Creamy Peri Peri Chicken Pasta
This Creamy Peri Peri Chicken Pasta is made with perfectly seasoned juicy chicken pieces, sautéed veggies and pasta. Everything gets tossed in a spicy creamy peri peri tomato sauce that’s made with cottage cheese instead of heavy cream! It’s high in protein and fiber and fantastic for meal prep!
Spicy, perfectly seasoned tender chicken pieces, sautéed veggies, and a heavenly creamy tomato basil peri peri peri sauce drenching everything. If that sounds good to you, then you NEED this Creamy Peri Peri Chicken Pasta in your life!
This dish ticks all the right boxes. It’s:
- Spicy and creamy. If you love Nando’s peri peri sauce, you’re going to love it even more in the lightened-up creamy cottage cheese tomato pasta sauce. The sauce is wonderfully creamy even without heavy cream.
- Easy to make. All you need to do is blitz the pasta sauce ingredients, cook the chicken, pasta and veggies. Then just toss everything together and you have yourself a winner meal!
- High in protein and fiber. Thanks to cottage cheese in the sauce, the chicken, and using red lentil & brown rice fusilli which is high in both protein and fiber, this dish will help you reach your protein and fiber goals!
- Filling and satisfying!
It’s also great for meal prep and leftovers reheat beautifully in the microwave.
Why This Recipe Works
- Tender chicken pieces. Seasoning and cooking the diced chicken in the air fryer yields incredibly tender and juicy chicken! Although using the air fryer minimizes chances of overcooking, you can cook the chicken in a skillet too if you like.
- High in protein and fiber. The blended cottage cheese pasta sauce boosts the protein content and is a great alternative to using heavy cream! Red lentil pasta and chicken also kick up the protein content and there’s plenty of fiber in the pasta and veggies.
- Customizable spice level. Make it as spicy or mild as you like by choosing the appropriate peri peri sauce heat level for you. You can also adjust the quantities of the other spicy ingredients to suit your preference.
- Perfect for meal prep! You can double the ingredients to make 4 servings and enjoy it throughout the week for an easy lunch or dinner.
- DELICIOUS and satisfying! It’s utterly delicious and a hearty, filling and nutritious meal!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutes
- Chicken: I’ve used diced boneless and skinless chicken breasts. Chicken thighs can be used instead if you prefer. Note that they may take an extra minute or two to cook in the air fryer.
- Pasta: I used Clearspring brand red lentil & brown rice fusilli pasta which is gluten-free and higher in protein than regular pasta. But you can use any type of regular, gluten-free or high protein short-cut pasta shape you like.
- Tomato Pasta Sauce: I used Muir Glen Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce with no sugar added, but you can use your favorite kind of tomato pasta sauce.
- Nando’s Peri Peri Sauce: Feel free to use their hot, medium, mild or garlic peri peri sauce instead. I used Nando’s XX Hot peri peri sauce here. You can also use another brand of peri peri sauce that you like or a homemade one.
- Low Fat Cottage Cheese: While full fat will give you a creamier and smoother texture, I prefer low fat as it still yields a creamy sauce and keeps things on the lighter side. Feel free to use full fat cottage cheese if that’s what you have on hand and you prefer a richer sauce.
- Spices and seasonings: Several spices and seasonings are used to season the pasta sauce and chicken to make everything incredibly flavorful. However, most of them are everyday pantry seasonings which you likely have on hand already. Adjust the quantity of ground cayenne and crushed red pepper to taste based on your spice level preference. I love and use La Chinata brand’s hot smoked paprika in my home. It has a lovely rich and smoky flavor with a decent hit of heat! You can use a sweet smoked paprika or regular paprika instead for a milder flavor.
- Veggies: Red onion, yellow bell pepper and green peas. Feel free to use white or yellow onion and any color bell pepper you like. You can omit the peas if you’re not a fan.
- Aromatics: Fresh garlic and Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies. Use any hot red chilies that are easily available to you. Adjust the quantity to taste based on your heat level preference or leave them out for a milder flavored creamy peri peri pasta dish.
- Pasta Cooking Water: Don’t forget to reserve some before draining the pasta! You will need it to help loosen the pasta sauce.
Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.
How to Make Creamy Peri Peri Chicken Pasta
1. Make the creamy peri peri pasta sauce. Use a high-speed food processor or blender and blend the tomato pasta sauce, cottage cheese, spices and seasonings until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a heatproof large mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Season and air-fry the chicken. Lightly spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil spray and preheat it at 190°C / 375°F. Season the diced chicken pieces and toss to coat. Place in the air fryer basket and air fry until just cooked, shaking the basket halfway through – about 6-7 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.
Note: You can cook the chicken in a skillet sprayed lightly with oil if you don’t have an air-fryer or simply prefer to.
