That Spicy Chick

Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta

This Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta is easy to make in 30 minutes and boasts the most incredible flavors! Tender chicken pieces, a creamy tomato ricotta pesto sauce, orzo and fresh basil come together to create a simple and satisfying meal that will elevate your weeknight dinner!

I’ve always loved a good pesto pasta dish on busy weeknights. They’re simple to make in minutes with store-bought pesto in a matter of minutes and full of flavor! My go-to has always been my creamy Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta with cajun chicken, but I have a new favorite lightened-up pesto pasta dish now!

This Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta is made with Filippo Berio Tomato & Ricotta Pesto and is absolutely sublime. It’s a simple and easy pasta dish that’s ready in under 35 minutes and perfect for busy weeknights!

We have here:

  • Perfectly seasoned tender chicken pieces.
  • Tiny, rice-shaped like orzo pasta.
  • A creamy, yet light tomato ricotta pesto sauce that’s beautifully seasoned and spiced with everyday seasonings.
  • Fresh basil stirred in at the end brightens up everything and rounds out the flavors!

This dish is a high protein meal that is filling and satisfying. It’s great for easy weeknight dinners but fantastic for meal prep too!

Why This Recipe Works

  • Tender chicken pieces. Air frying the diced seasoned chicken yields incredibly tender chicken!
  • DELICIOUS flavors! The creamy tomato ricotta pesto sauce coating the chicken and orzo is beautifully seasoned and full of bright flavors! It will make your tastebuds sing!
  • High protein. One serving of this hearty pasta dish boasts 50 grams of protein and will keep you full and satisfied for hours! 
  • Customizable. You can make it as spicy or mild as you like, use a different protein such as shrimp, and any type of short-cut pasta shape you love or have on hand.
  • Meal prep friendly! Double the ingredients to enjoy this delicious pasta dish for an easy lunch or dinner during the week!

Ingredient Notes and Substitutes

Labeled ingredients for Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta on a wooden board.
  • Seasoned Chicken: I used diced boneless and skinless chicken breasts, but boneless and skinless chicken thighs can be used instead. I’ve seasoned it with garlic powder, smoked paprika, black pepper and kosher salt. 
  • Pasta: I used orzo, but any type of dried short-cut pasta shape is fine.
  • Aromatics: We have red onion (substitute with yellow onion or shallots), garlic and fresh red chilies for a kick of heat. I used Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies but any variety will work. Adjust the quantity to taste based on your heat level preference. Omit them for a milder pasta dish.
  • Passata: Known as tomato puree in the USA, this is a medium to thick sauce made entirely of tomatoes. Substitute with fresh or diced canned tomatoes, which you can blend into a puree using a blender before you start cooking.
  • Filippo Berio Tomato & Ricotta Pesto: This pesto is made with tomatoes, ricotta cheese, cashew nuts, Grana Padano cheese, and basil. It boasts the sweetness of tomatoes and smooth, creamy texture of ricotta cheese. It’s widely available and can be found in stores like Walmart, Tesco, and most mainstream supermarkets. You can also buy a jar online on Amazon. In a pinch, substitute with red pesto and add 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese to the sauce.
  • Seasonings: We have ground cayenne and crushed red pepper flakes for heat, kosher salt and black pepper and dried oregano to season our Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta.
  • Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges: This is a spreadable type of creamy cheese wedge that’s also great for snacking. It’s made from cheddar, semisoft and Swiss cheese and once melted, it becomes creamy and smooth like a sauce. It’s perfect for making lighter creamy pasta dishes like this Creamy Lemon Chicken Orzo and when you don’t want to use heavy cream. I used the light version but the regular version can be used too for an even smoother texture and richer flavor. Or you can substitute with light or regular cream cheese if unavailable.
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk: To make our sauce even creamier. Feel free to use low fat or whole milk if preferred.
  • Pasta Cooking Water: Don’t forget to reserve some before draining the pasta! You will need it to help loosen up the pasta sauce.
  • Italian Basil: Fresh basil to round out the spicy and creamy flavors in the sauce. Dried basil won’t taste the same.

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

Plate and pan with Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta with chicken garnished with basil.

How to Make Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta

  1. 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 mix to coat. Place in the air fryer basket in an even layer and air fry for 6-7 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through, until just cooked. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside. 
Cooked chicken pieces in air fryer basket.

Note: You can cook the chicken in a skillet lightly sprayed with oil for if you prefer or don’t have an air fryer.

