This Instant Pot Chicken and Butternut Squash Pasta recipe is an ultra-creamy, cheesy, and savory pasta dinner topped with toasted almonds and lemon zest for a family favorite dinner.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
This protein-packed one-pot dinner uses frozen butternut squash to make a creamy alternative to tomato sauce. Best of all, the squash, pasta, and chicken all cook in the same pot at the same time, so you can get dinner on the table quick!
We’ve been making pasta in the Instant Pot and have perfected the formula for perfectly cooked Instant Pot pasta that cooks at the same time as the chicken, and this dish is no different.
We love making creamy pasta dishes in the Instant Pot on a chilly night, and we hope your family will love this squash pasta as much as ours.
This is one of our new favorite Instant Pot pasta recipes with chicken. If you’re looking for more, try our Instant Pot Chicken Enchilada Pasta, Lemon Basil Chicken with Egg Noodles, or Weeknight Chicken Piccata.
INGREDIENTS YOU NEED
Here’s what you need to make this creamy and cozy butternut pasta in an Instant Pot:
- Chicken. We use chicken breasts for this recipe, but thighs would also work.
- Onion and garlic. These form a delicious flavor base for the soup.
- Seasonings. This soup gets a little heat from red pepper flakes and plenty of herby flavor from dried basil and parsley.
- Broth. We use low-sodium chicken broth, but vegetables or beef will also work.
- Pasta. Choose medium shells so they cook in the same time as the diced chicken. (The package should have a listed stovetop cook time of 10 to 11 minutes.)
- Butternut squash. Grab pre-cut frozen butternut squash, which is much easier to manage (and cheaper) than whole squash.
- Cornstarch. This will thicken up the sauce nicely.
- Half and half. Whole milk or cream will also work.
- Lemon. This adds a touch of acid to brighten up the dish in a big way.
- Cheese. Choose low-moisture shredded mozzarella cheese to turn this butternut squash pasta into a wonderfully gooey, cheesy dish.
- Almonds. A sprinkle of slivered almonds adds a nice crunch and nuttiness.
How to Make Butternut Squash Pasta in an Instant Pot
To make this creamy pasta that’s perfect for fall, start by seasoning your diced chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Then melt the butter in the pressure cooking pot using the Sauté feature.
Cook your onions until they’re softened, then add the garlic and pepper flakes. Next, add the chicken and broth and deglaze the bottom of the pot by scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Stir in the basil, parsley, salt and pepper.
Now add your pasta to the mixture in the pot and stir until the pasta is in an even layer. WITHOUT STIRRING, gently place the butternut squash in an even layer on top of the pasta. Cook the pasta on high pressure for four minutes, then use a quick pressure release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid and stir everything inside to combine and coat the pasta.
Next, make the slurry by combining the cornstarch and cold water. Stir well while you add the slurry, and continue stirring until the liquid thickens up. Gently stir in the half and half until everything is evenly combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the shredded cheese with the lemon juice, then slowly add the cheese to the pasta, stirring until it’s fully incorporated and melted before adding more. Finish the dish by stirring in the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Now you’re ready to serve it up and top each bowl with toasted slivered almonds.
Melty mozzarella is my favorite, but it can create a stringy texture in pasta. However, we were gifted the KitchenWise cookbook and came across the tip of combining the lemon juice with the mozzarella before melting, which prevents the cheese from becoming stringy through the magic of chemistry.
Important Tips for Making Butternut Squash Pasta
- It’s important to cut the chicken breasts into equal-sized pieces so they cook evenly.
- If you prefer to use chicken thighs instead of breasts, feel free to swap them.
- We don’t recommend using a different shape pasta, because we’ve found that medium shells cook at the same time as the chicken and frozen butternut squash.
- There’s no need to thaw the butternut squash or use fresh cubed squash for this recipe.
- If you prefer to use a different kind of cheese, anything that melts well is a great swap. You could use white cheddar, gruyere, or Swiss cheese, for example.
Frequently Asked Questions about Butternut Pasta
We used the frozen butternut squash for two reasons: first, the convenience, and second, the fact that it will release moisture as it cooks, which will help the pasta cook evenly without needing to add as much liquid to start off with.
You could swap frozen diced sweet potatoes for butternut squash in this recipe.
If you can’t eat or don’t like almonds, you could top this dish with hazelnuts, walnuts, or another toasted nuts. For a nut-free option, try toasted bread crumbs, fried shallots, or skip the topping altogether, you don’t need it!
We don’t recommend freezing this dish because the noodles may not thaw well.
Yes, store leftover creamy pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. The pasta will continue to absorb liquid as it cools, so before reheating you may need to add a little chicken broth or half and half to help it return to a lovely creamy consistency.
MORE Instant Pot Pasta Recipes
Try these other tasty and cozy pasta dinner recipes this fall:
- Chicken Bacon Pasta in a Garlic Cream Sauce is slightly smoky and sweet from the bacon coated in a luxurious cream sauce.
- Chicken Pesto Pasta has a classic green garlicky pesto sauce and lots of protein from lean chicken breasts.
- Rosemary-Bacon Mac and Cheese is an elevated take on a family favorite with fresh herbs and crispy bacon.
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- 2 chicken breasts (about 1 pound total), diced into bite-size pieces
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup finely diced white onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 package (16 oz) medium pasta shells
- 2 packages (10 oz each) frozen diced butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided, plus 1 tablespoon juice
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, plus extra for serving
- 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds, optional, for garnish
- Salt and pepper the diced chicken to taste, then set aside.
- Select Saute to preheat the pressure cooking pot and melt the butter. When melted, add the white onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any browned bits. Add the diced chicken, dried basil, dried parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the pasta to the cooking pot and stir to combine with the chicken.
- WITHOUT STIRRING, layer the frozen butternut squash on top. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and a 4 minute cook time.
- When the cook time ends, use a quick pressure release. Carefully remove the lid and give the pasta mixture a good stir.
- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Select Saute and add slurry to the cooking pot, stirring gently until the liquids in the pot thicken. Add the half and half to the pasta, and gently stir until combined.
- In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice and mozzarella cheese and stir until the lemon juice is evenly distributed over the cheese. Slowly stir in the cheese, a little at a time, until blended.
- Add the lemon zest to the cooking pot, plus additional salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve, scoop the pasta into individual bowls and garnish with toasted almonds and additional cheese.
Adapted from a meatless Burrata and Squash recipe by America's Test Kitchen.
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