Pesto Chicken Pasta with Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Having the recipe for a simple, satisfying pasta dish up my sleeve is a magic trick that I didn’t know I needed in my life.

Vertical image of a white plate with farfalle mixed with green sauce, chicken, and asparagus, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

When I have all the leisure time in the world (which is never, honestly), I love building a meal from top to bottom.

Whipping up an elegant sauce layered with aromatics. Tending to every ingredient with love and care. It’s a treat to tangle all the homemade components together.

But sometimes, my partner doesn’t want to wait for me to oven-dry tomatoes or buzz garlic, basil, and parmesan in the food processor to create the most perfect pesto there ever was. And at those times, I reach for some of my favorite shortcuts, follow a few basic rules, and voila!

Dinner is served.

Vertical top-down image of wooden tongs in a large bowl of a farfelle recipe mixed with vegetables.

As long as whatever ends up on the plate was swiftly prepped and easily assembled with delicious ingredients, everyone’s happy in the end.

For me, the guidelines for building this type of tasty dish start with giving myself a little bit of a break. Only one or two elements need to be bursting with immense, complex flavor – and the pesto and sun-dried tomatoes take on that role in this recipe.

Velvety basil pesto not only brings brightness to the dish, but the fresh garlic in the fragrant sauce adds a savory factor that’s unmistakable. Whether you snag your favorite premade version from the store (or suddenly remember that you stuck a Tupperware of the homemade herby sauce in the freezer several months back), pesto’s signature flavor gives this pasta some serious pizzazz.

Tomatoes and pesto are a no-brainer as partners, and I like to extract as much flavor from the fruit as possible. A quick excursion under the broiler does wonders, but to save myself a little time (and an extra baking sheet to wash), I turn to my secret weapon – oil-packed jarred sun-dried tomatoes.

Their concentrated richness and chewy texture present far differently on the palate than raw tomatoes.

Vertical image of a white dinner plate with farfelle mixed with vegetables in a green sauce on an outdoor table.

I suggested using about half a cup below, but feel free to toss in a few more for some extra pop. Go on, your tongue deserves the party.

Especially in the summertime when it’s easy to fire up the grill, I keep quick-cooking proteins like chicken breast on hand in the fridge (or in the freezer, since defrosting poultry is a cinch to master).

Same story with the veg. Tender veggies like asparagus, zucchini, and other types of squash require very little time or babysitting while they do their thing over the grates of a smoky grill.

It’s likely you already know the importance of letting meat rest before you serve it, so there’s no need to school you on that. But while the juices in your chicken are redistributing, make sure the plate is far enough back on your counter that your dog can’t reach it.

That’s the unexpected part of this magic trick known as the disappearing act. And I would suggest skipping it.

Vertical top-down image of a white dinner plate with farfalle mixed with chicken slices and assorted vegetables in a green sauce next to a fork and napkin.

And here comes the finale, so listen up:

Re-warming all of the ingredients and allowing them to get to know each other a bit in the pot is a must.

Hot, steaming pasta is pretty darn delicious. Chilled pasta salad? Also a treat. But lukewarm noods live in a land where no one needs to venture.

Make sure to fold in the pesto, however, after the pan is off the stove and just before serving.

It’s uncooked and full of delicate ingredients like fresh, fluffy basil leaves. Too much time spent in the heat, and the glorious green sauce will lose its vibrance.

And there’s nothing enchanting about that.

Print
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Horizontal image of a white dinner plate with farfalle mixed with chicken slices and assorted vegetables in a green sauce next to a fork and napkin.

Pesto Chicken Pasta with Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x

Description

Craving a satisfying pasta dish? Our medley of juicy grilled chicken, tender asparagus, pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes hits the spot.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 12-ounce box farfalle pasta
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2-3 pounds)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup basil pesto
  • Fresh basil, for garnish (optional)
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino Romano, for serving

