That Spicy Chick

Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken

This Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken features spicy bold flavors and is ready in just 30 minutes! Packed with savory Italian seasoned chicken, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper and fresh basil in a creamy spicy red chili pesto sauce, this mouthwatering pasta dish will tantalize your taste buds! 

Looking for more easy chicken pasta recipes? Try my Spicy Chicken and Bacon Tomato Pasta, this Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta, or Creamy Peri Peri Chicken Pasta next.



 

Spicy, savory, creamy and full of bold tomato flavors, this Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken dish is next level DELICIOUS!

What is chili pesto? It’s a spicy variation of traditional red pesto and incorporates red chilies or chili peppers into the pesto sauce.

This easy to make one pan meal features savory Italian seasoned chicken pieces, store-bought chili pesto, juicy cherry tomatoes, crisp red bell pepper, and curved, spoon like orecchiette pasta to soak up the flavorful, creamy and spicy red chili pesto sauce!

It’s incredibly yummy, fiery and aromatic thanks to olive oil, garlic, red chilies, everyday herbs and spices, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and sweet Italian basil to finish!

If you enjoy spicy pasta dishes, this red chili pesto pasta is sure to tantalize your taste buds! But don’t worry if you’re not too big on heat. The spice level can be adjusted based on your personal preference!

Bonus? This easy weeknight pasta is meal prep friendly and ready in just 30 minutes!

Let’s make this Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken for dinner tonight!

Closeup front view of spicy red pesto chicken pasta garnished with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and basil on a plate.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Quick and easy! Using store-bought chili pesto is convenient and makes this spicy chicken pesto pasta a breeze to make on any given weeknight.
  • Customizable. You can customize it with your favorite protein (shrimp would taste delicious!) and veggies.
  • Orecchiette pasta which is shaped like a small ear allows the creamy tomato pesto sauce to sit inside it so that you get ample sauce in every bite!
  • Single cream balances out the acidity and spice in the tomato and chili pesto sauce with creaminess. It’s also a lighter and healthier option than using heavy cream or double cream.
  • Fresh basil added at the end brightens up everything.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutes

Labeled ingredients for Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken on a wooden board.
  • Chicken: I used diced boneless skinless chicken breasts and seasoned it with salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Feel free to use boneless skinless chicken thighs if preferred.
  • Orecchiette Pasta: Orecchiette means little ears in Italian and was given this name due to their shape. I love this small curved cup-like shaped pasta with ridges because it’s the perfect vehicle to hold pasta sauces and for the to cling onto, especially creamy ones! However, any short-cut pasta shape like penne pasta with ridges, farfalle, fusilli (rotini) will work. You’re welcome to use whole grain (whole wheat) pasta if you’d like to add extra protein and fiber to this dish.
  • Aromatics: Garlic and fresh red chilies for an extra spicy kick! I used Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies but any hot chili pepper will work. Use more or less (or omit them) to make this chili pesto pasta milder.
  • Veggies: Yellow onion, red bell pepper and halved cherry tomatoes.
  • Chili Pesto: I used Sacla Fiery Red Chili Pesto which is a spicy red pepper pesto made with garlic, oil, hot red chilies, red peppers and tomatoes. It packs a flavorful punch! Another brand that makes chili pesto is Filippo Berio. Chili pesto can be found in most mainstream supermarkets. If you can’t find it, substitute with sundried tomato pesto or other red pepper pesto sauce.
  • Double Concentrated Tomato Paste: For bold and rich tomato flavors.
  • Seasonings: To season the spicy pesto pasta sauce, we have sea salt, dried oregano, crushed red pepper and ground cayenne to bring the heat!
  • Single Cream: Known as table or light cream in the USA, single cream has 15% fat per 100ml. Feel free to use heavy cream or double cream for a richer and more decadent red chili pesto pasta sauce if preferred.
  • Fresh Italian Basil Leaves: Brightens up and perfumes the spicy tomato pesto sauce with sweetness. Although dried basil won’t taste as delicious, it can be substituted in a pinch.
  • Reserved Pasta Water: Be sure to save some pasta cooking water to help loosen up the sauce.
  • To Serve: Shower your plate with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or Parmesan cheese or and sliced basil to finish. You can used parsley for garnish instead too.
Closeup front view of red chili pesto pasta garnished with grated cheese and basil on a plate.

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

How to Make Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Below is a step-by-step overview on how to make this recipe. The full recipe with detailed instructions can be found in the recipe card below.

