Smoky Chicken Pasta with Cream Sauce

One pan (plus a pot for the pasta 😉), tons of flavor, and a little spice make this an easy and satisfying dinner everyone will love.

A complete meal in one (maybe add a salad), this is super affordable but tastes like a restaurant dinner.

smoky pasta with sliced chicken.

Smoky Chicken Pasta {Firebird’s Chicken Pasta}

Creamy, flavorful, and super satisfying, this restaurant copycat is a dinner you'll make again and again.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Serving Size 6 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound cooked penne pasta
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenderloins or pounded thin
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • tablespoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 2 cups chicken broth divided
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

To serve

  • Shredded parmesan
  • Chopped parsley or basil optional
  • Diced red onion or tomato optionl

Instructions 

  • Cook the bacon. In a very large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels, crumble and set aside. Dispose of most of the bacon grease, but do not clean the pan.
    bacon in saucepan.
  • Cook the chicken. Heat the pan over medium-high and cook the chicken breast 3 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through. Remove to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest while you prepare the sauce. (This is a good time to start cooking the penne.)
  • Cook the veggies and spices. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the same large skillet.. Add the salt, sugar, smoked paprika, cayenne, and onion. Cook until the onion is translucent and softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one minute more.
    onion and spices in saucepan.
  • Add liquids. Add 1 cup of chicken broth, scraping the pan to incorporate all the seasonings. Add the cream and milk and simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce reduces slightly. (Meanwhile, slice the cooked chicken)
  • Thicken sauce. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken broth with the flour and add to the sauce to thicken it. Add the grated parmesan. Simmer over low heat while stirring until cheese is melted.
  • Assemble and serve. Pour the cooked pasta into the sauce, stir, and add the bacon, cooked chicken, additional parmesan and any herbs or fresh veggies you’d like. . Serve immediately.

Notes

The pasta will be a bit spicy as written. If you don’t like spicy food, reduce or eliminate the cayenne. (It’s still delicious.)
Nutritional info is for 1/6th of the recipe and does not include additional parmesan for garnish. 
skillet with creamy penne pasta.

You’ll need the following for this simple + yummy dinner:

  • olive oil
  • salt
  • sugar
  • smoked paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • chopped shallot
  • chicken broth divided
  • heavy cream
  • milk
  • flour
  • grated Parmesan
ingredients on marble counter.
  • large saute pan or stock pot

🥫 Storage instructions

Store any leftover pasta in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in a saucepan with a little additional milk or chicken broth. It won’t be perfect, but it will still be good.

👩🏻‍🍳 Expert tips

  • Do not overcook your pasta. It is ok if the pasta is on the firm side as it will continue to cook a little if added to the sauce.
  • For this recipe, it’s helpful to have everything pre-measured and chopped since it will move fast.
  • Use a pan that is large enough to hold all the sauce plus all the cooked pasta. I like a wide, deep sauté pan, but a large saucepan will work as well.

📘 Related Recipes

🍽 Serve it with

Any green salad will work well on the side of this meal

And of course, you must serve bread! This soft Italian bread recipe would be perfect.

An easy, creamy dessert like vanilla cream pie is just the right balance.

close up of pasta wirh creamy sauce.

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Recipe Rating




3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this for supper tonight – so good! The chicken came out tender and moist and everything was very flavorful together. Easy to put together even while I had multiple things going on. Added in some sautéed cubanelle peppers and topped off bowls with the bacon, chopped tomatoes, shaved parm , and fresh basil. A keeper! Thanks, Katie 😁