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  2. While the water is heating up, preheat a grill or grill pan to a level between medium and medium-high heat, around 400°F.
  3. Coat both sides of the chicken breasts with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season both sides with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.
  4. Place the asparagus in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
  5. Place the chicken on the grill or grill pan and cook on one side for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Using clean tongs, transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and allow them to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
  6. Place the asparagus in a single layer on the grill or grill pan. Cook, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, about 4-5 minutes depending on their thickness.
  7. While the chicken is resting and the asparagus is cooking, cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. 
  8. Before draining, reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking water. Drain the noodles, and return them to the pot off the heat. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
  9. Slice the chicken and asparagus on a cutting board into bite-size pieces and add them to the pot with the pasta. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and reserved pasta water. 
  10. Toss to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  11. Turn the heat on medium-low and stir occasionally until everything is warm, about 5 minutes. 
  12. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the pesto. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, garnish with basil if using, and serve immediately with grated parmesan.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: chicken, pesto, pasta, grilled, basil, asparagus, sun-dried tomato

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Gather, Measure, and Prep Ingredients

You may see farfalle labeled as “bowtie” pasta and you’ll likely find it in a 12-ounce box, which is what’s called for in this recipe. Otherwise, measure out what you need using a kitchen scale.

Horizontal image of various prepped ingredients, asparagus, farfelle, and raw poultry on a wooden table.

Measure the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Rinse and trim the asparagus. Line up a handful of the spears in a row on your cutting board and slice off the woody fibrous ends about 2 inches from the bottom. For some of the spears, the part you’ll be slicing is right where the stalk turns from white to green. You can also give them a snap at their natural breaking point. Repeat with the remaining asparagus.

Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and roughly chop them. Reserve the oil for use in vinaigrettes, sauces, or drizzling on top of the pasta just before serving.

Feel free to use good-quality store-bought pesto or make your own homemade pesto. Set aside some small sprigs of basil if you have any fresh herbs on hand for garnish.

Get your chicken out of the fridge. And try not to drop it!

Step 2 – Boil the Water and Prep the Chicken and Asparagus

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While you’re waiting, preheat a grill or grill pan between medium and medium-high heat so it’s around 400°F.

Horizontal image of raw poultry breasts lightly seasoned on a white plate next to tongs on a wooden cutting board.

Drizzle both sides of the chicken with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season both sides with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. There’s going to be plenty of flavor in the pesto, but you could add some additional herbs or spices as well if you like, such as chopped rosemary, or paprika.

Horizontal image of lightly seasoned asparagus in a metal bowl.

Place the asparagus in a large bowl and drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss until well-coated.

Step 3 – Grill the Chicken and Asparagus and Cook the Pasta

Place the chicken on the grill or grill pan and cook until it’s golden-brown and lightly charred for, about 5 minutes. If your grill is big enough, you can cook the asparagus at the same time. Otherwise, grill the asparagus while the cooked chicken is resting.

Horizontal image of grilling poultry and green vegetables.

Using tongs, flip the chicken and cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers an internal temperature of 165°F. This will take about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts.

Using clean tongs, remove the chicken breasts from the grill and transfer them to a plate. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 5 minutes to seal in the moisture –  you don’t want to lose all the juices by slicing it too soon!

Place the asparagus in a single layer on the grill or grill pan. Grill, turning occasionally, until the spears are lightly charred and can be pierced easily with a paring knife, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Especially thick asparagus may take a few minutes longer to cook.

Remove the cooked asparagus spears from the grill and set them on a plate, or place them back in the bowl where you tossed them with the olive oil.

While the chicken is resting and the asparagus is cooking, cook the pasta until it’s al dente, according to package instructions.

Step 4 – Drain the Pasta and Slice the Chicken and Asparagus

Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking water. This will help the pesto cling to the noodles.

Horizontal image of sliced cooked poultry and green vegetables on a wooden cutting board.

Once you’ve drained the noodles, return them to the pot but remove it from the heat. Drizzle them with the remaining olive oil to prevent them from sticking together, and then set the pot aside.

Place the chicken and asparagus on a cutting board and slice into bite-size pieces. Add them along with any juices that have collected on the plate to the pot with the pasta. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the reserved pasta water to the pot.

Horizontal image of pouring water into a pot with farfella, chicken, and vegetables.

Toss until everything is well-combined and season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Step 5 – Reheat, Add the Pesto, Garnish, and Serve

Place the pot back on the heat over medium-low to heat everything back through. This will take about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, until the pasta is nice and warm.

Horizontal image of a large bowl filled with a pasta dish with green sauce, vegetables, and sliced cooked poultry.

Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the pesto. You want it to thoroughly coat the other ingredients but don’t want to cook it because it will lose its vibrancy.

Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl or platter, garnish with fresh basil if you like, and serve with sharp grated cheese like parmesan or Pecorino Romano.

Boosting the Bird’s Flavor

A little olive oil, salt, and pepper is all the chicken breast really needs when it’s getting that lovely charred treatment from the grill.

Horizontal image of a white dinner plate with farfalle mixed with chicken slices and assorted vegetables in a green sauce next to a fork and napkin.

But if you have some extra time to marinate your chicken, even an hour goes a long way. I’m a sucker for the classic combo of fresh garlic, rosemary, and lemon.

Also, adding a little dairy to your marinating liquid will produce the juiciest, most melt-in-your-mouth chicken you’ve ever tasted, since milk’s lactic acid aids in breaking down the muscle fibers in the meat.

I reach for Greek yogurt or buttermilk, since fermented milk products increase the tenderness even more.

Will you boost the flavor of your bird or keep things on the simple side? Share your marinating secrets in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

If those sun-dried tomatoes tempted your taste buds, try these recipes that feature the chewy flavor nuggets next:

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published February 13, 2014. Last updated on July 22, 2022.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

30 thoughts on “Pesto Chicken Pasta with Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes”

  1. I think I will be making this for dinner one night! It sounds so tasty. I particularly like how you substituted toasted walnuts for pine nuts! I bet that tasted fantastic. The recipe you have included looks pretty easy to follow thankfully for someone like me who has to stick to the instructions 100% when cooking new things! Ha.
    Little K sounds adorable ! At least he attempted the asparagus even if he did spit it out. I don’t even think my fiancé would let it pass his lips but we shall see.

    Reply
  2. Hmm, this looks really good. I’ve never tried aspargus, but I’ve always wnated to. I guess now I have an excuse to buy them!

    Reply
    • Never tried asparagus! You will love it I’m sure, I do. It is a seasonal vegetable though we get it here Feb-June at it’s best. I avoid it outside of that, it can be bitter.

      This is a great article Lynne, I am always open to new pesto ideas.

      Reply
      • My sentiments exactly! I love it! Started eating it a few years back, five to be exact, and it has become a staple (in season) in my home.

        Reply
  3. Pasta and pesto sauce is two of my most favorite ingredients to combine. I have yet to ‘jazz it up’ like your recipe. I also will have to closely follow the recipe to complete it. This will be a good meal for us after a game because it seems like it would be very quick to make.

    Reply
  4. I’m not a fan of asparagus so I wonder what this would be like with broccoli. I love chicken and broccoli dishes, and I think the other ingredients would play nice with it, what do you think?

    Reply
  5. It looks gourmet! Its amazing how sundried tomatoes add a sweet flavor when blended to the recipe. I am definitely going to make this on weekend. Maybe I’d cut the asparagus smaller and will use bowtie pasta. Can I substitute bacon to chicken? Surely, this will be a hit!

    Reply
  6. What a gorgeous dish! I love all of the pretty colors. Making pesto is so much better than eating the premade store kind. The flavors are much more intense. I like eating pesto as an alternative to other calorie heavy pasta sauces.

    Reply
  7. I made this for dinner yesterday and it was just so good! I urge everyone to try it too, it’s really simple and the end result is just amazing. All the ingredients work together very well. Thanks for this! I’ll be making it again for sure.

    Reply
  8. Asparagus has that unique aroma and aftertaste and though I love basil, it too has that herbal essence. I’m curious how this recipe tastes with asparagus and basil in the mix. The chicken, the bland pasta and the tomatoes will no doubt even out the dominant herbal aroma.

    Reply
  9. I would really like to try this recipe. I would also make it into a vegetarian version and add zucchini and carrots as a substitute for the chiken.

    Reply
  10. I was reading some of the comments and noticed a few asking about other ingredients. I think this dish is wide open for making it your own. I hardly use pine nuts and often substitute unseasoned toasted almond slivers for them. I often use broccoli as a stand in for asparagus as my family just won’t eat the “green sticks!” It looks delicious!

