Cheesy Pesto Pasta Bake with Chicken

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Get ready to be transported to flavor heaven with this cheesy Pesto Pasta Bake! Picture tender chunks of succulent chicken nestled amidst a sea of perfectly cooked pasta, all smothered in a mouthwatering blend of creamy cheese, vibrant pesto, and tomato sauce. Drooling yet?! One bite and you’ll be totally hooked on my chicken pesto pasta bake!

titled: Cheesy Pesto & Chicken Pasta Bake


Pesto Pasta Bake

Baked ziti is one of my all-time favorite dishes, if not THE favorite. It makes me think of special occasions growing up and has become my comfort food extraordinaire.  

I love to take the classic recipe and add a twist (like in this 5 cheese version inspired by Olive Garden). With cravings for comfort food and a garden full of basil, there was only one thing to do.

Introducing, this wonderfully cheesy pesto pasta bake with chicken! It features all of the beauty of baked ziti, but amplified. 

Tender, cooked chicken paired with both pesto and tomato sauce and a medley of cheeses come together to create this baked pesto pasta delight.

And the best part? It’s so simple that you’ll wonder if your oven has magical cooking powers. Seriously!!

ingredients for pesto pasta bake

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Pasta – Opt for classic ziti or penne pasta for baked pasta with pesto sauce. The shape of both are great for saucy dishes like this one!
  • Pesto – Go for store-bought to keep things as easy as can be, or make your own!
  • Tomato Sauce – Same with the tomato sauce. Store-bought is perfectly fine, but if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make it yourself
  • Roux – You’ll need to create a quick roux made of milk, butter, and flour. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy French name — it’s super easy.

    A roux will help the sauces thicken up to give you a truly amazing pasta chicken pesto bake!
  • Chicken – I’m using pre-cooked chicken for this recipe. Why? Because it makes things easier, of course!

    It’s a great one for making use of any leftovers, or you could grab some pre-cooked options at the grocery store. 
  • Cheese – This baked pesto pasta is full of mozzarella, an Italian cheese blend, and Parmesan. Hey… I told you this was cheesy!!
sauce for pesto pasta bake

Tips and Tricks for Making Cheesy Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake

  • Perfect your pasta prep.

Cook your pasta to al dente for the best texture and sauce absorption possible.

Anything more and you’ll end up with a globby mess. Anything less… well, you’d be stuck eating raw noodles.

The pasta will continue to cook as your casserole bakes, making al dente your best bet.

  • Make it extra creamy.

You could technically skip the roux step and simply add both sauces to the cooked pasta before baking.

That said, I personally love making that quick roux I mentioned earlier. I add it directly to the pesto sauce before assembling the pesto pasta bake.

The creamy results speak for themselves!!

  • Add extra cheese on top.

There is seriously a TON of cheese in this recipe and it’s one of the reasons why I love it so much.

And it wouldn’t be complete without an extra sprinkling of mozzarella and Parmesan on top.

shredded chicken in baking dish

Prep Ahead

  • Cook and dice chicken
  • Shred cheeses
  • Make sauces (if from scratch)
  • Preheat oven to 425°F

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta.
  • Medium Saucepan – Heats evenly and is easy to clean too.
  • 9×13 Baking Dish – This set is one of my favorites! It comes with a lid for easy storage and is great for pasta bakes too.
  • Cheese Grater – Fresh cheese makes this recipe even better! Skip the bagged shreds and buy fresh to grate yourself.
  • Baking Sheet – Place your casserole dish on top of a sheet pan to catch any sauce that bubbles over. Makes it easier to get in and out of the oven too!

Serving Suggestions

Any hearty pasta dish is not complete without a side of garlic bread or fluffy breadsticks!

I’ll usually add a big bowl of salad or some veggies too — Italian green beans with tomatoes are my top choice for this meal.

For dinner guests, start them off with some stuffed mushrooms or my burrata Caprese salad. Then, finish off the meal with an affogato!

tomato sauce poured over pasta in baking dish

Storing and Reheating Baked Pesto Pasta

Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container and store in the fridge. It will keep for 3-4 days.

