil, and garlic in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the chicken cubes and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

    Add the chicken cubes to the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Stir over medium heat until chicken is almost cooked through, about 4 to 6 minutes.

    Chicken cooking in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Stir in the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low.

    Add heavy cream to the chicken mixture in the pot

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Add all but 3 tablespoons of the pesto. Add 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, the lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese.

    To the chicken mixture, add the pesto, lemon juice, the lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  9. Toss over medium heat until chicken is thoroughly cooked, and the mixture is hot. Add the peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer until just warmed.

    Chicken sauce cooking in the pot with peas

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  10. Place the warm pasta in a serving bowl and top with the chicken mixture.

    Pasta with the chicken mixture on top

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  11. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of pesto with the remaining lemon juice.

    Pesto with lemon juice in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  12. Drizzle the lemon pesto over the pasta and chicken. Serve immediately.

    Chicken and pasta with lemon pesto in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  13. Enjoy.

Vegetable Additions

Peas bring a nice pop of color to this dish, but other vegetables would work as well:

  • Use blanched or grilled asparagus to top the dish.
  • Add chopped fresh tomatoes or rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Quarter artichoke hearts to top the finished pasta.
  • Add fresh green and red bell peppers to add some crunch to the recipe.

How to Keep Pasta Warm After Cooking

To keep pasta warm and fresh, before draining it, remove a bit of the cooking water, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Drain the pasta and return to the pot, adding enough of the hot pasta cooking water to keep the noodles moist. Cover the pot and set aside until ready to use.

Using pasta cooking water is a great addition to sauces as the starch in the water acts as a thickener that helps sauces get consistency without having to add unnecessary ingredients.