Cooked orecchiette pasta in a colander.
1. Cook the pasta. Cook the orecchiette pasta al-dente according to package instructions in a large pot filled with boiling salted water. (Or the same medium deep sauté pan you’ll use to make the pasta dish). Reserve some pasta cooking water, then drain and set aside. 
Cooked Italian seasoning chicken pieces in a pan.
2. Cook the chicken. Heat a little oil in the pan over medium-high heat and add the seasoned chicken pieces. Sauté until almost cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.
Sauteing diced red bell pepper and onion in a pan.
3. Sauté the veggies. Add more oil to the pan and sauté the yellow onion and red bell pepper until slightly softened.
Added fresh garlic and chilies to pan with onion and diced sweet red pepper.
4. Sauté the aromatics. Add the garlic and chilies and sauté to combine until fragrant. 
Chili pesto, tomato paste and seasonings added to pan with sautéed veggies and aromatics.
5. Build the tomato sauce. Add the chili pesto, tomato paste, splash of reserved pasta water and seasonings. Mix well to combine.
Halved cherry tomatoes in pan with aromatics and chili pesto.
6. Add the cherry tomatoes. Mix briefly to combine.
Single cream in pan with spicy red pesto pasta sauce.
7. Pour in the light cream. Over low-heat, stir in the single cream. Allow to simmer briefly until a chili tomato cream sauce forms.
Added chicken and pasta to pan with spicy red pesto pasta sauce.
8. Add the pasta and chicken. Add the cooked pasta and chicken and mix until everything is evenly coated in the sauce and it clings to the pasta. If the sauce thickens too much, add a little more pasta water to loosen it if needed.
Added sliced basil to pan with red pesto chicken pasta.
9. Mix through the basil. Stir through most of the basil until just wilted, then switch off the heat.
  1. Serve! Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and reserved basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Closeup of chili pesto pasta with chicken garnished with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese on a plate.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

Store any leftovers in an airtight sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat on high in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring halfway through, until hot throughout. I recommend garnishing with basil and grated cheese just before eating. Fresh basil blackens and becomes bitter when reheated in the microwave for too long when used as a topping. Within the dish itself, the basil will reheat just fine.

Cook’s Tips

  • Cook the pasta al-dente. Cook 1-2 minutes shy of the cooking time specified on the package. Some pasta packages specify the time for al-dente pasta too and you can cook for that number of minutes instead. This ensures that the pasta doesn’t become too soft or soggy when you add it back into the pan to combine with the chili pesto tomato cream sauce.
  • Adjust the spice level to taste. For a milder dish, use less (or omit) the fresh red chilies, crushed red pepper and ground cayenne. For a spicier dish, add more of these ingredients! I don’t recommend using less chili pesto as the final taste of the dish will change. You can however, use a mild red pepper pesto for a different but still delicious flavor profile.
  • Double the recipe. This recipe makes enough for 2 servings. Double the recipe ingredients if you’d like to make 4 servings to feed a family or if you’d like to meal prep this. It’s a terrific easy and flavorful lunch or dinner that can be reheated during the week!
Plate and pan with fiery chili pesto pasta with chicken garnished with cheese and basil.

Variations

  • Add other veggies. Baby spinach, mushrooms, sliced zucchini. You can also add pre-cooked veggies like sliced roasted asparagus or broccoli rabe or florets.
  • Use a different protein. Shrimp (prawns), bacon, sliced mild or hot Italian sausage (chicken or pork) would all taste great in this tomato and chili pesto sauce pasta dish!
  • Make it gluten-free. Use a gluten-free pasta and ensure that the pesto you’re using is certified gluten-free.
  • Make it dairy-free. Use a vegan light cream for the red chili cream sauce and vegan cheese for garnish.
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes or jarred roasted peppers. Sun-dried tomatoes will add a lovely pop of tang and can be substituted for the cherry tomatoes or added in addition. Or you can add some jarred roasted peppers for added depth of flavor.

FAQs

Where can I buy chili pesto?

Chili pesto can be found in most mainstream supermarkets in the UK, EU and USA. In the USA, Walmart and Publix Market carry it and it should be available in other grocery stores too. It’s also available to purchase online in the UK and from Amazon in the US.

What else can I use chili pesto in?

Aside from mixing it into pasta and noodle dishes, chili pesto can be used in soups or in a spicy ground chicken chili, as a spread in burgers and sandwiches, as a dip, with meats, roasted veggies, eggs, etc. The options are endless! You can also make some air fryer chili pesto halloumi fries which are a delicious party appetizer.

Can I make this vegetarian/vegan?

To make this vegetarian, omit the chicken and substitute with a plant-based protein. To make it vegan, same as for making it vegetarian but also use a dairy-free cream and vegan cheese.

How long can you keep jarred pesto?

After opening store-bought jarred pesto, store in the fridge. It usually lasts 10 days to two weeks before fungus starts to grow. Check the bottle as it usually will specify how long it can be kept.

Closeup spicy pesto chicken pasta garnished with grated cheese and basil on a plate. Text overlay "Creamy Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken" and "thatspicychick.com".

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Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Closeup top view of tomato and chili pesto pasta with chicken garnished with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and basil on a plate.