  1. Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta al-dente according to package instructions. Reserve some pasta cooking water, then drain and set aside.
Cooked and drained orzo in a strainer.
  1. Sauté the aromatics. Heat the light butter and extra virgin olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the red onion, garlic and chilies and sauté until softened and fragrant.
  1. Build the pasta. Add the passata, orzo, Tomato & Ricotta pesto, ground cayenne, crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black pepper and dried oregano. Mix to combine.
  1. Add the cheese and milk. Reduce the heat to low and make a small hole in the middle of the pan. Add the Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges, unsweetened almond milk and a splash of reserved pasta cooking water. Gently mix until the cheese breaks down and the sauce is creamy. Then mix to combine the sauce with everything else. 
  1. Add the cooked chicken. Mix to combine.
  1. Stir through the basil. Don’t forget to reserve some for garnish! 
Sliced basil added to pan with creamy tomato ricotta pesto sauce orzo pasta.
  1. Serve! Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with the remaining basil. Serve and enjoy!
Closeup front view of plate with Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta garnished with basil.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Add pasta cooking water as needed. If the creamy sauce thickens too much, add a splash of the reserved pasta water. If it’s too thin, continue cooking until it clings onto the pasta.
  • Adjust spice level to taste. This Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta is spicy as written. Omit or use less of the chilies, ground cayenne and crushed red pepper to make it milder. Also, use a sweet smoked paprika to season the chicken. To make it hotter, use more of the spicy ingredients and a hot smoked paprika (I love La Chinata brand). 
  • Make it for meal prep. Double the recipe ingredient to make 4 servings instead of 2. Air-fry the chicken in two batches and use a large enough deep sauté pan to cook the rest of the pasta dish. Transfer to meal prep containers and cover once cooled. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days. When ready to eat during the week, reheat in the microwave on high for 1.5-2 minutes, stirring halfway through, until hot throughout.
Plate with Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta with chicken garnished with basil.

Variations

  • Use a different protein. Shrimp/prawns would taste great!
  • Make it vegetarian. Use a plant-based meat substitute or switch out the chicken for diced mushrooms.
  • Use a different pesto. Sundried Tomato Pesto from the Filippo Berio line would work well with the rest of the flavors in this dish. Other tomato pestos would taste great too. If using a green pesto, omit the passata.
  • Make it vegan. Use a dairy-free pesto (made without cheese or vegan cheese) and use vegan laughing cow cheese wedges (available at Whole Foods Market) or other dairy-free light or regular cream cheese.
  • Make it gluten-free: Simply use a gluten-free orzo or other short-cut pasta shape. The Filippo Berio Tomato & Ricotta Pesto is gluten-free.
  • Add veggies. I kept it simple with onion and garlic to let the creamy tomato and ricotta pesto flavors shine, but you can add a handful of baby spinach, green peas, cherry tomatoes, etc. if you like.
  • Make it creamier. Use whole milk instead of unsweetened almond milk.

FAQs

How to use Filippo Berio tomato and ricotta pesto?

Other than pasta dishes such as this Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta recipes, this pesto is great as a spread in sandwiches, mixed with tomato sauce and a few seasonings to make a perky pizza sauce, in hummus and dips, with baked potatoes, and on roasted veggies. These are just a few applications but it’s a versatile pesto. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

What to serve with Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta?

With a great balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein, this is a filling pasta dish on its own. All you would need is a simple side salad to pair with it. If you’re feeling extra hungry, some garlic bread or cheesy garlic bread would also be a great side dish.

Are orzo and risoni the same?

Yes, they are one and the same. Orzo pasta, which resembles the shape of a long grain of rice or barley, is also known as risoni (“big rice” in Italian) and puntalette (“tiny tips”). 

Closeup front and top view of chicken tomato pesto pasta on a plate. Text overlay "Tomato & Ricotta Pesto Pasta" and "thatspicychick.com".

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Print

Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta

Plate and pan with Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta with chicken garnished with basil.

Tender chicken pieces, a creamy tomato ricotta pesto sauce, orzo and fresh basil come together in this delicious 30-minute Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta dish!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 17
  • Total Time: 27 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale

Chicken:

  • 300 grams / 10.6 ounces Chicken Breast, boneless, skinless – cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ¼ TSP Garlic Powder
  • ¼ TSP Smoked Paprika (hot or sweet)
  • ¼ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper
  • ¼ + ⅛ TSP Kosher Salt
  • Cooking Oil Spray

Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta:

