A family friendly classic, this easy Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake is a creamy, cheesy meal made with tender penne pasta, juicy chicken, and a garlicky homemade cream sauce. Best of all, it’s super-easy to make!
Easy, Super Cheesy Pasta Recipe!
Pasta dishes are on regular rotation in my house – how about yours? It doesn’t matter whether you like low-carb pasta, flourless pasta, or regular wheat pasta – there’s nothing like a big helping of penne (or whatever pasta shape you like) in a rich, satisfying sauce.
And this baked alfredo dish? One of the best, let me tell ya. No one can resist velvety parmesan cream sauce, flavored with plenty of garlic and made from scratch.
Although it may sound a bit intimidating, alfredo sauce is totally one of the easiest sauces to make! You only need a handful of ingredients plus a skillet. The cheese does all the thickening, and with real cream, fresh garlic, and a little chicken broth, homemade alfredo sauce is loaded with flavor as-is. No complicated cooking techniques or fancy ingredients needed.
If you like pasta alfredo, you’ll devour this simple baked version, topped with plenty of melted mozzarella cheese.
The Ingredients You’ll Need
First of all, you’ll want to gather your ingredients. It’s all sweet and simple here, folks – or should I say, savory and simple? However you describe it, you’re in for a world of deliciousness.
- Pasta: I used a pound of penne pasta, but you can use any small shape that you like: fusilli, farfalle, etc.
- Olive Oil: For cooking the chicken.
- Chicken: Slice up some boneless, skinless chicken breast, roughly the same thickness as your pasta.
- Salt and Pepper
- Garlic: I like to use fresh garlic, finely minced, but you can substitute garlic powder if you prefer.
- Broth: Chicken broth helps create the sauce. Water will work, too!
- Cream: Heavy cream makes the most decadent sauce, but half-and-half will work in a pinch.
- Cheese: A blend of parmesan and mozzarella makes the sauce nice and cheesy. More mozzarella goes on top to melt in the oven.
- Italian Seasoning: Italian seasoning typically contains a blend of several dried herbs that give that classic “Italian” taste, but if you’re out, you can get by with a little basil and oregano.
- Chopped Parsley: For garnish, optional.
How to Make It
These instructions will tell you how to make chicken alfredo pasta bake using just one pot, and one baking dish. However, to cut down on time, feel free to make the sauce and pasta at the same time, in two separate pots. Here we go:
- Preheat Your Oven. I almost always start my oven first thing in a recipe, so I don’t forget, but you could wait to start it until the sauce and pasta are nearly done. Just don’t forget! When you do preheat it, preheat the oven broiler to HIGH.
- Boil the Pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to the package directions. We are aiming for al dente – meaning the pasta is fully cooked and tender, but not mushy at all. Drain the cooked pasta, and set it aside.
- Cook the Chicken. Return the pot to the stove, and turn the heat down to medium. Once the temperature has had a minute to adjust, add the olive oil and let it heat until shimmering. At that point, add in your sliced chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until browned and fully cooked. This will take about 5 minutes, and you should stir from time to time – but don’t worry if the bottom of the pot develops some browned stuck bits. Move the cooked chicken to a plate, and loosely cover it.
- Make the Alfredo Sauce. Next, add the garlic to the pan, and cook until fragrant. Pour in the chicken broth, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the heavy cream, the parmesan, half of the mozzarella, and the Italian seasoning. Whisk this for around 8 minutes, until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened.
- Assemble the Casserole. Now it’s time to put it all together! Dump the pasta and chicken into the sauce, and stir gently to combine. Pour this mixture into a 9×13 inch casserole dish, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top, and place it under your preheated broiler for 5 to 10 minutes. Once the cheese is melted and lightly browned here and there, the dish is done!
- Enjoy! Garnish with chopped parsley, and serve warm.
Do You Pre-Boil Pasta for Pasta Bake?
The truth is, you pre-boil pasta for a pasta bake almost every time. There are some recipes that allow for baking dried pasta in a very liquid-y sauce, but in most cases, the pasta and sauce are both fully cooked, or almost fully cooked.
Baking the pasta allows the flavors to blend, cheese to melt, etc. In this recipe, since you’re broiling the pasta quickly instead of giving it a long baking time, it’s very important that the pasta be fully cooked before it goes into the oven.
Easy Tips and Variations
In addition to the recipe card below, I’m excited to share a few helpful tips for making this pasta bake truly awesome. Here are my favorite helpful hints and variations on the original – enjoy!
- Cornstarch Slurry: This homemade alfredo is fairly thick, but if you would like to thicken the sauce a bit more, use a cornstarch slurry. Just mix half a teaspoon of cornstarch with half a teaspoon of warm water, and add this to the pot during step 6. Whisk as the sauce thickens. If you don’t want to use cornstarch, arrowroot powder will also work.
- Chicken Options: While I like to cook the chicken specifically for this recipe, you can also use leftover chicken or even store-bought rotisserie chicken. Just add it to the sauce at the end of the recipe, along with the pasta, and go from there.
- Sauce Options: Homemade alfredo sauce is out of this world – but there are also great store-bought varieties that you can use if you’re short on time! Feel free to substitute jarred or refrigerated alfredo in this easy recipe.
- Veggie Options: Sauteed mushrooms, steamed broccoli, and frozen peas are all good choices to stir into the sauce before baking. In fact, if you prefer, you can leave out the chicken entirely, and “fill in the gaps” with veggies of your choice.
What to Serve with Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake
To serve, I like to add a crisp veggie side dish. Fresh vegetables add great contrast to the creamy, tender pasta and chicken. Another beloved side? Focaccia Bread! If you don’t mind adding some more carbs, you can’t go wrong with bruschetta or garlic bread. Try one or more of these easy sides!
- Bruschetta with Bacon: This recipe for BLT Bruschetta is like a party in your mouth! You’ll love the combination of crispy bacon, shredded lettuce, ripe tomatoes, and pesto – all on fresh, homemade garlic bread.
- Green Beans: Simple steamed green beans with butter and salt are a no-fail side dish, but if you’l like to make something a little more special, try these Sauteed Garlic Butter Green Beans instead! They’re a perfect sauteed side that goes with everything.
- Sauteed Mushrooms: Mushrooms and alfredo are a winning combo, so why not make a batch of Garlic Butter Mushrooms on the side? Everyone will want seconds of this savory little recipe.
Storing and Reheating
- To refrigerate, cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap, or portion the pasta bake out into fridge-safe airtight containers (or zip-top bags). Keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
- To reheat, just bake the entire dish in a 350°F oven until heated through. For best results, bake covered with foil to lock in moisture.
Can I Make Pasta Casserole Ahead?
- Yes! You can make chicken alfredo pasta bake up to three days in advance, and store it in the fridge. Reheat as directed above.
Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced or diced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- Chopped parsley
- Preheat the oven broiler to HIGH.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, according to package directions. Drain, and set aside.
- Return the pot to the stove, turn the heat to medium, and add the olive oil. Once the oil is heated and shimmering, add the chicken breast and season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, and cook until the chicken is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil.
- Add the garlic to the same pot and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Pour in the chicken broth, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- To the pot, add the heavy cream, parmesan cheese, half of the mozzarella cheese, and the Italian seasoning. Whisk frequently until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.
- Add the pasta and chicken to the sauce, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a greased 9×13 inch casserole dish, and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top.
- Broil for 6 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and slightly browned.
- Garnish with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.