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Spicy, savory, creamy and full of bold tomato flavors, this Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken featuring store-bought red chili pesto is ready in 30 minutes and next level DELICIOUS!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale

Chicken:

  • 9 ounces / 260 grams Chicken Breast, boneless, skinless – cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ¼ + ⅛ TSP Fine Sea Salt (use ¾ TSP if using kosher salt), to taste
  • ¼ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper
  • ¼ TSP freshly cracked Italian Seasoning
  • ¼ TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1 TSP Olive Oil, for cooking

Chili Pesto Pasta:

  • 5.3 ounces / 150 grams uncooked Orecchiette Pasta (or any short-cut pasta shape)
  • ¼ medium / 50 grams Yellow Onion – finely chopped
  • ½ medium / 100 grams Red Bell Pepper – finely diced
  • 2 cloves / 15 grams Garlic – minced
  • 56 pieces / 20 grams fresh Red Chilies (optional, I used Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies but any variety can be used, omit for milder dish – note 1*)
  • 10 pieces / 100 grams Cherry Tomatoes – halved
  • ≈ ½ cup / 10 grams fresh Italian Basil Leaves – finely sliced into thin strips
  • ½ TBSP Olive Oil, for cooking
  • 3.5 TBSP / 50 grams Chili Pesto (note 2 – substitute with sundried tomato pesto or red pepper pesto if unavailable)
  • 1 TBSP / 15 grams Double Concentrated Tomato Paste
  • ¼ TSP Fine Sea Salt, to taste
  • ¼ TSP Dried Oregano
  • ½ TSP Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
  • ¼ TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
  • ⅓ cup / 79ml Single Cream (also known as table or light cream in the USA – note 3)
  • Reserved Pasta Cooking Water, as needed

To Serve:

  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (or Parmesan cheese), to taste
  • Reserved sliced Basil

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Season the chicken: Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to a medium bowl. Season with fine sea salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Mix well to coat and set aside.
  2. Prepare the fresh ingredients: Chop/slice the yellow onion, red bell pepper, garlic, red chilies, cherry tomatoes and basil as indicated in the ‘ingredients’ section.

Chili Pesto Pasta with Chicken:

  1. Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta al-dente according to package instructions in a large pot (or the same medium-sized deep sauté pan you’ll use to make the pasta dish) of boiling salted water. Reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water, then drain and set aside. (I like to run water cold water over the pasta to prevent it from sticking and cooking further but this is optional.)
  2. Cook the chicken: Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium-sized deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned chicken pieces and spread the pieces out in the pan. Allow to sear for 1 minute, then flip and sear the other side for another minute or until almost cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.
  3. Sauté the veggies and aromatics: Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onion and red bell pepper and sauté for 1 minute until softened. Add the garlic and red chilies and sauté to combine until fragrant – about 30 seconds.
  4. Build the tomato sauce: Add the chili pesto, double concentrated tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of reserved pasta water, salt, black pepper, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and ground cayenne. Mix well to combine. Then add the cherry tomatoes and mix briefly to combine.
  5. Add the cream: Reduce the heat to low and stir in the single/light cream. Mix well to create a chili tomato cream sauce.
  6. Add the pasta and chicken: Add the cooked pasta and chicken and mix for 1 minute until everything is evenly coated in the sauce and it clings to the pasta. If the sauce thickens too much, add 1-2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to loosen it if needed.
  7. Stir through the basil: Stir in most of the sliced fresh Italian basil (reserve some for garnish) until just wilted, then switch off the heat.
  8. To Serve: Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if desired. Sprinkle with the reserved sliced basil and serve.

Notes

  1. Fresh Red Chilies. Use any type of hot red chilies easily available to you. Adjust the amount based on how hot the chilies are and your heat level preference. To make this dish milder, omit the fresh chilies and use less crushed red pepper and ground cayenne.
  2. Chili Pesto. I used Sacla Fiery Red Chili Pesto which is a spicy red pepper pesto made with garlic, oil, hot red chilies, red peppers and tomatoes. It packs a flavorful punch! Another brand that makes chili pesto is Filippo Berio. It can be found in mainstream supermarkets in the UK, EU and USA (i.e. Walmart, Publix Market). It’s also available to purchase online in the UK and from Amazon in the US. If you can’t find it, substitute with sundried tomato pesto or other red pepper pesto sauce.
  3. Double the recipe. This recipe makes enough for 2 servings. Double the recipe ingredients by clicking the ‘2x’ button at the top of the recipe card if you’d like to make 4 servings to feed a family or for meal prep.
  4. Storing and Reheating Leftovers. Store any leftovers in an airtight sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in individual meal prep containers. Reheat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring halfway through, until hot throughout. I recommend garnishing with basil and grated cheese just before eating. Fresh basil blackens and becomes bitter when reheated in the microwave for too long when used as a topping. Within the dish itself, the basil will reheat just fine.
  5. Nutritional information. The nutritional information provided does not account for the freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese as the amount you add will vary and be based on your preference.
  6. See the ‘Variations’ section in the post above if you’d like to customize this chili pesto pasta dish.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/2 of recipe
  • Calories: 689
  • Sugar: 11.8g
  • Sodium: 932mg
  • Fat: 24.7g
  • Saturated Fat: 6.4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 18.3g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 69.3g
  • Fiber: 6.3g
  • Protein: 45.7g
  • Cholesterol: 98.6mg

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