3. Cook the pasta and peas. While the chicken is in the air fryer, cook the according to package instructions. Reserve some pasta water and add the peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Then drain and transfer immediately to the mixing bowl with the peri peri pasta sauce.
4. Sauté the veggies and aromatics. Heat a little oil in the same pot or wok you used to cook the pasta. Sauté the red onion, bell pepper, garlic and chilies until softened and fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat.
5. Bring it all together. To the bowl with the peri peri pasta sauce, pasta and peas, add the sauteed veggies and cooked chicken. Add a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to the bowl and mix well to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add more pasta water until it is loose enough to coat everything.
Serve! Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with chopped fresh coriander or basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Use your favorite peri peri sauce! Nando’s hot, medium, mild, garlic or XX hot peri peri sauce, will taste great in this creamy peri peri chicken pasta dish. Pick your favorite!
- Adjust spice level to taste. This dish is pretty spicy as written. Use less fresh chilies, ground cayenne and crushed red pepper to make this dish milder. Also use a sweet smoked paprika to season the chicken and either a mild or medium peri peri sauce.
- Use a powerful high-speed blender or food processor. This will ensure that the cottage cheese gets blended really well so that it doesn’t give the pasta sauce a grainy texture. I find that a mini blender like a Nutri Bullet or Magic Bullet works really well and better than the food processor method for the amount of sauce we’re making. That said…
- Don’t worry if the sauce looks a bit grainy or still has minuscule curds. Even if the cottage cheese doesn’t become completely smooth, I promise it won’t affect the flavor or taste grainy! In fact, leftovers reheat very well in the microwave and the grainy appearance disappears.
- Make it for meal prep. Double the recipe ingredients by clicking ‘2x’ in the recipe card to make 4 servings instead of 2. Transfer to meal prep containers and seal once cooled. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave on high for 1.5-2 minutes, mixing halfway through, until hot throughout.
Nando’s peri peri sauce is made from serrano chilies, onion puree, garlic puree, lemon puree, vinegar, spices (cayenne pepper, African bird’s eye chili, paprika), salt, sunflower seed oil and rosemary extract. It also contains stabilizers (xanthan gum, propylene glycol alginate) and an antioxidant (ascorbic acid).
The garlic sauce is quite popular as is the medium peri peri sauce. They’re both not overly spicy and are incredibly versatile. That said, the one you’ll like best depends on your own taste and heat level preferences. I like Nando’s XX hot and hot peri peri sauce for recipes because I love my spicy food.
If stored properly in airtight sealed container(s) in the fridge, it’ll keep for 3-4 days.
- Use leftover cooked chicken or store-bought shredded rotisserie chicken. This will save you time and you can skip seasoning and air-frying the chicken.
- Use shrimp/prawns. You can season and sauté shrimp in a little oil or cooking spray in a skillet. Or air fry at 200°C/400°F for 5-8 minutes, or until cooked through. It’s best to use jumbo sized shrimp so that they don’t shrink as much or overcook.
- Make it gluten-free. Make sure that you use a gluten-free pasta. This recipe as written is naturally gluten-free as the red lentil & brown rice pasta I’ve used is GF certified.
- Use light cream cheese instead of cottage cheese. If you’re not a fan of cottage cheese (though you can’t really taste it in the sauce), use light cream cheese and make this an almost one pan meal. Sauté the veggies and aromatics in a pan on the stovetop, then add the pasta sauce and seasonings. Stir in the light cream cheese until melted. Add the cooked pasta, peas and cooked chicken and toss to coat. Add a little pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce.
- Add milk. Add whole or skim milk when blending the cottage cheese peri peri sauce. It will make the sauce more fluid and creamier.
- Use ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese. Both would yield a delicious creamy pasta sauce once blended. Note that the low-fat cottage cheese version results in a protein-heavy and lighter on calories sauce.
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Creamy Peri Peri Chicken Pasta
Juicy chicken pieces, veggies and pasta are tossed in a spicy creamy peri peri tomato sauce that’s made with cottage cheese in this Creamy Peri Peri Chicken Pasta!
