Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta
This Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta is made with ground chicken, garlic, onion, olives, and topped with lovely Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It’s also loaded with fresh basil and mint leaves, and tossed in the most delectable spicy tomato cream sauce. It’s quick and easy to make, and perfect for busy weeknights, meal prep, or a date night in!
Have you ever been to a restaurant and eaten something so yummy that you vow to make it at home? 🙋♀️ I can’t count the number of times I have done this! But some of the recipes that have been born this way in my kitchen have been TOTAL winners. Like this Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta! 😍
Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta is a dish that my sister and I used to eat ALL THE TIME while growing up in Taipei at the American restaurant and ice cream parlor chain Swensen’s. Although it’s known to be more of an ice cream haven and a place for appetizers, sandwiches, and burgers in the U.S., in Asia they go all out and serve steaks, pastas, fish & chips, and even Asian twists depending on the country. You can actually get a spicy laksa in the Singapore branches!
A few months ago I was reminiscing about some Taipei memories and this pasta dish came to (read: took over) my mind. So I sought out to make it – or something like it! 😉
I’m pretty sure I didn’t nail Swensen’s exact recipe, but I don’t mind at all because I came up with this beauty of a quick weeknight meal that is a HUNDRED THOUSAND times better in my honest opinion! 😍
True story – the first time I made this Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta, I actually texted my mom in the middle of the night (she was in a different time zone at the time) to let her know how delicious it was after licking the dish clean! “Mooooommmmmyyyyyy!! This pasta was NOOOOOOOOMMMMMY!” is what I subjected her to while she was half asleep.
Yes, I know I am in my late 20s, and yes, I still alert my mom about all my foodie adventures and cooking experiments! 👉 #lovemymom ❤️
This pasta was so darn good that I could not stop eating it the first time! I enjoyed it so much that I made it again a few days later. Once again, I devoured the entire dish and yet was still excited about the next time I’d get to make it again! I was completely sold, and of course it was inevitable that this recipe was going to be one for the blog. 😉
THINGS I LOVE ABOUT SPICY CHICKEN PENNE PASTA:
- It takes just under 40 minutes to cook, which is brilliant. 💃
- You only need about 15 minutes to prep the ingredients, which is MEGA brilliant. 🙌
- There’s very little cleaning up after you cook it because IT’S A ONE PAN DISH!! (Yes, you and I are both squealing in delight right now!) 🎉🎉🎉
- I bet you have almost all of the ingredients you need to make it in your fridge and pantry already. (assuming you keep a decent stock of spices).
- You can scale up or down easily depending on the number of eaters. Or you can just make the recipe as is if you’re into meal prep and want to have lunch sorted out for the week. 👌
- Last but not least: IT TASTES (almost sinfully and too-good-to-be-true) DELICIOUS!!!! 🤤😍
The wonderfully spicy rich tomato cream sauce with minced chicken and pasta combined with the nutty, yet mild black olives is absolute heaven! Did I mention it’s loaded with fresh basil? And by loaded, I mean really LOADED! It is, and it is what makes this pasta so much tastier!
There’s also some mint flakes in there too. If you happen to have some fresh mint leaves on hand, use them too as it really enhances the flavors in the dreamy tomato cream sauce! Fresh herbs just have a knack like that for making things more tasty and flavorful. 👌
But what takes this pasta dish to a whole other level of deliciousness is topping it with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese!
LET’S TALK CHEESE
I chose Parmigiano Reggiano the day I first made because I wanted an Italian cheese, and the 30 months aged large block of Parmigiano Reggiano they had on the shelf at the supermarket wasn’t expiring in the next few days (unlike some of the other ones available that day 🧐). And I’m glad I chose it because it tasted amaaazing once it had melted on top of the pasta!
