Try this easy spicy chicken pasta recipe as a simple dinner idea made totally from scratch and loud with flavor! The use of fresh basil and garlic punctuates the sauce while hearty whole wheat pasta is filling and nutritionally dense.
Just How Spicy Is This Dish?
This spicy chicken pasta recipe gets its kick from the addition of red pepper flakes in the sauce. It's amazing how much heat a mere teaspoon can infuse into the finished dish. I'd describe the sauce as moderately spicy when made as the recipe is written, though you can use more or less pepper flakes depending on your personal preferences.
How Long Does This Take To Prepare?
First, you'll prepare the sauce base so it can simmer and start filling your kitchen with wonderful smells while you are doing other things like boiling the pasta and pan frying the chicken breasts. From start to finish, you can have dinner on the table in as little as 40 minutes.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Refer to full recipe card below for precise ingredient amounts and instructions.
- Olive oil - used for sauteing the garlic, a base for the sauce, and pan frying the chicken breasts
- Diced tomatoes and tomato sauce - I used plain versions of both, but you can try the flavored varieties (fire roasted, garlic and olive oil, etc) for a bit of extra punch.
- Fresh Basil - there's nothing like using fresh herbs in your dinner recipes, and the flavor of the basil really makes itself known here. If you only have dried basil handy, start with 2 heaping tablespoons and adjust as needed to get the flavor you need.
- Garlic - fresh garlic is cooked until golden in the olive oil to create an aromatic base for your sauce. If you don't have the 6 cloves called for in the recipe, use 1 and ½ teaspoons of garlic powder instead.
- Red Pepper Flakes - this is where the sauce gets its spice! Add more or less depending on how hot you want to go.
- Whole Wheat Penne - I love the nutritional profile and toothy nuttiness of whole wheat pasta. You can feel free to use regular or chickpea pasta as well. Other shapes such as rotini will also work well.
- Chicken Breast - I used 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast. You can use thighs if you prefer, or a mixture of both.
- Salt, Pepper, and Italian seasoning - used to season the chicken and adjust the flavor balance of the sauce. If you don't have Italian seasoning, use small pinches of ground oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram.
- Sugar - just a pinch of sugar is helpful for taking the edge off the acidity of the sauce. You won't always need to use this, so at the end of the cooking time give the sauce a taste and add the sugar if needed (make sure to stir it in well and taste again afterwards)
Can I Make This In Advance?
While fresh pasta is always at its best when consumed fresh, you can certainly make this dish ahead of time and reheat it when you're ready to serve. You can reheat in a covered dish in the microwave or you can return it to the stovetop on medium low. If you find you need more liquid when reheating, add a little extra tomato sauce (make sure you taste and re-season as needed)
Do I Need Any Special Equipment?
You will need the following to prepare this spicy chicken pasta recipe:
- A deep saute pan - its wide opening and deep container is ideal for starting the sauce while still having plenty of room to add the pasta and chicken later.
- A colander - just go ahead and put that puppy in your sink so you can dump in the pasta as soon as its done.
- A big pot - a big deep pot for boiling the (salted!) water is helpful for making pasta, soups, or stews... you need one in your kitchen!
- A meat tenderizer - use the smooth side to pound the chicken nice and thin for even and quick cooking.
- A skillet - a wide stainless skillet is perfect for pan frying the chicken.
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