  • 50 grams / ¼ medium Red Onion – finely chopped
  • 15 grams / 2 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 15 grams / 2-3 fresh Red Chilies (optional, I used Thai Bird’s Eye chilies, omit for milder dish – note 1*)
  • 10 grams / ≈ ½ cup Italian Basil Leaves – sliced
  • 150 grams / 5.3 ounces uncooked dried Orzo (or other short-cut pasta of choice)
  • 10 grams / 2 TSP Light Butter (I used reduced fat Nuttelex)
  • 1 TSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 100 grams / ≈ 1 cup Passata (substitute with tomato puree)
  • 30 grams / ≈ 2 TBSP Filippo Berio Tomato & Ricotta Pesto (substitute with red pesto if unavailable – note 2)
  • ½1 TSP ground Cayenne, to taste (note 3)
  • ½1 TSP Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste (note 3)
  • ¾ TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
  • ½ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  • ½ TSP Dried Oregano Flakes
  • 50 grams / 3 Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges (note 4)
  • 60ml / ¼ cup Unsweetened Almond Milk (or use low fat or regular milk)
  • Pasta Cooking Water, as needed

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Prepare the fresh ingredients: Chop the red onion, garlic, red chilies and basil as indicated in the ‘ingredients’ section.

Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pasta:

  1. Season and air fry the chicken: Spray the air fryer basket lightly with cooking oil spray. Preheat the air fryer for 3 minutes (or according to manufacturer’s instructions) at 190°C/375°F. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to a medium bowl. Season with garlic powder, smoked paprika, black pepper and kosher salt and mix to evenly coat. Place the chicken pieces in an even layer in the basket. 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 through if you prefer or don’t have an air fryer.
  2. Cook the pasta: While the chicken is in the air fryer, cook the pasta al-dente according to package instructions in a large pot (or use the same large deep skillet you’ll use to cook the rest of the dish) of boiling water. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta cooking water, then drain and set aside.
  3. Sauté the aromatics: Heat the light butter and extra virgin olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the red onion, garlic and chilies and sauté for one minute until softened and fragrant.
  4. Build the pasta: Add the passata, orzo, Tomato & Ricotta pesto, ground cayenne, crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black pepper and dried oregano. Mix to combine.
  5. Add the cheese and milk: reduce the heat to low and make a small hole in the middle of the pan. Add the Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges, unsweetened almond milk and 2 tablespoons of reserved pasta cooking water. Gently mix in the same spot until the cheese breaks down and the sauce is creamy. Then mix to combine the sauce with everything else. If the sauce thickens too much, add a splash of the reserved pasta water. If it’s too thin, continue cooking until it clings onto the pasta.
  6. Add the chicken: Add the cooked chicken back into the pan and mix to combine.
  7. Stir through the basil: Stir through most of the sliced basil (reserve some for garnish), then switch off the heat.
  8. To Serve: Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with the remaining basil. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. Fresh Red Chilies: Feel free to use less or more to taste, or omit the them completely for a milder dish.
  2. Filippo Berio Tomato & Ricotta Pesto: This pesto is made with tomatoes, ricotta cheese, cashew nuts, Grana Padano cheese, and basil. It boasts the sweetness of tomatoes and smooth, creamy texture of ricotta cheese. It’s widely available and can be found in stores like Walmart, Tesco, and most mainstream supermarkets. You can also buy a jar online on Amazon. In a pinch, substitute with red pesto and add 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese to the sauce in step 5, breaking it up until creamy and smooth.
  3. Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges: This is a spreadable type of creamy cheese wedge that’s also great for snacking. It’s made from cheddar, semisoft and Swiss cheese. Once melted, it becomes creamy and smooth like a sauce. It’s perfect for making lighter creamy pasta dishes when you don’t want to use heavy cream. I used the light version but the regular version can be used too for an even smoother texture and richer flavor. Substitute with light or regular cream cheese if unavailable.
  4. Ground Cayenne and Crushed Red Pepper: Adjust quantity to taste based on your heat level preference. Omit for a milder dish.
  5. Meal Prep Option: Double the recipe ingredients by clicking ‘2x’ in the recipe card to make 4 servings instead of 2. Air-fry the chicken in two batches and use a large enough deep sauté pan to cook the rest of the pasta dish. Transfer to meal prep containers and cover once cooled. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days. When ready to eat during the week, reheat in the microwave on high for 1.5-2 minutes, stirring halfway through, until hot throughout.
  6. Nutritional information may vary if substituting ingredients and using different brands.
  7. See ‘Variations’ in the post above if you’d like to customize this pesto pasta dish.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/2 of recipe
  • Calories: 634
  • Sugar: 8.3g
  • Sodium: 935.6mg
  • Fat: 18.1g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.2g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 5.6g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 64.5g
  • Fiber: 4.6g
  • Protein: 50.6g
  • Cholesterol: 109.5mg

Keywords: tomato ricotta pesto pasta, tomato and ricotta pasta, Filipo Berio tomato and ricotta pesto pasta recipe

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