Chicken Pesto Pasta

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This Chicken Pesto Pasta is super creamy, cheesy, and easy. It’s the perfect comforting family meal with mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and melty mozzarella. 

Side view of Instant Pot chicken pesto pasta served in a white bowl and topped with fresh basil and shredded parmesan.

❤️ Why you’ll love this recipe: This loaded chicken pasta always disappears fast at our house! It has everything you’re looking for in a hearty pasta dinner: a creamy sauce, melty cheese, tender chicken, and herby pesto, and it’s a great 30 minute meal.

This decadent pasta recipe is similar to the super-popular Creamy Chicken pesto Pasta on page 163 in our Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook. For this version, we use mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and mozzarella to make it more like our favorite cavatappi at Noodles & Company.  

This is one of our go-to Instant Pot pasta recipes since it’s flavorful, quick and easy. It’s a great family dinner to serve with a green salad on the side. 

Overhead shot of all the ingredients for Instant Pot chicken pesto pasta, including cavatapi noodle, diced chicken, diced tomatoes, pesto, butter, mushrooms, and chicken broth.

INGREDIENTS YOU NEED

Here’s what you need to make this super comforting, pesto chicken pasta:

  • Butter. Use unsalted butter so you can control the seasoning in your dish. 
  • Garlic. Fresh is best. 
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts. Cut these into even 1-inch cubes so they cook at the same time as the pasta. 
  • Chicken broth. Use low-sodium store-bought or make your own broth in the Instant Pot. 
  • Cavatappi. This is easier to find than you might think! It’s curly and so good with this sauce. 
  • Sugar. A small pinch of sugar helps bring the flavors into balance in the pasta sauce. 
  • Cornstarch. Whisk up a quick slurry with cornstarch and water to thicken the creamy sauce. 
  • Pesto. You can use your favorite store-bought jarred or fresh pesto or make one in a food processor with fresh basil. 
  • Heavy cream. For best results, use room temperature cream. 
  • Diced tomatoes. We used Roma tomatoes for this recipe, as they’re best for cooking. 
  • Mushrooms. Canned mushrooms are a great addittion to this hearty, savory pasta recipe. 
  • Mozzarella. Yes, this is messier to eat than parm, but it’s SO delicious we don’t mind the mess. If you do, just use parm!
  • Basil. We like to use fresh basil if possible, but it’s been hit and miss if we can find it at our grocery store the last few months. We’ve had good results with this Gourmet Garden brand of lightly dried basil. It’s kept near the bagged salads area of our grocery store.
All the ingredients for chicken pesto pasta added to the Instant Pot and ready to cook.

How to make Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta in an Instant Pot

This easy recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Power Pressure Cooker XL.

The first step is to saute the chicken until it’s browned. This takes just about 3 minutes in the pressure cooking pot. 

Next, add the broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure the flavorful browning gets into your cooking liquid.

Add the water, pasta, salt, pepper, and sugar, then set the cook time for 4 minutes (if you’re using a different kind of pasta, use the formula here to find the correct cooking time.)

Finish with a quick pressure release, then give the pasta a good stir.

Overhead view of chicken pesto pasta cooked and ready to serve in an Instant Pot.

To thicken the sauce, combine the cornstarch and cold water. Slowly add the mixture to the cooking pot, stirring constantly. Next, bring the sauce to a simmer by selecting Saute and stirring until the mixture thickens. 

To finish, turn off the pressure cooker and stir in the heavy cream, pesto, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms. Serve it up and enjoy!

Close up shot of Instant Pot chicken pesto pasta in a white bowl and topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese, with another bowl ready to serve in the background.