Reheat baked pasta with pesto sauce in the microwave in 30-second bursts until heated through.

You could also use your oven. Add a little extra sauce and cover it with foil before popping it in at 350°F for 15-20 minutes until hot. 

Pasta Chicken Pesto Bake FAQ

What meat goes with pesto pasta?

I have a preference for chicken myself! It works perfectly with the other flavors in this pesto pasta bake. 

If you were interested in switching up the protein, beef and lamb are both good choices. Got seafood on your mind? Fish or shrimp would taste great too!

Can I use different types of cheese?

Sure! I typically lean on my favorite Italian blend for baked pasta with pesto sauce, and mozzarella and Parmesan are just no-brainers for me in Italian-inspired recipes.

Try cheddar, Colby Jack, ricotta, or gorgonzola if you want to switch things up!

Why is my chicken pesto pasta bake mushy?

You likely overcooked the noodles before adding them to the rest of the ingredients. That’s why cooking it to al dente is key! 

Remember that the pasta will continue to soften as your pasta chicken pesto bake cooks.

pesto pasta bake in a serving spoon

With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.

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chicken pesto pasta bake in a white bowl

Other Easy Chicken Pasta Recipes

cheesy pesto pasta bake in a white bowl

Cheesy Pesto Pasta Bake with Chicken

Donna Elick
My Pesto Pasta Bake is ready in 30 minutes! Perfect for weeknight dinner, this chicken pesto pasta bake recipe is tasty AND easy to make!!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Method Oven, Stovetop
Servings 4


  • 1 pound dried ziti or penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cup milk
  • 8 ounces pesto, If using store bought pesto, start with 4 oz and add a little at a time, to taste
  • 8 ounces shredded Italian cheese blend, (mozzarella, provolone, romano, fontina, asiago, and parmesan) start with 4 oz and add a little at a time, to taste
  • 12 ounces precooked chicken, diced
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce, or favorite pasta sauce
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 5 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, (start with 4 ounces and add a little at a time, to taste), grated, divided


  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a handful of salt. Cook pasta to al dente; meaning it still has a little bite to it. Al dente pasta absorbs sauce better while it cooks and this is going into the oven.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan (about 4 quarts) over medium heat, melt butter, add flour and whisk for 2 to 3 minutes to cook out the “flour-y” taste. Add milk whisk to combine. Add pesto and whisk together. Once combined add Italian cheese and ½ of Parmesan cheese. Stir with a spoon to combine. Allow to simmer until pasta is cooked.
  • Add chicken to the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and pour pesto cheese sauce over top. Add pasta. Stir to combine and mix well. Smooth pasta with a spoon and pour tomato sauce over top. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and remaining parmesan cheese on the top.
  • Place baking dish on a cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve and enjoy!


Serving: 1 | Calories: 1439cal | Carbohydrates: 110g | Protein: 85g | Fat: 73g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Cholesterol: 187mg | Sodium: 1793mg | Sugar: 16g | Fiber: 6g | Calcium: 1042mg | Iron: 4mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Cheesy Pesto & Chicken Pasta Bake - PIN

Originally published October 2012, updated and republished May 2024

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  1. cheesy pesto? Awesome. I like this idea alot I am going to use it on more than just pasta:) like everything

  2. I just made the cheesy pesto chicken pasta and it was AMAZING! Way better than Olive Garden! My husband's new favorite:) Thanks for sharing!!

  3. I just made the cheesy pesto chicken pasta and it was AMAZING! Seriously this was way better than Olive Garden and it's my husband new favorite dinner:) Thanks for sharing!!

  4. I have made this several times, and all I can say is wow! This is on our weekly menu and we all can't wait to eat it every week!

  5. 5 stars
    Pasta bakes are usually very dry and not worth the time. This one however was so good that it is on our weekly rotation!

  6. 5 stars
    This cheesy pesto pasta bake is my new favorite! So easy to make and absolutely delicious!

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