    Reply
  11. Oh, wow, this looks so yummy! I never tried mixing asparagus with pasta. I’m used to having asparagus on its own as a side vegetable dish. Hmmh, I’m liking this mix. Cool, I can’t wait to try…

    Reply
  12. I just recently discovered the delight of sun dried tomatoes. It is one of the things that turned me on to trying new things. When things started popping up all over the grocery store with sun dried tomatoes, everything from frozen pasta dinners to salad dressing, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. At first, it seemed nothing special, but then I tried one straight, by itself, and just popped it in my mouth like any other dried fruit. It was delicious and tangy. I loved it. Now when I use sun dried tomatoes, I always chop them up, and sprinkle the pieces throughout the dish. You can’t use too much, or the flavor will take over the dish, but it is something subtle that you can do to add pizzaz to your recipes.

    Reply
  13. Pesto is one of those dishes that always tastes good and is always comforting. And, with a food processor it makes it much easier to make fresh. I want to start experimenting more with adding different proteins and vegetables with my pesto pasta. I really like the classic chicken and asparagus combination!

    Reply
  14. I saw bow ties & I saw sun dried tomatoes & I knew I was committed to this recipe. There’s nothing I love more than a pasta that has less of the traditional ways of pasta & more of a new age approach. If I can add flavour by altering or removing a plain old tomato sauce you better bet I will. Thanks for the new addition.

    Reply
  15. Mmm, another pasta dish to add to the repertoire. I often rely on pasta for quick after-work meals and pesto is one of my favorite accompaniments so I’ll certainly be trying this one out in the hear future. Thanks!

    Reply
  16. Chicken and pasta are always a good combination. And speaking about good combinations, this whole recipe represents the best in Italian flavors. The sauce is particularly very good. I can’t wait to pair this meal with a good Chardonnay.

    Reply
  17. I’m trying to cook this for my parents (it’s going to be their 20th anniversary). Since I’m 15 and not the most gifted chef, they have absolutely no faith in me. However, I’m crossing my fingers. This looks so elegant, but seems simple enough to make so I’ll give it a try. I once ordered a similar sort of dish at a restaurant, but it was nothing compared to this (at least from the looks of it), so hopefully this can transform me into a star chef (it’s deep inside me somewhere!) Anyways, this looks absolutely delicious, the bow ties and sun dried tomatoes just makes my mouth water, I can just imagine the flavors with all the herbs and spices. The mere picture of the plate is absolutely beautiful, there is nothing I love more than a dish with proper presentation.

    Reply
  18. Mmm, so many of my favorite things in one simple recipe. I do love pine nuts, but walnuts are more cost-effective and an inspired substitution in the pesto. I need to try this ASAP. And I’ll have to try it with broccoli standing in for asparagus when asparagus season ends, too.

    Reply
  19. I really like the sound and look of this recipe. I appreciate that it only calls for one chicken breast, and that walnuts can be substituted for the pine nuts, which can be very expensive. I saw @js85 mention substituting broccoli for the asparagus, which could be another money saver, and something I might try. I think this would be a big hit in my house!

    Reply
  20. Wow! Speechless here! This recipe looks amazing, and seems so very easy to make. My favorite foods are Mexican and Italian by the looks and ingredients I know I will fall in love with this dish in a heartbeat. I can’t wait to taste it! I know my husband and kids will love it too. It will be a hit at my table!

    Reply
  21. This looks and sounds amazing. While I love pesto, I stray from making it due to just thinking it will be difficult. This recipe proves me wrong! Seems simple and delicious, I cannot wait to make this at ho,me for dinner!

    Reply
  22. Yum. I wish I had some of this to eat right now. It looks like it would make some good comfort food, which is just what I need at the moment. I’m sick.

    Someone make this for me, please. 🙂

    I will definitely be using this recipe. It might even become a staple for me. I think I’ll substitute zucchini or something for the pasta though (which is what I usually do, since I’m doing low carbs, and veggies are a fraction of the carbs compared to noodles).

    Thanks for sharing. It looks and sounds great.

    Reply
  23. While I like the idea of this recipe, green pesto can be a bit rich for me, so I may substitute the green for red instead. I just prefer the taste. I would also throw in a few chillies for a bit of a kick!

    Reply
  24. I am usually not the biggest asparagus fan there is, but for some reason I can see myself falling in love with this dish. I can eat anything when it is over a bed of pasta though, and I think the basil pesto would probably have me hooked on the smell alone. Looks like another good one.

    Reply

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