Getting this hearty chicken pasta bake on the table is easy enough for even the most inexperienced home cooks, making it an ideal weeknight dinner option. This is comfort food at its best, with a homemade creamy tomato sauce, tender, juicy chicken and chewy tubes of perfectly al dente pasta. All baked under a blanket of bubbling melted mozzarella.
This oven-baked pasta recipe comes together in a total time of 45 minutes from prep to table. Save this pasta bake in your "quick dinner ideas" file! It's also perfect for making ahead or enjoying as leftovers.
The great thing about this go-to pasta bake recipe is that you can make it whichever way you choose. You can skip the cream and use a robust tomato sauce. Or you can switch the cream for mascarpone to make something like this tomato mascarpone sauce. There are notes for each option listed below. This creamy tomato chicken pasta is an excellent dinner when you don't have time for a pasta bake.
- ⭐️ Why we LOVE this easy pasta bake
- 🧾 Essential ingredients and alternatives
- 📖 Variations
- 👩🏻🍳 Step-by-step cooking guide
- 🍯 Storing and reheating leftovers
- Tips for making chicken pasta bake ahead of time
- 💡 Chef's Guide: pro tips for recipe success
- ❓Recipe FAQ's
- More Easy Pasta Recipes
- Meal Plans
- Creamy Tomato Chicken Pasta Bake
- Meet the Chef!
⭐️ Why we LOVE this easy pasta bake
- Effortless Preparation: With easily accessible ingredients and uncomplicated steps, this recipe is a breeze to prepare.
- Versatile: Tailor it to your dietary needs by opting for gluten-free or wholewheat pasta and turkey as a protein substitute.
- Make-Ahead Magic: Prepare it in advance, refrigerate, and bake when ready to serve.
- Leftover Luxury: It tastes even better the next day, making it an excellent option for meal prep.
🧾 Essential ingredients and alternatives
Here, I provide an overview of the key ingredients and what you may want/ need to use as a substitute for dietary requirements, accessibility or preference. As always, the exact quantities can be found in the recipe card below.
- Chicken: The dish's star, though turkey, can be a great substitute.
- Pasta: Opt for penne or rigatoni, or go for wholewheat or gluten-free variants for dietary preferences.
- Cream: The creamy element that balances the tomato acidity. Alternatives include mascarpone, ricotta, or cream cheese for a different flavour profile.
- Cheese: A mix of mozzarella and Parmesan for that perfect cheesy crust. Dairy-free cheese can be used for a lactose-free version.
- Tomato: The cream mellows acidity, eliminating the need for added sugar, a common ingredient in tomato-based sauces.
While having a "tried and true" go-to recipe is comforting, eating the same thing can get monotonous. I've listed some easy variations below to help you mix things up without the learning curve of an entirely new dish. This way, you can refresh this chicken pasta bake whenever you need a change.
- Meat Lovers: Add some bacon or chorizo for an extra smoky flavour.
- Extra veggies: Incorporate bell peppers, courgettes, or spinach for added nutrients and colour.
- Spicy Kick: A pinch of red pepper flakes in the tomato sauce will spice things up. Or you can try some Cajun spice like this Cajun chicken pasta.
👩🏻🍳 Step-by-step cooking guide
1 & 2 Cook pasta and sear chicken
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente, then drain and set aside.
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season chicken pieces with salt.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until browned and cooked through about 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Helpful tips: If required, reserve some of the pasta water to add to the sauce.
- Don't fully cook; it will finish cooking in the oven. This prevents overcooking and soggy texture. *Drain about 3 minutes before the suggested time.
- Ensure the chicken is cooked through but not overcooked to maintain its juiciness.
3 & 4 Make the sauce, assemble and bake
- In the same pan, sauté the diced onion for about 2-3 minutes until it becomes translucent. Add minced garlic to the onion and sauté for another minute until fragrant.
- Stir in the dried Italian herbs and tomato puree, cooking for another minute. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and stir in the cream and half the parmesan cheese. Stir until the sauce is well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the chicken back to the sauce.
- Helpful tip: Adding herbs at this stage helps release their aromatic oils, enhancing the sauce's flavour.
- Combine the pasta with the sauce in the pan, mixing well. Transfer the pasta and sauce to a 23 x 33cm (9x13) baking dish.
- Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pasta and add some extra Parmesan cheese if desired. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes until the top is bubbly and slightly golden. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley if using, and serve hot.
🍯 Storing and reheating leftovers
- Cool the pasta bake completely, then cover the baking dish with aluminum foil or transfer leftovers to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Allow the bake to cool completely before covering it with foil and freezing it for up to 3 months. Or place it in an airtight container.
