Chicken Pesto Baked Ziti

Now that summer is behind us, the dinner menus in our house are feeling a little heavier. I was really in the mood for something that felt fresh but still has the heartiness of comfort food. Penne tossed in parsley and garlic pesto with chicken and tomatoes was exactly what I needed to satisfy my craving. Unlike traditional baked ziti that is weighed down by lots of cheese, this recipe uses greek yogurt to keep things a little on the lighter side.

About the Ingredients

Boneless Chicken Breast – Two large breasts or three small is plenty. The recipe calls for dicing the chicken breast and then cooking it in a pan on the stove. Alternatively, I like to bake my chicken breasts whole and then shred them in my stand mixer. More on that here.  

Penne Pasta – The recipe calls for whole wheat pasta but any type of pasta works well here. 

Pesto Sauce – The supermarket has lots of great options. I personally like Classico Traditional Basil Pesto. 

Non-fat Greek Yogurt  – This will give your dish that creamy saucy texture of a great baked ziti. 

Frozen Spinach – Move your box of frozen spinach to the refrigerator early in the day. Place it on a dish or in bowl because as it thaws some water may leak out. When you’re ready to start cooking, squeeze as much of the water out of the box as you can before adding the spinach to the recipe. 

Cherry Tomatoes – Slice them in half. A quick way to do that is this to use this handy tool from the Pampered Chef

Shredded Mozzarella – The pre-shredded cheese is very convenient here. 

Basil Leaves – Most grocery stores sell small basil plants or bags of basil in water with the roots still attached. These will last quite awhile and you’ll be able to get a lot of recipes out of them before needing to buy more. 

Penne pasta baked ziti. Penne baked with chicken, pesto, tomatoes and cheese.

Recipe Substitutions and Variations

Even though the recipe calls for chicken, you could certainly omit the meat and keep this dish vegetarian without losing any flavor. It is also plenty hearty thanks to the pasta, creamy sauce and veggies. 

Don’t have penne to use? No problem. Medium sizes shells, rigatoni or orecchiette would all work well too. 

There are lots of different variations of pesto out there. You could try a parsley based pesto or even a spicy cilantro jalapeño pesto if you wanted to spice things up a bit. Try adding some other Mexican flavors if you go with the cilantro pesto – maybe corn or black beans?!

Penne pasta baked ziti. Penne baked with chicken, pesto, tomatoes and cheese.

How to Make Chicken Pesto Baked Ziti

First cook your chicken. You can either brown it on the stovetop of bake it in the oven and then shred it. 

While the chicken is cooking, boil the pasta and mix up the sauce. In a small bowl combine the pesto, yogurt and and spinach.

In a large bowl, or back into the empty stock pot, combine the pasta, sauce, cooked chicken and tomatoes. Toss everything to evenly combine it. 

Layer half of the pasta mixture, then half the shredded cheese and 1/2 the chopped basil into a baking dish. Repeat the layer with the remaining ingredients. Bake until bubbly and melted on top.

The Recipe For Chicken Pesto Baked Ziti

The recipe and all of the delicious details are available on the WellPlated.com website at Chicken Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes. If you test out this recipe be sure to leave a note in the comments below. I’d love to hear what type of pesto you used and what you thought. Enjoy!

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