30 Minute Chicken Florentine Pasta will be a weeknight family favorite. Easy to make, kid-approved, and even more delicious for leftovers.
Why You'll Love this Healthy Chicken Pasta:
Sautéed chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach tossed in a decadently creamy Florentine sauce. This quick, delicious dinner tastes super decadent, yet has a favorable nutrition profile. Both kids and adults will love it, and it will undoubtedly become a family favorite.
This is one of my go-to recipes for both entertaining and easy weeknight dinners. The Florentine sauce is a simple mix of cream cheese and unsweetened cashew milk, which produces a velvety-smooth consistency. To thin the sauce out, simply use as much (or as little) pasta cooking liquid as necessary.
Also in the mix is sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and pancetta. Pancetta adds salty richness, while sun-dried tomatoes add a bright burst of umami. And, in my opinion, you can't have a pasta dish without garlic!
Here's what you need to make this healthy chicken florentine pasta:
- Chicken breast: You can also use chicken tenders or thighs here. Or, alternatively, if you don't eat chicken, sautéed shrimp is a fabulous swap.
- Pancetta: Also known as the bacon of Italy, a little pancetta goes in a long way in this pasta. Just a few ounces adds salty richness, however you can also crumbled bacon.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: I love the burst of umami that sun-dried tomatoes add to cream sauces. I suggest getting the ones packed in olive oil in a jar, which offer the best texture and flavor.
- Pasta: Use any pasta shape you like! The recipe suggests orecchiette, which acts as a catcher's mitt for the cream sauce. However I also like using fusilli or rotini.
- Cream cheese: Just 4 ounces of cream cheese adds velvety richness to the Florentine sauce. If you're making it dairy free, I suggest using Kite Hill brand of vegan cream cheese style spread.
- Cashew milk: This milk alternative is extremely creamy, which is a game changer in the sauce. However if you don't have any on hand, you can also use almond milk or whole milk.
And then, of course, there is the toppings: freshly grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil or parsley, plus some red pepper flakes.
This recipe comes together in roughly 30 minutes, and is super easy to make. Here's how it's done:
Step 1: Cook the Pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your pasta of choice. Right before draining, set aside 1 cup of pasta water, and drain remaining.
Step 2: Sauté the Chicken
While the pasta cooks, heat a big glug of olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, turning to brown all sides, until cooked. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Step 3: Cook the Pancetta and Aromatics
Add the pancetta and shallots to the hot pan and cook for 3 minutes, until crisp. Next, add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and spinach, and cook for about 3 minutes, until the shallots are soft and spinach is wilted. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
Step 4: Blend the Florentine Sauce
Combine the cream cheese, cashew milk, pasta water, and Parmesan in a small blender or food processor. (I use my Ninja, which is so much easier to clean!). Blend on high speed until creamy, and pour the sauce into the pan with the pancetta and vegetables.
Step 5: Combine all Ingredients
Add the chicken and cooked pasta to the skillet, and toss everything to combine. Continue cooking for another 2 minutes, until the sauce begins clinging to the pasta. If needed, gradually stream in some reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce.
Step 6: Season, Garnish, and Serve!
Adjust the seasonings as needed by adding more salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes. Lastly, garnish with fresh basil or parsley, additional Parmesan cheese, and serve!
FAQs About This Recipe:
What to Serve with Chicken Florentine Pasta:
This dinner is delicious with a crisp green salad on the side, or some crusty Italian bread. Though the best thing about it is that you really don't HAVE to serve it with anything. It combines protein, carbs, and lots of veggies, creating a well-balanced meal.
What is the Best Pasta to Use?
The recipe suggests orecchiette, which acts as a catcher's glove for the cream sauce. However I also like using fusilli, rotini, or good ol' penne.
If you are serving anyone that is gluten-intolerant, I recommend using brown rice pasta or chickpea pasta. I personally love Banza chickpea pasta for it's neutral flavor and wheat-like consistency.
How Do I Make the Chicken Soft and Juicy?
The key is to not OVERCOOK the chicken, which isn't hard to do. This is why I suggest cooking the chicken over medium-high heat, so it cooks fast without drying out. You can also cover the chicken while it's cooking, which helps it retain moisture.
How to Make this Recipe Dairy-Free:
You can certainly make this recipe dairy-free with a couple simple swaps. First, swap the cream cheese for Kite Hill brand cream cheese-style spread. (Or, alternatively, your favorite dairy-free cream cheese.) Then, swap the Parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast, which adds the same savory, cheesy flavor.
If making this recipe completely vegan, just omit the pancetta and chicken, or swap them for your favorite meat alternative.
More 30 Minute Pasta Recipes to Try:
I hope you give this deliciously flavorful recipe a try for make-ahead lunches or weeknight dinner. And if you do, be sure to snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations.
30 Minute Chicken Florentine Pasta
- Stock pot
- Blender or food processor
- Large, high-sided skillet
- 12 oz. dry pasta of choice (I use orecchiette)
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (sub peeled and deveined shrimp)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil (sub avocado oil)
- 2 oz. diced pancetta
- ½ cup finely chopped shallots
- ½ cup jarred sun-dried tomatoes, drained
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 3 to 4 handfuls fresh baby spinach
- 4 oz. light cream cheese softened
- 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk
- ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley or basil
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water before draining.
- While pasta cooks, heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken (or shrimp) evenly with ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper. Add to skillet, and cook 6 to 7 minutes, turning to brown all sides, until cooked through (shrimp will only need 3 to 4 minutes total). Transfer to a plate.
- Add pancetta and shallots to pan; cook 3 minutes, until pancetta is crispy and shallots are soft. Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic; cook 1 more minute. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 more minute. Add chicken back to pan, and reduce heat to medium-low.
- To a blender, add cream cheese, cashew milk, Parmesan, ½ cup of reserved pasta cooking water, and remaining ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper; blend until smooth. Pour sauce into skillet with pancetta and vegetables. Add cooked pasta and toss to combine. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and begins clinging to noodles. Stream in more pasta cooking water as needed.
- Garnish with parsley or basil and extra Parmesan cheese.