- Reheat in a preheated oven at 180°C for about 20-25 minutes from the fridge or 35-40 minutes from the freezer until it's heated through and the cheese is bubbly.
Tips for making chicken pasta bake ahead of time
- Prepare the dish up to the assembly step, cover, and refrigerate for a day in advance if desired.
- When ready to eat, bake as directed, adding a few extra minutes to the baking time if necessary.
- Tips for freezing
- Ensure the dish has cooled completely before covering and freezing. For best results, consume within 3 months.
💡 Chef's Guide: pro tips for recipe success
Drawing from a decade in Michelin-starred kitchens and Cordon Bleu training, I'm sharing simple yet impactful tips for recipe success.
- Sauce Consistency: If the sauce appears too thick, feel free to add some of the reserved pasta water or chicken stock to reach your desired consistency.
- Cheese Choice: Experiment with different cheeses like Emmental or Gouda for a varied flavour.
- Pasta Selection: Opt for pasta shapes that hold the sauce well to ensure every bite is flavourful.
- Sugar-Free Tomato Sauce: Unlike many recipes, the creaminess in this dish negates the need for added sugar to balance the tomato acidity.
Absolutely! Turkey is a great alternative to chicken.
Penne, rigatoni, wholewheat, or gluten-free pasta work well in this recipe.
Yes! Feel free to add veggies like bell peppers, courgettes, or spinach for a nutrient boost.
Substitute with dairy-free cheese and a lactose-free cream alternative. Or add some chicken stock to have a marinara-style tomato sauce.
The cream in the sauce balances the acidity from the tomatoes, eliminating the need for added sugar.
Whether you're a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, you'll find this cosy dinner recipe straightforward and simple to follow.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Add this easy pasta bake to one of the weekly meal plans:
If you have tried this easy weeknight chicken pasta bake recipe or any other recipe on my website, please let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating while you're there!
Need help with meal planning? You can find our (Aldi ingredients only) weekly meal plans here! Sign up to receive them free every week or take our quick meal planning course and use all these recipes to create your own meal plans.
You can also find more comfort food recipes using everyday ingredients over on our sister site Salted Mint.
Creamy Tomato Chicken Pasta Bake
- 400 g (3 ⅜ cups) 14 oz Pasta (penne or rigatoni)
- 500 g (3 ⅐ cups) 1 lb Boneless, skinless chicken breast (or chicken thighs)
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) 30 ml Olive oil
- Salt – to taste
- Black pepper – to taste
- 1 (1) Yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves (3 cloves) Garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons (2 teaspoons) Dried Italian herbs
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) Tomato puree, tomato paste
- 1 (1) tin, 400g/14 oz Canned diced tomatoes
- 240 ml (8 ⅛ floz) 1 cup Double cream (heavy cream) * See notes
- 100 g (3 ½ oz) ½ cup Grated Parmesan cheese
- 150 g (1 ¼ cups) Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Fresh basil or parsley for garnish, optional
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente, then drain and set aside. *Reserve some of the pasta water to add to the sauce if required.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
- Season chicken pieces with salt.
- Add chicken to the pan and cook until browned and cooked through about 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, add the diced onion and sauté for about 2-3 minutes until it starts to become translucent. Add minced garlic to the onion and sauté for another minute until fragrant.
- Stir in the dried Italian herbs and tomato puree, cooking for an additional minute. Pour in the diced tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Lower the heat, and stir in the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese until well combined. Add the chicken back to the sauce.
- Season the sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and mix well. You can use a medium-sized mixing bowl to ensure the pasta is evenly coated with sauce if required.
- Transfer the mixture to a baking dish.
- Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pasta and add some extra Parmesan cheese if desired.
Baking and serving
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes until the top is bubbly and slightly golden. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley if using, and serve hot.
- Sauce: If the sauce appears too thick, feel free to add some of the reserved pasta water or chicken stock to reach your desired consistency. The amount needed may vary depending on the juice content in your can of tomatoes.
- Cream: You may substitute the cream with single cream, half-and-half or a mixture of milk and cream for a lighter version.
- Vegetables: Consider incorporating vegetables like spinach or bell peppers for added nutrition and flavour.
- Spicy: Spice lovers may want to add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the tomato sauce for an extra kick.
- Make ahead: Prepare the dish up to the assembly step, cover, and refrigerate for a day in advance if desired. When ready to eat, bake as directed, adding a few extra minutes to the baking time if necessary.