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Instant Pot Pesto Chicken Pasta

Instant Pot Pesto Chicken Pasta is filled with amazing pesto flavour and healthy greens like spinach and peas. Try this one-pot meal for dinner tonight!

Looking for more easy Instant Pot ideas? Why not try my chicken fried rice?

pesto chicken pasta in a white bowl viewed from overhead

I’m so in love with Instant Pot pasta. Everything is cooked in one pot. No need to boil water in one pot for noodles and another pan for sauce. This is truly life changing for people like me that hate doing dishes.

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For those of you that grow your own basil, this pasta is perfect for you. There’s something about homemade pesto that takes the flavour to the next level. But, if you’re like me and have a black thumb (or just need a quick and easy solution), store-bought pesto works beautifully, too.

This Instant Pot Pesto Chicken Pasta is

  • fast
  • easy
  • flavourful
  • protein-rich
  • full of green goodness

Try it for dinner tonight!

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this Instant Pot pasta. See the recipe card below for exact quantities and full detailed instructions.

  • Olive oil
  • Chicken – 1.5-2 pounds, boneless/skinless, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Shallots– or onion, if that’s what you have on hand. We’re sautéing it for flavour!
  • Garlic – ditto for flavour
  • Chicken broth – this gives a lot more flavour than cooking with water
  • Rotini – I highly suggest this type of noodle because it “grabs” the pesto so well!
  • Basil pesto – you can use your fave store-bought variety to save time, or if you’re rolling in fresh basil make a double batch of this easy recipe!
  • Frozen peas
  • Fresh baby spinach
  • Grated parmesan – optional garnish
pesto, frozen peas and baby spinach in white bowls viewed from overhead

How to make it

First, turn on the Sauté function and heat the olive oil. Then add the chicken and sauté for a couple minutes, until it’s starting to turn white. You’ll still see a lot of pink. We’re not trying to fully cook the chicken here, just adding some flavour and it results in more attractive chicken pieces after pressure cooking. Then, add the shallots and garlic and sauté another minute until fragrant.

Turn off the Sauté function and add a bit of the broth to deglaze the insert. By deglaze, I mean use a spatula to scrape up any bits of food that are stuck to the bottom of the insert. This will help prevent a burn warning.

Next, pour in the remaining broth and make an even layer of pasta on top of the other ingredients. Press the pasta into the broth as much as you can, but don’t worry if there are a few pieces sticking out. The important thing is to have an even layer so they cook evenly.

uncooked rotini on top of chicken and broth in an Instant Pot

Lock the lid on the pot, set the vent to sealing and cook on Manual High pressure for 3 minutes. At the end of cooking time do a controlled quick release of the pressure. I like to use a wooden spoon or spatula to protect myself from any splatter.

Next, give the pasta and chicken a stir. There should only be a bit of liquid left at the bottom of the insert, but if you find there’s too much, simply turn on the Sauté function and let it simmer off for a couple minutes. Be sure to turn off Sauté before adding the next ingredients.

cooked rotini and chicken in an Instant Pot

Now, add the pesto and peas and stir until everything is evenly coated in pesto. Then stir in the spinach. Set the lid askew on the pot to let the spinach wilt and the peas warm up. Serve immediately garnished with grated parmesan.

pesto and frozen peas layered on top of cooked rotini and chicken in an Instant Pot

Tips for Success

1. Don’t stir after adding the pasta. You want to keep it on top of the other ingredients. This will help prevent a burn warning. Simply press it down into the broth as much as you can.

2. Choose a pasta that will cook in 3-4 minutes. A longer cook time could result in overcooked chicken. You can replace the rotini with another short pasta variety, but the cook time may change. A good rule of thumb is to divide the lowest cook time on the package by two. If it’s an odd number, round down and divide by two. For example, 7 minutes would round down to 6, then divide by two to get 3 minutes.

3. Don’t skip the sauté. Technically, you can skip sautéing steps at the beginning of the recipe and it will still turn out (totally fine to do if you need a dump and go meal!). However, you’ll get better flavour and the pressure cooked chicken looks more attractive if you give it the 1-2 minutes to sauté.

pesto chicken pasta in an Instant Pot with a wooden spoon inserted

What is a controlled quick release?

A controlled quick release is when you release the pressure in “controlled” spurts, rather than flipping the vent open all in one go. This is called a Pulse Release on some Instant Pot models. Controlling the release of pressure greatly reduces splatter, which tends to happen with pasta and soups.

Can I make it gluten free?

