Sometimes you have plenty of time to plan ahead and prep an elaborate meal.
But as busy adults, we are often pressed for time at the end of a busy weekday, and that’s why recipes like this 20-minute garlic parmesan chicken pasta exist.
By prepping the chicken, pasta, and sauce simultaneously, this entire creamy pasta dish comes together in just 20 minutes!
And don’t be fooled by the creamy nature of this dish. As with all my recipes, this pasta dish has my own healthy spin.
It may look like a calorie-dense pasta dish with heavy alfredo sauce, but this dish has just 325 calories and 37 grams of protein per serving! Go ahead and enjoy 2 servings and you’ll be consuming nearly 75 grams of protein.
How to make garlic parmesan chicken pasta
This dish has 3 components: chicken, pasta, and garlic parmesan sauce.
As far as the pasta is concerned, you can truly use any pasta noodles you’d like. I like to use Banza, which is noodles made from chickpeas, because it adds some extra protein to the dish, but stick with whatever you like best.
Have you ever wondered why some pasta pairs better with certain sauces? Well, it’s all in the shape and texture. For example, tube-shaped pasta like penne is great for this dish as its hollow center captures the sauce, and the ridges on its surface clings onto more, meaning every bite is full of flavor.
Fusilli, with its spiral shape, is another good option as the spirals help to trap the sauce. It’s all about maximizing surface area to hold onto that delicious garlic parmesan sauce.
To keep this dish lean, we’re using boneless skinless chicken breast as our protein source. That being said, you can certainly use chicken thigh if that’s what you prefer.
For quick & tender chicken, I used my air fryer. By pounding the chicken breasts flat (like you would do when making chicken cutlets for chicken parmesan), they cook up very well in the air fryer at 370 degrees for 12 minutes.
You can grill the chicken, bake it, or even pan-fry it. If you want to make things even easier, you can even use pre-cooked or frozen chicken.
While the chicken cooks, I like to prep my garlic parmesan sauce to use my time most efficiently.
Instead of using heavy cream as the base of our sauce, our secret ingredient is actually cottage cheese!
When you blend up cottage cheese, it becomes silky smooth and the perfect base for a creamy sauce.
If you don’t have cottage cheese, or can’t use it for any reason, cream cheese would work as a decent substitute, although it won’t come with the added protein that cottage cheese provides.
To transform the cottage cheese into a parmesan garlic sauce, we’re going to whisk in some chicken stock, grated parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
The sauce will have a garlic taste at this point, but we’re going to kick the garlic flavor up a bit more by using some minced garlic as well.
You can really elevate the flavor of this dish by using roasted garlic, but I find that the flavor is great without that extra step.
Now that we’ve mixed up the sauce and cooked the chicken and pasta, it’s time to bring it all together…
In a pan over medium heat, we’re going to saute minced garlic with a little bit of butter. You can use olive oil here as well, I just prefer the buttery flavor.
The act of sautéing minced garlic in a bit of butter before adding in the cooked pasta and sauce is not simply for convenience. This method of cooking, known as sweating, allows the garlic to release its aromatic oils, which then get absorbed by the butter and subsequently coat every pasta piece when mixed together.
This is a clever trick to enrich the overall flavor of the pasta recipe without adding extra ingredients or calories, so you don’t want to skip it!
After about one minute, we’re going to add the cooked pasta and parmesan garlic sauce to the pan and lower the heat to low.
Mix up the cooked pasta with the pasta sauce to coat all of the noodles, then add the cooked chicken to the pan. Stir everything together and allow it to heat for 5 minutes.
The final stir and heat is not just to mix everything together, but it allows the flavors to meld and the pasta to absorb the sauce, taking on the wonderful garlic and parmesan flavor profile.
By this point, your kitchen will be filled with the most amazing garlic scent, so it’s going to be hard to wait those extra 5 minutes, but it will be worth the wait.
Top your chicken parmesan garlic pasta with some fresh parsley and/or additional shredded parmesan cheese, then dig in!
This pasta dish is not just delicious when served immediately, but it’s also a perfect choice for meal prep. It keeps well in the fridge, with the flavors even deepening after a day or two.
So, it’s a great idea to make a larger batch and enjoy a few days of hassle-free meals. Simply heat in the microwave or on the stove, and you have a quick, protein-packed meal ready in minutes.
The beauty of this 20-minute garlic parmesan chicken pasta is not just in its taste, but also in its versatility. This dish can easily be adapted to suit different dietary requirements, too.
For a vegetarian pasta dish, you could replace the chicken with a plant-based substitute or add more vegetables. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, choose gluten-free pasta like the chickpea pasta I used.
Feel like experimenting? Add in sundried tomatoes or spinach for extra flavor and nutrients. Pasta dishes are a blank canvas for creativity, so feel free to get carried away with it!
More recipes you’re going to love
If this recipe is appealing to you, that means you love creamy pasta, garlic, chicken, or all three. Well, you’re in luck! I’ve got tons of other recipes on my blog that I know you’re going to love.
Here are some other amazing recipes worth checking out:
- Creamy Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Alfredo Pasta
- Chipotle Chicken Pasta- A Creamy & Spicy Pasta Recipe
- Chicken Parm Stuffed Peppers (Perfect for Meal Prep)
- Chicken Parm Sandwich (Easy Air Fryer Recipe)
- Garlic Ginger Soba Noodle Stir Fry in 20 Minutes
- Buffalo Chicken Pasta Bake For Meal Prep
- 10oz Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
- 8oz (1 Box) Penne Pasta of Choice (I use Banza chickpea pasta)
- 170g (3/4 Cup) Fat Free Cottage Cheese (Blended Smooth)
- 30g (2 Tbsp) Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/4 Cup Chicken Broth
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Pepper
- 1 Tbsp Light Butter (or regular butter)
- 4 Garlic Cloves (minced)
- For this recipe, you can cook the chicken however you enjoy it best. I trimmed my chicken breast and pounded them down flat, seasoned with a seasoning blend, then air fried at 370 degrees F for 12 minutes. You can grill, pan fry, or bake your chicken breast if you prefer. Once ready, slice the chicken into strips or dice it up and set aside.
- While the chicken cooks, bring water to a boil and add your pasta. Cook the penne pasta based on the package instructions. It's recommended you aim for al dente pasta (if there's a cook time range, go with the shortest amount of time) because they will cook a little more at the end.
- Prep the garlic parmesan sauce while the pasta cooks. Start by blending your cottage cheese in a blender or food processor until smooth. Blending the cottage cheese will create the creamy sauce we are after.
- Add the blended cottage cheese to a bowl along with the parmesan cheese, chicken broth, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk everything together and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of butter along with your minced garlic and sautee the garlic until it begins to brown, which should only take about one minute.
- Lower the pan to low heat and add the drained pasta to your pan along with the garlic parmesan sauce. Mix everything up to coat all of the pasta.
- Add your sliced chicken to the pan and give everything a quick mix, then allow everything to heat together for 5 minutes.
- Garnish with some additional parmesan cheese and parsley, then enjoy.
- Blended cottage cheese is necessary for this one. I actually don't like cottage cheese on its own, but it makes the perfect creamy base for this dish.
- Leftovers can be stored in the fridge and heated up throughout the week.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1/4 of Recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 325Total Fat 7.5gCarbohydrates 34gProtein 37g