Tuscan Chicken Pasta

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For your next dinner, give this delicious Tuscan chicken pasta a try. Enjoy seared pieces of lean white meat in a creamy sauce with sweet tomatoes and fresh spinach.

Tuscan chicken pasta in a large pot.
Table of Contents
  1. Pasta selection
  2. Cook the chicken
  3. Make the tomato cream sauce
  4. Cook the spinach
  5. Add the cheese
  6. Toss the pasta
  7. Serve this with
  8. FAQ
  9. Tuscan Chicken Pasta Recipe

I created a family-style meal to celebrate the flavors of Tuscany while adding protein to make it heartier. Ripe cherry tomatoes cook until they burst, creating a luxurious garlic cream sauce to coat with the corkscrew-shaped pasta. Sun-dried tomatoes provide a concentrated sweetness to each bite.

Italian loves using local, garden-fresh ingredients, so leafy spinach is wilted and stirred in. To finish, a s simple garnishing of salty parmesan cheese and fresh basil is all you need. Take a trip to Italy without leaving your kitchen! That’s Amore! If you love this recipe, you might want to try my stuffed Tuscan chicken.

Ingredients to make a tuscan-inspired recipe.

Pasta selection

I use short-cut, tubular, spiral-shaped pasta called cavatappi. The double elbow shape and linear grooves on the surface help the sauce cling on. You can use other types of pasta, like gemelli, rigatoni, or penne, as I do for my chicken spinach pasta

Cook the pasta in salted water to be well seasoned throughout. It should be al dente, with some slight resistance, as it will continue to cook when mixed with the hot cream sauce. Reserve some starchy water to help dilute and flavor the sauce later.

Recipe Resources

Cook the chicken

Use boneless skinless chicken breast, and cut them into 1-inch pieces. The lean meat sears well and cooks quickly. The large chunks prevent them from drying out. I season with salt and pepper, then cook the chicken in extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. 

Don’t be tempted to move the pieces! Let them sit to create a golden brown crust on each side. The process only takes about 3 minutes, so don’t overcook.

Chunks of chicken breast cooking in a pan.

Make the tomato cream sauce

You don’t need fancy ingredients to make a delicious and fresh sauce. Use the same pan used to sear the chicken breast. The fond on the bottom of the skillet adds an intense savory flavor. The minced garlic and dried Italian seasoning bloom in hot olive oil, releasing more fat-soluble flavors and more robust aromas into the dish. 

The halved cherry tomatoes saute until they soften. You’ll notice that their juice will just begin to release. You don’t want to overcook them where they shrivel up, and all of the moisture evaporates. Now just stir in the heavy cream and chicken stock. The goal is to reduce the sauce so it thickens to coat the back of a spoon.

Cook the spinach

It might seem like three cups of spinach is a lot, but these leafy greens are over 90% water. They will wilt down and release their moisture as they hit the hot sauce. The flavor is mild but adds a pleasant taste. I also stir in sundried tomatoes to add a nice chewy texture and concentrated fruity sweetness.

Add the cheese

Parmesan is a hard grating cheese. When the heat is turned off, it’s best to melt it into the sauce to dissolve the salt. If you prefer a variety made in Italy, look at other types of cheese like cow’s milk Parmigiano Reggiano or a more pungent Pecorino Romano made with sheep’s milk. 

After adding the cheese, it’s a good time to stir in some reserved starchy pasta water. I recommend adding about 1 tablespoon at a time, tasting the cream sauce, and adjusting the consistency as desired.

Toss the pasta

Right before serving, add cavatappi pasta and seared chicken to the pan. Mix it all, reheating if needed. I like to garnish with fresh basil, but if you have chopped oregano or parsley, they would be lovely additions to add a pop of green and herbaceous notes. 

Close up of tuscan pasta sauce with spinach and tomatoes.

Serve this with

FAQ

What is a Tuscan sauce made of?

It’s made from minced garlic, Italian seasonings, or fresh herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and fresh tomatoes. The ingredients are sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil until the tomatoes are tender and burst into a sauce. Heavy cream adds a rich consistency.

Can I use other types of fresh tomatoes?

Yes! You can dice other tomato varieties like Roma into smaller pieces, about ½-inch in size. The key is to use very ripe tomatoes so that the sauce has a balanced sweet, acidic, and fruit flavor.

How do I make a lighter sauce?

Use whipping cream instead of heavy whipping cream. It’s lower in fat, about 30 to 36% milkfat. You can also increase the chicken broth or stock to 1 cup. Reduce the heavy cream to 1 cup. It will take longer to reduce the sauce, but the consistency will not be as rich.

Tuscan chicken pasta with cavatappi noodles.

Can I use canned tomatoes for the sauce?

Canned tomatoes are a convenient shelf product you can use to make the cream sauce. To preserve some fresh chunks of tomato, use whole peeled or diced. You can break down whole tomatoes to the desired size. The only downside is that producers use calcium chloride to retain their shape and keep them firm. This is not an issue if you like more significant pieces of tomato in the sauce. Use the same amount of canned product as fresh, but drain the juices or sauce from the can.

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Tuscan Chicken Pasta

Easy and delicious family-style Tuscan chicken pasta dinner with lean white meat in a vegetable-filled cream sauce.
Pin Print Review
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
  • 8 ounces dried cavatappi
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup unsalted chicken stock, or broth
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups baby spinach, packed
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sliced basil

Instructions 

  • Cook the Pasta – In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add 1 ½ teaspoon salt, and stir to dissolve. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes, or according to the manufacturer's directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the starchy water to make the cream sauce.
  • Prepare the Chicken – Cut the chicken breast into about 1-inch cubes—season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • Cook the Chicken – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken to a single layer, and cook without moving until the surface is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a clean bowl.
  • Saute the Garlic – Heat the same skillet used to cook the chicken over low heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, minced garlic, and Italian seasoning. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Cook the tomatoes – Add the cherry tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Turn the heat to medium, stir and cook, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook until the tomatoes soften and start to release their juices, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the Cream – Stir in the heavy cream and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Frequently scrape the pan's sides and bottom to ensure the cream does not curdle. Reduce the sauce until it starts thickening and lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Cook the Spinach – Stir in the spinach and sundried tomatoes. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute.
  • Finish the Sauce – Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency—season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Toss to Combine – Add the pasta and chicken to the sauce, gently stirring to combine.
  • To Serve – Serve garnished with sliced basil.

Equipment

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 10 cups
  • Serving Size: About 1 ¼ cups
  • Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating: Reheat in a microwave on the high setting in 30-second increments until hot, stirring in between.
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute gluten-free pasta.
  • Using Frozen Spinach: Defrost 3 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, about 1/3 cup, and drain well. Stir into the sauce with the sundried tomatoes.

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Nutrition Facts
Tuscan Chicken Pasta
Amount Per Serving
Calories 430 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Fat 27g42%
Saturated Fat 13g65%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 10g
Cholesterol 92mg31%
Sodium 658mg27%
Potassium 610mg17%
Carbohydrates 28g9%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 20g40%
Vitamin A 2000IU40%
Vitamin C 14mg17%
Calcium 127mg13%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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