You can use Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano too. I regularly make it with the latter, and it’s just as yummy but just slightly less sharp and less salty. Feel free to go with your favorite type of cheese, or just use simple-but-always-delicious Parmesan. 👌
Just do yourself a favor and grate whichever cheese you choose yourself instead of buy a pre-grated/shredded cheese packet. I guarantee that you’ll win BIG on flavor by doing so 😋 (instead of lose by using pre-shredded cheese, even if it’s more convenient to do so).
PRO-TIPS & VARIATIONS:
The great thing about this dish is that it’s very flexible and adaptable based on what you have on hand and your personal preferences.
- No penne at home? No problem, just swap for whatever pasta you have on hand. Also, you can opt for whole-wheat pasta if you prefer.
- No ground chicken in your fridge? If you only have chicken breasts/thighs on hand, just chop the chicken up into small pieces and cook it through in the pan before you add the tomatoes and cream. By the way, feel free to use ground beef, pork, etc. if you prefer. Or use a ground soy-based product if you want to make this vegetarian. 👌
- To make minced chicken: Just throw some chopped chicken cubes in a food processor, give it a few brief pulses, and viola – you now have minced chicken!
- Use milk instead of cream to make this lighter: I’ve actually made this with and without the cooking/single cream/half and half. I prefer the cream version more, but if you prefer to make this lighter you can use milk instead or skip the cream entirely.
- Spice up or spice down: If you’re not big on spicy food, just cut down on the chilies, cayenne, and crushed red chili pepper. Also, use a sweet smoked paprika instead of a hot one. I personally like some heat in my pasta, but go with whatever works for you!
As mentioned above, an awesome thing about this Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta is that you can make a lot of it in so little time! So if meal prep is your thing, make this on a Sunday night and enjoy some delicious spicy chicken pasta for lunch (or dinner) a few days this week! Just pack the pasta in individual boxes without the cheese. Heat it up when you’re ready to eat, and then grate and top with the cheese.
You can also serve it up for dinner for your family on a busy weeknight since it’s so quick and easy to make. Or treat your boo to a super special and delish Valentine’s Day pasta dinner…and thank me later! 🥰
Rest assured that whether it’s you, your family, your friends, or your babe, the devourers of this dish will be super delighted and pleased. So brace yourself for the flood of compliments! 😉
CAN I MAKE THIS GLUTEN-FREE?
Use a gluten-free pasta and cheese. You can also opt to omit the cheese completely if you need to for health reasons. Also, you should check the ingredients on your canned chopped tomatoes to ensure it is gluten-free.
CAN I MAKE THIS DAIRY-FREE?
Yes! Just omit the cooking cream or substitute with almond milk. Also make sure to use a dairy-free cheese.
CAN I MAKE THIS VEGETARIAN?
You bet you can! Use a ground soy-based product like Nutrela. Or you can use veggie sausage to make this vegetarian. If using veggie sausage, break it up in the pan with your spatula and then add the tomatoes and cream.
All right now, go and make this. Prepare yourself to be blown away by how simple, quick, and easy this Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta is to whip up, and by how nommmmmy it truly, truly is! Besos! 💋🤗
MORE TANTALIZING PASTA & NOODLES RECIPES
- Garlic Cream Sauce Seafood Fettuccine
- Creamy Spicy Korean Udon Noodles with Bulgogi Chicken
- Stir-fried E-fu Noodles with Shrimp
- Chili-Lime Cream Sauce Pasta with Peri Peri Chicken
Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta
This Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta is made with ground chicken, garlic, onion, olives, and topped with lovely Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It’s also loaded with fresh basil and mint leaves, and tossed in the most delectable spicy tomato cream sauce. Perfect for busy weeknights or a date night in!
- Prep Time: 12
- Cook Time: 28
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4-6 1x
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Sauté
- Cuisine: Italian/American
- 1 TBLS Olive Oil
- 1–2 TSP Chili Oil (optional, but I highly recommend it as it brings out the bright flavors in the sauce and adds a lil’ extra kick to it!)