Important Tips for Making Chicken Pesto Pasta

  • Sautéing the chicken in the pot as a first step will develop some nice browning. This adds flavor to your pasta that’s worth the extra 3 minutes!
  • Pasta will produce foam inside the pressure cooker. If you see foam coming from the release valve, you need to seal the lid, wait a few seconds, then release the pressure again. Repeat as needed until all the pressure is released and the valve has dropped. 
  • It’s important to bring the sauce to a simmer after adding the cornstarch mixture. It won’t thicken until it reaches a temperature near the boiling point, and you might get some raw starch flavor in the sauce. 
  • Remember that the pasta will continue to thicken and absorb liquid as it cools. You’ll need to add some liquid when you reheat leftovers.
Over head shot of a white bowl with Instant Pot chicken pesto pasta topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese, with bread and more basil in the background.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chicken Pesto Pasta

Can I use a different kind of pasta?

I was surprised to see that our grocery store offered a few different brands of cavatappi noodles. Ours weren’t in the boxes like Barilla pasta, but were in 1 pound bags. We love the shape and grooves in the cavatappi to hold the creamy, cheesy sauce in this dish. 

Of course, any pasta will work, as long as it has a recommended cook time between 8 and 12 minutes! If you do choose a different kind of pasta, be sure to use our pasta cooking time formula outlined in this post. 

 Can I use fresh mushrooms?

Not everyone in our family loves mushrooms. So we use canned here, for convenience, so we have them on-hand to add to individual servings. However, if you’re a mushroom lover, you can sauté your own mushrooms and add them after pressure cooking. 

We like to use the method from our Beef Bourguignon: heat 1 tablespoon oil and
1 tablespoon butter over medium heat, add the mushrooms, and sauté until golden. You can do this in the Instant Pot before cooking the pasta or on the stovetop while the pasta cooks.

 How should I store leftovers?

Store fully cooled leftover chicken pesto pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. You can reheat it on the stove, in the microwave or in the Instant Pot. You’ll need to add a splash of water or broth to loosen up your leftovers. 

 Can I use other kinds of vegetables?

If you’d like to switch up the veggies in this pesto pasta recipe, it’s easy to do! You can sauté a mixture of your favorite veggies on the stove, then fold them into the dish at the end. Or add quick-cooking veggies like peas or diced asparagus to the pasta in the pot when you remove the lid. They will cook while you finish the sauce. 

A white bowl filled with pressure cooker chicken pesto pasta topped with fresh basil and shredded parmesan, sitting in front of an Instant Pot.

MORE Instant Pot Pasta Recipes

We love making one-pot pasta in the Instant Pot, including these favorites:


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Over head shot of a white bowl with Instant Pot chicken pesto pasta topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese, with bread and more basil in the background.

Chicken Pesto Pasta | Instant Pot Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

This creamy and easy Chicken Pesto Pasta is the perfect family dinner! Made in the pressure cooker with curly cavatappi, store-bought pesto, and juicy chicken. 

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large (about 1 lb) boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (no thicker than 1 inch cubes)
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 16 ounce package cavatappi or rotini*
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup jarred pesto
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (we used Roma, 4 or 5 tomatoes)
  • 1 small can mushrooms, drained
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese and/or mozzarella cheese, for serving

Instructions

  1. Select Saute and preheat the pressure cooking pot. Melt the butter, then stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Stir in the chicken broth and scrape the pan well to ensure no browned bits remain on the bottom of the pot. Add the water, pasta, salt, pepper, and sugar. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 4** minutes cook time.
  3. When the cook time ends, use a quick pressure release. Keep in mind that pasta can foam or spit, so you may need to seal the pot, wait a few seconds, then open it again. Repeat as needed until all the pressure is released and the valve has dropped. Carefully remove the lid and stir.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and cold water. Slowly add the mixture to the cooking pot, stirring constantly. Select Saute and stir until the mixture boils and thickens. Turn off the pressure cooker and stir in the heavy cream and the pesto until well combined. 
  5. Add the diced tomatoes and mushrooms to the cooking pot.
  6. Serve topped with basil and cheese.

Notes

* You can use any pasta with a boxed cook time between 7 and 12 minutes. Adjust the cook time to follow our perfect pasta formula: Box cook time divided in half, then subtract an additional minute for al dente. For more details, see our guide on making Instant Pot Pasta.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 330Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 867mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 10g

Nutrition information is calculated by Nutritionix and may not always be accurate.

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