Yes, this recipe should work with gluten free noodles. Simply check and adjust the cooking time with tip #2 above.

pesto chicken pasta in an Instant Pot being scooped by a wooden spoon

Other Instant Pot recipes you may enjoy

pesto chicken pasta in an Instant Pot being scooped by a wooden spoon

Instant Pot Pesto Chicken Pasta

Laura Lawless, BASc
Instant Pot Pesto Chicken Pasta is filled with amazing pesto flavour and healthy greens like spinach and peas. Try this one-pot meal for dinner tonight!
5 from 2 votes
Servings 8
Calories 582
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Inactive time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1.5-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, 1-inch dice
  • 2/3 cup diced shallot (about 2 large shallots, or use 1 yellow onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb uncooked rotini
  • 1.5 cups basil pesto (store-bought or linked recipe (see note 1), use more to taste as necessary)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 5 oz baby spinach (about 4 big handfuls)

Optional garnish

  • freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions
 

  • Turn on the Sauté function. Heat the olive oil then add the diced chicken and sauté for about 2 minutes until just starting to cook (it will look like it's starting to turn white but you'll still see some pink). Add the shallots and garlic and continue to sauté another minute, until fragrant.
  • Turn off the Sauté function. Add a small amount of the broth and use a wooden or plastic spatula to deglaze the bottom of the insert, if needed. Be sure there's no food stuck to the bottom. This will prevent a burn warning.
  • Pour in the remaining broth, then add the rotini in an even layer. Press the pasta down until most of it is submerged in the broth. It's okay if a few pieces are sticking out, just do your best to make it an even layer.
  • Close the lid, set the vent to sealing and cook on Manual high pressure for 3 minutes. It will take about 15 minutes to come to pressure. At the end of cooking time, do a controlled quick release (see note 2). I like to use a wooden spoon to protect myself from any splatter.
  • Give the cooked pasta and chicken a stir. (There will be a bit of liquid left at the bottom of the pot, but there shouldn't be much. If you find there's a bit too much liquid left, turn on the Sauté function and simmer off the liquid for a couple minutes. Be sure to turn off Sauté before proceeding!)
  • Add in the pesto and peas. Stir until everything is evenly coated in pesto, then stir in the spinach. Set the lid askew on the pot for a few minutes to wilt the spinach and warm the peas, then serve. Garnish with grated parmesan, if desired. Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator and eat within 4 days.

Notes

  1. If you use the Easy Cashew Pesto, you’ll want to make a double batch (yield is 2 cups), and you will likely have some leftover. Spread it on a sandwich or add it to soup!  
  2. A controlled release is when you release pressure carefully in spurts, rather than flipping the vent all the way open right away. Some Instant Pot models call this a Pulse Release. Pasta is notorious for splatter, but releasing the pressure in a controlled way will limit the amount.  
  3. Inactive time indicates the time it takes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and release pressure. 
  4. This recipe was tested in a 6-quart Instant Pot model.

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Equipment

6-qt Instant Pot
Chef’s Knife
Wooden Turner
Large Measuring Cup

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 582kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 623mg | Potassium: 861mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2772IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 129mg | Iron: 3mg
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If you enjoyed this recipe, please leave a review below!
I’d love to hear from you!

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Hey, I’m Laura!

Creator of The Recipe Well


I love food and cooking, but hate doing the dishes. I use my nutrition degree to create easy, approachable recipes that will help you find your happy place in the kitchen.

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Recipe Rating




8 Comments

  1. Hey, just wondering what the serving size is that you used for the nutrition estimate? Thanks!

    1. Laura Lawless, BASc says:

      Hi there, the nutrition is calculated by dividing all the ingredients into 8 servings. This is based on a standard 2oz pasta serving and a 4oz chicken serving.

    1. Laura Lawless, BASc says:

      So happy to hear you enjoyed it!

  2. 5 stars
    This turned out delicious. I added broccoli instead of peas. So good, I had a little more water after cooking. I tried your sauté mode tip and the water was cooked off. This will be in my recipe book. Thank you so much.

    1. Laura Lawless, BASc says:

      So happy to hear you enjoyed it, Deepa! Thanks for leaving a review!

  3. Keith Johnston says:

    This recipe was delicious. Thank you. Could you possibly tell me how much less liquid I would use if I cooked the pasta separately and if I need to make any other adjustments.Prefer to cook pasta not with everything else
    Thank you again for the great recipe

    Keith

    1. Laura Lawless, BASc says:

      Hi Keith, thank you for the kinds words! I haven’t made it that way and don’t want to lead you astray with incorrect adjustments. But, I do have a similar recipe where the chicken and pasta are cooked separately, just not in the Instant Pot. You can sub any pasta for the orzo: https://therecipewell.com/vegetable-orzo-with-chicken/.