Garlic? Love. Parmesan? Love. Chicken? Love. Pasta? LOVE. This one-pan garlic parmesan chicken pasta uses just 7 simple ingredients to create a totally delicious and comforting dinner that you can get on the table quickly.
And since everything cooks in one pan on the stove top, you've got very few dishes to wash! You're welcome!
When you need an easy weeknight dinner that uses a lot of pantry staples, look no further than this one-pan garlic parmesan chicken pasta.
Longtime Practical Kitchen readers know that four of my favorite ingredients are garlic, parmesan cheese, chicken, and pasta. I don't know if these are the most common ingredients in your kitchen, but they are in mine.
There's my one skillet cacio e pepe rigatoni, angel hair pasta with chicken, my roasted garlic ciabatta, roasted garlic bagels, garlic whole roasted chicken, and oh right, my recipe for just plain roasted garlic.
Combining all of these ingredients into one perfect, simple, practical stove top meal was bound to happen eventually. Honestly, I'm shocked it took me this long!
- 🍗 Why Make Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta
- 🥘 Ingredient Notes
- 🔪 How to Make Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta
- 📋 How One Pan Pasta Recipes Work
- 📋 Variations & Substitutions
- ⏲️ How to Store Leftovers
- 👪 Adjusting Number of Servings
- 🧀 Why Is the Cheese Measured by Weight?
- 👩🏻🍳 Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- 💭 Recipe FAQ
- 📖 Recipe
- Food Safety
- 💬 Comments
🍗 Why Make Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta
If you've never made a one-skillet or one-pot pasta dish before, you're going to love this. You basically cook everything — including the pasta — all in one skillet!
That's right, you don't even need to get out a separate pot to boil water for the pasta.
This garlic parmesan chicken pasta recipe is perfect if you're busy and need to make dinner quickly, or if you hate washing dishes, or just want to do a lot with as few ingredients as possible.
The simple cheesy pasta sauce is hearty enough to be comforting in the winter, but delicate enough to be satisfying in the summer too.
Now that I've convinced you to try this garlic parmesan chicken pasta, let's talk about what you need in your kitchen to make it.
🥘 Ingredient Notes
Because there are so few ingredients in this recipe, I do recommend making the effort to use as many fresh ingredients as possible (except for the pasta).
If you can't find them or just don't want to, pre-packaged or prepared versions of these ingredients will work just fine. See recipe card for quantities.
- Cavatappi Pasta - I used Cavatappi (sometimes called Cellentani) pasta for this recipe because it's hearty enough to hold up to the rigorous stirring and boiling this recipe requires. I also just enjoy the "double elbow" twisted shape. You can use other boxed pasta shapes like rigatoni, gemelli, macaroni, penne, etc. Just avoid anything light or delicate — you're looking for a 9-12 minute "al dente" cook time!
- Chicken Breast - The first step of this recipe calls for slicing or pounding the chicken breast to about half an inch thick. You can also just buy thinly sliced chicken cutlets and use those. Adjust the cook time accordingly!
- Parmesan Cheese - I grate my own parmesan cheese with a microplane because the cheese melts best this way. If you're going to buy pre-grated parmesan, just don't get the powdered kind, it tends to clump.
- Garlic - Minced or grated. I don't recommend the jarred stuff, since you're really gonna taste the garlic here, but if that's all you've got, it'll be just fine.
- Fresh Parsley - There's a lot of dense, rich, intense flavors happening in here with the garlic and pasta and cheese and freshly chopped parsley just brightens the whole dish up.
- Salt and Pepper - For seasoning the chicken and seasoning the pasta. Flavor, baby!
Not pictured: Water. You'll need enough water to just barely cover the pasta in the pan.
🔪 How to Make Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta
The first step in making garlic parmesan chicken pasta actually involves the third ingredient in this recipe's title: chicken.
Place the chicken breast on a cutting board and carefully slice it in half horizontally, with the knife parallel to the cutting board. Press the heel of your other hand down lightly on top of the chicken breast with your fingers flared up to keep them out of the way of the knife.
You're basically creating two chicken breast pieces each about half an inch thick.
If you prefer, you can instead pound the chicken breast to about half an inch thick with a meat tenderizing mallet.
Season the top sides of the chicken breast pieces with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, in a medium sized skillet with straight sides about 3" high, heat up the oil. Read more: How to Preheat Stainless Steel to Prevent Food From Sticking.
Place the chicken breasts in the oil seasoned side down, then season the tops with salt and pepper.
Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through (at least 160F on an instant read thermometer).
Chicken is considered fully cooked at 165F, but it will continue cooking as it rests. We're pulling it off the pan a little bit early so that it doesn't overcook!
Now we're going to use the same pan, without cleaning it out, to cook the aromatics and the pasta.
Those brown bits on the bottom are called fond, and they are going to give the pasta SO much flavor.
Add a little more oil to the pan, then add the garlic and cook until lightly browned — about 30-60 seconds.
Add a splash of water, bring to a boil, and use a spatula to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
Next, add the pasta to the pan along with salt, pepper, and just enough water to barely cover it. It's okay if some bits of pasta are sticking out above the water.
You can always add more water later if it needs it, so better to start out with slightly less than you think you need.
Increase the heat and keep an eye on the skillet. As soon as the pasta starts to boil, set a timer for the "al dente" cook time on the pasta box.
Keep the water boiling for the entire cook time and stir frequently to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Different pasta varieties absorb water at different rates, and water will evaporate differently based on the size of your skillet. If the water seems to be boiling away too quickly, its okay to add a bit more.
The goal is for most of the water to have absorbed and evaporated by the time the timer goes off. The water that will be left in the skillet will be super starchy and perfect for making a silky smooth sauce!
TIP: Do a bite test to confirm the pasta is fully cooked before you add the cheese. Bite a noodle in half — if you can see a ring of uncooked pasta in the center, it needs a little more time to cook. Add a splash of water if needed and keep stirring until the pasta is cooked through. Repeat as needed.
When the timer goes off, reduce the heat to low and add the parmesan cheese all at once. Stir until it melts into a sauce.
Then add about half of the freshly minced parsley and give it a good stir to combine.
Remove from the heat, slice the chicken breast into strips and add it to the pasta. Stir to combine!
That's it! That's how you make one pan garlic parmesan chicken pasta. The whole process start-to-finish is about twenty minutes, and you've only used one pan!
Serve immediately, garnished with more parmesan cheese and the remaining parsley.
📋 How One Pan Pasta Recipes Work
This one pan pasta stove top cooking method isn't just efficient — it also helps intensify the flavors in the pasta dish.
Because the pasta cooks in the same pot you cook the chicken and garlic in, the pasta absorbs all those flavors as it cooks.
And you know how people always talk about reserving the pasta water to thicken sauces? When you make a one pan pasta recipe, the water absorbs into the pasta or boils away, leaving all those starches behind in the small amount of water left when the timer goes off.
Not only will you have pasta that's packed with flavor, you've also got super concentrated starchy water left in the pan at the end. It's perfect for combining with parmesan cheese to make a silky pasta sauce!
📋 Variations & Substitutions
Out of a specific ingredient or need to make a substitution? I've got you covered.
- Vegetarian - Skip the chicken! You'll miss out on the flavor from the fond, but you could make up for it by sautéing some thinly sliced or chopped onions or leeks with the garlic before you add the pasta.
- Spicy - Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the pan when you add the pasta. For more heat, add more red pepper flakes.
- Out of Parmesan - If you don't have parmesan cheese, pecorino romano or parmesano reggiano will also work.
- No Fresh Parsley - Dried will also work! You could also use thinly sliced fresh basil, oregano, or thyme.
⏲️ How to Store Leftovers
Store any leftover garlic parmesan chicken pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
To reheat, microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between, until warmed throughout.
👪 Adjusting Number of Servings
This recipe uses 8 ounces of pasta and 1 pound chicken breast. That's enough for three very hungry people OR two moderately hungry people plus a small child (or to save as leftovers) OR or three moderately hungry people who are eating this with side dishes.
If serving four or more, I recommend adding 4-6 ounces of pasta and ⅓-1/2 pounds of chicken, depending on how hungry everyone is.
The cooking process is the same no matter how much pasta or chicken you're using.
Just remember, the more crowded the pan is, the more water you'll need, and the longer it will take the water to absorb/evaporate!
🧀 Why Is the Cheese Measured by Weight?
This way no matter how you grate your parmesan cheese or if you buy the pre-packaged stuff, you'll have the right amount of cheese!
Finely grated parmesan cheese is very light and delicate. It's hard to measure accurately using cups because there's so much air in it.
If I told you 1 cup of parmesan and you use a denser, thicker grated parmesan, you'll have WAY too much cheese.
If you don't have a kitchen scale, I recommend adding the cheese ¼ cup at a time and stirring until it melts. When the sauce is as cheesy as you want and clings to the noodles, stop adding cheese.