- 1 TBLS Unsalted Butter
- 8 ounces / 227 grams uncooked Penne Pasta (or any other noodle type/short cut pasta shape. Use gluten-free/whole wheat pasta if needed)
- 1 pound / 480 grams Ground Chicken
- 2 (14-ounce / 400 grams) cans Chopped Tomatoes (I used chopped Italian tomatoes with olive oil & garlic)
- 1 cup + 2 TBLS / 200ml Cooking or Single Cream (or use or Half-and-Half or whole milk for a lighter version)
- 12 Garlic cloves – minced
- 4 –14 fresh Red Chilies (optional – I used Thai Bird’s Eye, but any hot red chilies will work), to taste and deseeded depending on your desired heat level – chopped
- ½ Yellow Onion – minced
- 12 Pitted Black Olives – sliced
- 35–40g Fresh Italian Basil Leaves, about 2 & ½ cups loosely packed – washed, dried, and sliced
- ¼ cup fresh Mint Leaves, washed and dried
- 3 TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
- 2 TSP Black Pepper
- 1.5 – 2 TSP Smoked Paprika (hot or sweet depending on your preference – I use hot)
- 1.5 – 2 TSP Crushed Red Chili Pepper flakes, more or less to taste
- 1.5 – 2 TSP ground Cayenne, more or less to taste
- 1–2 TSP dried Mint Flakes (optional)
- 1 TSP Garlic Powder
- 1 TSP Onion Powder
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano / Grana Padano / Parmesan / or your favorite type of cheese
- To Serve (optional): More freshly grated cheese and additional crushed red chili pepper, to taste
- Combine spices and seasonings: Combine all the spices in a small bowl. Cover with cling wrap and set aside.
- Chop the fresh ingredients: Chop the garlic, red chilies, onion, black olives, the fresh basil leaves and the mint leaves as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section.
For the Spicy Chicken Penne Pasta:
- Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions in a large pot of salted water. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
- Sauté onion and aromatics: Heat olive oil, chili oil (if using), and unsalted butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant – about one minute. Add the red chilies and sauté for another minute.
- Cook the ground chicken: Add the ground chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes, breaking the lumps with your spatula/wooden spoon as you go, until cooked through.
- Build the sauce: Pour in the canned chopped tomatoes and the cooking cream, mix to combine. Then add all the spices and seasonings in the small bowl you made earlier, as well as the sliced olives. Stir until combined and let cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the fresh herbs: Stir in the chopped fresh basil and mint leaves. Then, turn down the heat to medium and let simmer (uncovered) for 5-8 minutes or until the sauce and meat mixture has thickened slightly.
- Add the pasta: Add the penne pasta to the pan and stir and toss to combine with everything, about 3-4 minutes. Turn off the stove and remove from heat.
- To Serve: Transfer to a serving dish and top with the freshly grated Parmigiano Regianno Cheese. Serve with extra cheese and additional crushed red pepper flakes on the side if desired (optional).
- To make this gluten-free: Use a gluten-free pasta and cheese, and check the ingredients on the canned chopped tomatoes to make sure there aren’t any ingredients with gluten in it.
- To make this dairy-free: Omit the cream completely or substitute with almond milk. Also make sure to use a dairy-free cheese.
- To make this vegetarian: Use a soy-based ground product like Nutrela. Or use veggie sausage and break it up in the pan with your spatula, then add the tomatoes and cream.
- Feel free to halve the recipe: This recipe makes 4-6 servings, but feel free to halve it if you like.
- Serving Size: 1 plate
- Calories: 479
- Sugar: 9.7g
- Sodium: 1043.4mg
- Fat: 23.5g
- Saturated Fat: 9.5g
- Unsaturated Fat: 9.0g
- Trans Fat: 0.3g
- Carbohydrates: 43.2g
- Fiber: 5.4g
- Protein: 25.3g
- Cholesterol: 78.7mg
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.
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