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 2 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Mix
- Cuisine: South African
- Diet: Gluten Free
For the Pasta Dish:
- 50 grams / ¼ medium Red Onion – finely chopped
- 100 grams / ½ medium Bell Pepper (I used yellow, but any color is fine) – diced
- 15 grams / 3-4 Garlic cloves – minced
- 5 – 30 grams / 1 – 10 fresh Red Chilies (optional – note 1 – Thai Bird’s Eye or any small hot red chilies), to taste* – finely chopped
- 1 TSP Olive Oil
- 160 grams / 5.65 ounces Red Lentil & Brown Rice Fusilli Pasta (I use Clearspring brand, but any brand or type of pasta you like will work)
- 50 grams / ≈ ½ cup frozen Green Garden Peas
- 2–4 TBLS Reserved Pasta Cooking Water, as needed
- To Serve: 2-3 Sprigs chopped fresh Coriander (Cilantro) or Italian Basil
For the Creamy Peri Peri Pasta Sauce:
- 90 grams / ≈ ½ cup Tomato Pasta Sauce (I used Muir Glen Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce with no sugar added, but you can use your favorite kind)
- 25 grams / ≈ 2 TBLS Nando’s Peri Peri Sauce (I used their XX Hot, but choose your favorite – note 2)
- 110 grams / ≈ ½ cup Low Fat Cottage Cheese (note 3)
- ½ TSP Kosher Salt
- ¼ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper
- 1 TSP dried Oregano Flakes
- ¼ TSP Onion Powder
- ¼ TSP Garlic Powder
- ⅛ TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
- ½ TSP Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
For the Chicken:
- 200 grams / 7 ounces Chicken Breast, boneless, skinless – cut into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ + ⅛ TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
- ¼ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper
- ¼ TSP Garlic Powder
- ½ TSP Smoked Paprika (Hot or Sweet – I use La Chinata brand)
- ⅛ TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
- Cooking Oil Spray
- Prepare the fresh ingredients: Chop the red onion, bell pepper, garlic, red chilies and coriander as indicated in the ‘ingredients’ section.
For the Creamy Peri Peri Chicken Pasta:
- Make the creamy peri peri pasta sauce: In a high-speed food processor or blender, combine the tomato pasta sauce, cottage cheese, kosher salt, black pepper, dried oregano flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, ground cayenne and crushed red pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy – about 30 seconds. Transfer the sauce to a heatproof large mixing bowl and set aside.
- Season and air-fry the chicken: Preheat the air fryer for 3 minutes (or according to manufacturer’s instructions for preheating) at 190°C / 375°F. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to a medium bowl. Season with kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and ground cayenne and toss to coat. Place the chicken pieces in an even layer in the basket and spray lightly with cooking oil spray. Air-fry for 6-7 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set aside. (Note: You can cook the chicken in a skillet lightly sprayed with oil for 5-7 minutes or until cooked if you prefer or don’t have an air-fryer.)
- Cook the pasta and peas: While the chicken is air-frying, boil water in a large deep skillet or wok and salt generously. Cook the pasta according to package instructions for al-dente pasta. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water and add the green peas to the skillet/wok. Once the pasta is al-dente, drain along with the peas and transfer immediately to the bowl with the peri peri pasta sauce.
- Sauté the veggies: Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in the same pot or wok you used to cook the pasta over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and bell pepper and sauté for 1-2 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic and chilies (if using) and sauté for another minute until fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Bring it all together: To the bowl with the peri peri pasta sauce, pasta and peas, add the sautéed veggies and cooked chicken. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and mix well using a silicone spatula and a folding motion to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add more pasta water as needed until it is loose enough to coat everything.
- To Serve: Divide evenly onto plates or transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander or basil and serve immediately.
- Fresh Red Chilies. Adjust the quantity to taste based on your heat level preference or leave them out for a milder flavored pasta dish.
- Nando’s Peri Peri Sauce. Feel free to use their hot, medium, mild or garlic peri peri sauce instead. They’ll all taste great in this dish! You can also use another brand of peri peri sauce that you like or a homemade one.
- Low Fat Cottage Cheese Alternatives. If you’re not a fan of cottage cheese (though you can’t really taste it in the sauce), use light cream cheese and make this an almost one pan meal. Sauté the veggies and aromatics in a pan on the stovetop, then add the pasta sauce and seasonings. Stir in the light cream cheese until melted. Add the cooked pasta, peas and cooked chicken and toss to coat. Add a little pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce. You can also use ricotta cheese instead. Note though that the low-fat cottage cheese version results in a protein-heavy and lighter on calories sauce.
- Meal Prep and Storing/Reheating Leftovers. Double the recipe ingredients by clicking ‘2x’ at the top of the recipe card to make 4 servings. Transfer to meal prep containers and seal once cooled. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave on high for 1.5-2 minutes, mixing halfway through, until hot throughout.
- Serving Size: ½ of recipe
- Calories: 574
- Sugar: 8.4g
- Sodium: 1110.5mg
- Fat: 11.1g
- Saturated Fat: 2.4g
- Unsaturated Fat: 3.4g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 67g
- Fiber: 9.5g
- Protein: 49.5g
- Cholesterol: 80.2mg
Keywords: creamy peri peri chicken pasta, nando’s peri peri chicken pasta, creamy cottage cheese pasta sauce
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