👩🏻🍳 Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- The size of your skillet matters a lot here. I recommend using a 10-inch high-sided skillet for this recipe. I'm using my All-Clad 3 Quart Saute Pan in these photos. A wider skillet means a shorter layer of pasta and lower level of water, which means the water will evaporate much more quickly and it will be harder to get the pasta submerged. If you try this method using a regular sauce pot, the water will be too deep to have evaporated by the time the pasta is done cooking.
- You do want to have a little bit of water left in the pan when there's a minute left on your timer and it's time to add the cheese. How much water? It should feel like you're stirring a very saucy pasta. Not so much that the noodles are swimming, but enough to be able to say "yeah, there's still some liquid in here."
- Stir vigorously to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan but also be cautious — the tube pastas get slippery and often try to leap out of the pan if you're not careful!
- This recipe is best served immediately. The cheesey sauce starts to dry out pretty quickly as it cools. If you need to buy yourself a little time, you can leave it in the pan off the heat. Just turn the heat back to low and give it a few stirs to re-melt the cheese before serving.
💭 Recipe FAQ
Unfortunately, no. Fresh pasta cooks too quickly and is so starchy that it will break down in the water giving you more of a paste than a pasta water. Even dried fancy pastas tend to be a little too starchy to work really well here. It doesn't mean you can't use them, they just don't always hold up as well to the rigorous boiling and stirring as boxed pastas do.
If your heat isn't already as high as it can go, crank the heat and stir really well — the more you stir, the faster the water will evaporate. If you truly have way too much water left, use a spoon, ladle, or turkey baster to remove some water out of the pan.
You can, but I don't recommend it. There is so much chicken flavor already absorbing into the pasta from the fond that using chicken broth instead of water is a little overpowering.
Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta (One Pan Pasta!)
- medium straight sided skillet (about 3 quarts)
- 1 pounds chicken breast
- 8 oz gemelli pasta* (boxed pasta, not fancy/gourmet pastas)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- 1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
- ½ teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt (plus more for seasoning the chicken)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper (plus more for seasoning the chicken)
- 1.75 oz finely grated parmesan cheese (pre-grated is fine, just not the powdered stuff)
- ⅛ cup fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- Pat chicken dry on a cutting board. Holding your knife so the blade is horizontal, butterfly the chicken breast into two thin slices. Season the top side of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
- Preheat high sided skillet over medium. Add cooking oil. When the oil ripples and coats the bottom of the pan, place the chicken seasoned side down in the pan. Season the top side of the chicken with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the chicken about 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through (at least 160°F** on an instant read thermometer). Then remove to a plate or clean cutting board to rest.
- Without cleaning out the pan, reduce the heat to low. Add the remaining cooking oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, about 30-60 seconds until browned and slightly softened. NOTE: It will start to stick to the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. That's a good thing! Just don't let it burn.
- Add a splash of water, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to high and use a wooden spoon or spatula with a sturdy edge to scrape the browned bits on the bottom as the liquid begins to boil.
- Add the dried pasta, salt, and pepper to the pan and give them a quick stir. Then add just enough water to almost cover the pasta. It's okay if some of the noodles are sticking out above the water.
- When the water begins to boil, set a timer for the "al dente" time given on the pasta box. Keep the heat at high the whole time, stirring constantly as the water boils and the pasta cooks to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. NOTE: Add water in very small amounts as needed (some pasta shapes absorb water more quickly than others).
- When there is about a minute left, and very little water remains in the pan, reduce the heat to low, add the parmesan cheese all at once and stir to melt the cheese into a creamy sauce. Remove from heat.
- Slice the chicken and add it back to the pan, along with half the chopped parsley. Stir to combine. Serve immediately, topped with the remaining chopped parsley and additional grated parmesan cheese.
- *Do not use fresh or gourmet pasta to make this recipe. Boxed dried pasta works best.
- **The internal temperature for doneness on chicken breast is 165F, but the chicken will continue cooking as it rests. You can safely pull it off the heat early. But if you're particular about cooking chicken until it's done, let it go until it hits 165F and then remove it from the pan to rest.
- 8 ounces of pasta and 1 pound chicken breast is enough for two very hungry people OR two moderately hungry people plus a small child (or to save as leftovers) OR or three moderately hungry people who are eating this with side dishes. If serving four or more, I recommend adding 4-6 ounces of pasta and ⅓ lb chicken per person.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165°F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove