Garlic and Chicken Pasta with Spinach

Light and healthful, as far as pasta dishes go, this recipe is packed with flavor and makes for a very satisfying meal. A major plus with this meal is it is made start to finish in thirty minutes or less. Love that. I have to mention here that I am also heartily in love with the garlic/lemon/basil combination. Delicious.

What To ServeI served this with the garlic knots I praised earlier and it was a fantastic weeknight dinner.

Garlic Chicken Pasta with Spinach

Garlic Chicken Pasta with Spinach


  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this doesn’t add spiciness – just the right amount of flavor)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 6 tablespoons juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Meanwhile, combine garlic, pepper flakes and oil in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave until garlic is golden and fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and cut into bite-size pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1 tablespoon of the garlic/red pepper oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat until oil is rippling. Add chicken and cook until well browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta to boiling water and cook until tender but still slightly firm (al dente). Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Drain pasta and return to the pot. Stir in chicken, spinach, basil, lemon juice, Parmesan, and remaining garlic mixture, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Country

62 Responses to Garlic Chicken Pasta with Spinach

  1. Lynda says:

    That looks so delicious and I love that it’s so quick to put together! I’ll be trying this one.

  2. Kristin says:

    Thank you for posting! I just made this tonight and it’s SO wonderful! I love pasta but often feel as though it’s so heavy, but this dish is light and really delicious!!! If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly recommend!!

  3. Rebecca says:

    Just wondering – at the end when you add the rest of the garlic mixture, is it just the garlic and red pepper, or all the leftover oil too?

  4. Lauren says:

    Looks wonderful! I am definitely going to try it!

  5. JoDee - Lacey, WA says:

    I really have to stop surfing these cooking blogs. That looks so good, now I have to make it. I love spinach, chicken, lemon!!! It’s going to be soooo good. Thanks!

  6. Linds says:

    This looks delicious and so light! I bet this would be good served room temp at a picnic as well!

  7. Melanie says:

    Kristin – thanks for letting me know you tried this and liked it. I agree that the light sauce is delicious and a nice change from heavy dishes.

  8. Maris says:

    This looks so good! I love spinach, especially in pasta.

  9. Jenna Consolo says:

    I made this last night for my family, along with the garlic knots, and it got rave reviews! So, so delicious! I am loving your blog! Thank you!

  10. Nikie says:

    Hi Melanie,
    I’ve been following your blog since last summer, and I love it! I need to throw my scale out the window, though! The garlic chicken and garlic knots are divine! Thanks!

  11. Maria says:

    I am always up for pasta!

  12. Seriously... says:

    I don’t remember how I happened on your blog…but I was just skimming some recipes and saw that you had your 4th boy. I’m due with my 4th boy today….so I just wanted to say HI and see how things were going for you 🙂 Hope you’re surviving. The fact that you have time to cook and post anything at all is giving me hope 🙂

  13. Melanie says:

    Susanne – you’ll have to let me know if this turned out ok serving it cold. It’s a great idea. I’m really glad you liked it!

  14. Melanie says:

    Seriously – good luck with having your fourth boy! I hope by now you’ve gone into labor and aren’t overdue. Thanks for your comment. I love hearing from moms that have all boys – it gives me hope that I can survive, too!

  15. The Austerity Kitchen says:

    Pasta is so brilliant! I live off the stuff. Boil eight minutes, add some beans, tomatoes and whatever have you — presto! A yummy dinner. Great recipe.

  16. Melanie says:

    Dad of the Year – thanks for your comment! I’m really glad you liked this recipe. Thanks for letting me know.Jenna – thank you, also, for letting me know you tried this and liked it! I appreciate it! Thanks for your nice comment.

  17. Melody says:

    These looks like you bought them from a beautiful coffee shop. I must try these!

  18. Kara@ Creations by Kara says:

    This looks just heavenly! It looks like a perfect spring dinner, can’t wait to try it.

  19. Melanie says:

    Margaret – glad you liked the pasta recipe. On the garlic knots – I usually just use the butter the garlic has been sitting in to brush over the rolls and I avoid the bigger chunks of raw garlic – that way you just get the garlic butter flavor.

  20. Leslie says:

    I made something almost exactly this all the time and it is always a hit! YUMMO

  21. Dad of the Year says:

    I made this tonight and it was delicious. I ran short of olive oil so only had 4 tbs. and it still tasted great.

  22. Christy says:

    Another great pasta recipe!! Keep ’em comin! This looks absolutely delicious!

  23. Susanne says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I just made this for a dinner I am taking tonight. I know it says to serve warm, but I’m hoping it taste as good served cold. I tried it and had to walk away from the kitchen or I might have eaten the entire bowl. It makes tons, and the flavor is perfect. Off to look for your bread recipe.

  24. grace says:

    garlic, lemon, basil. tragically, i don’t think i’ve ever had the three in combination, but i fully intend to take care of that posthaste. awesome dinner, melanie.

  25. Melanie says:

    Nikie – thanks for your comment! I’m glad you liked the garlic chicken and garlic knots! Thanks for letting me know.

  26. Margaret says:

    oh-that explains it! lol. That would have been much better!

  27. Ashlie says:

    Delicious! I will be having this for dinner tomorrow night! (I just need the spinach…) Thanks a million:)

    How are you feeling?

  28. Margaret says:

    I made this Sat and liked it. I should have done the pene a little longer-it was chewy. I used a box of frozen spinach (10 oz)thawed for the spinach. DH doesn’t like spinach but he ate it and liked it! The leftovers today were even better. I thought the garlic knots were a little strange-the garlic on them tasted a little raw. I rebaked them for 5 min and they were much better. They were even better today too.

  29. Beansieleigh says:

    My gosh, a way to get my kids to eat spinach!! I’m giving this one a try! Have a great weekend!

  30. Netts Nook says:

    Pasta works for me yours looks great.

  31. Melanie says:

    Beckie – would it help if I told you the lemon isn’t an overwhelming flavor? If you don’t like lemon, I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to leave it out, but you might try substituting the same amount of chicken broth or other liquid. Good luck!

  32. Beckie says:

    Is it possible to leave the lemon out of this dish?? Both my husband and I aren’t big lemon fans when it comes to chicken.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Just made this, came out perfect, thanks for the great recipie. Used whole wheat pasta and it was fantastic.

  34. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – way to healthify the recipe even more with whole wheat pasta – I’m so glad you liked this!

  35. Melanie says:

    Anonymous – I’m glad you liked this salad, even cold. That’s great to know in case I ever want to serve it that way. Thank you!

  36. Anonymous says:

    I made this the other night. Through a series of unfortunate events, my husband ended up coming home quite late, so the pasta had a chance to get pretty cool. We went ahead and ate it as it was, and really enjoyed it cold. Kind of reminded us of a fancy pasta salad.

  37. Melanie says:

    Michelle – I think the addition of feta on top would be absolutely scrumptious. Thanks for letting me know you and your boyfriend liked it!

  38. Michelle says:

    Wow! I’m so glad I found this recipe.. I happened to have all the ingredients and made it as stated.. and it was yummy!! Added some feta cheese crumbled on top when serving, and that was really good.. My boyfriend said it’s his new favorite recipe that I cook.. thank you!

  39. Megan says:

    I think I am going to attempt this tonight but with shrimp! eww? tastey? hmmm.. we will see 🙂 I think it could be yummy! and fast fast…shrimp cooks so quickly. Thanks Melanie! Your the best.

  40. mia says:

    This is on the menu for tonight, and I think it would be awesome with shrimp, I wish Megan would have come back and said how it turned out, HAHA!! I love shrimp!! Okay, this tonight (with shrimp) and the roasted chicken tomorrow 🙂 🙂 I’ll letcha know how it turns out!!!

    ~Thanks as always. Man I love your blog. Takes the ‘planning’ out of meal time really and that is the part that I hated, I never realized til I found your blog that I actually don’t mind COOKING, just hate the PLANNING!!! 🙂

  41. Janae says:

    Really delicious! And come to think of it…my kids just ate spinach and loved it! Two thumbs way up!

  42. Tannis says:

    We loved this one almost as much as the Lemon Cream Pasta. Must have something to do with the lemon and cheese combo. So good!

  43. […] With Food Last night, we had this yummy pasta dish that you can find here. It was scrumptious! What is it about garlic, fresh lemon and spinach that makes you want to […]

  44. Jahna says:

    So I tried this tonight. I love it. I added a tad of whipping cream and flour to thicken the sauce a little…(the true story is: I dropped a lot of the water from the pasta on the floor which could have ended really bad since I was barefoot.) Anyway, I did this and the garlic knots and I am keeping it and passing it on. Thanks

  45. Danielle says:

    Made this for my partner and I, was really delicious! And lots of leftovers for lunches 🙂 Thanks!!

  46. Melanie says:

    Just a quick question before I attempt this… 1 tbsp doesn’t sound like enough to cook the breasts in… Or is it?? Thanks!! It sounds wonderful

  47. Mel says:

    Melanie – it doesn’t seem like a lot but if you use a nonstick skillet, it definitely helps to get away with less oil.

  48. Lorie says:

    Hi Melanie, do you add the spinach to the pasta during the last minutes of cooking or do you add it dry?

  49. Mel says:

    Hi Lorie – I just stir in the fresh spinach at the end and it wilts slightly from the heat of the pasta but still is a bit tender. If you want it more cooked, you could definitely add it with the pasta for the last 30 seconds to minute of cooking.

  50. Dani from New Zealand says:

    Absolutely LOVED this meal!
    Added oregano as well as the basil and it tasted devine!

    Thanks so much for your site. Your meals are a huge hit all the way down this way of the world! 🙂

  51. Della says:

    Absolutely delicious! Pasta isn’t usually my thing, but this dish is a 10+! I’ve just spent the last hour perusing your site and have bookmarked so many things to try that I know are going to be bit hits in my household. Thank you so much!

  52. Shannon says:

    I am making this tonight but instead of penne, I am using bow tie. I can’t wait to make this.

  53. Nicole says:

    OH man this is good! I got so much spinach with my bountiful baskets and I’m a bit tired of eating so much salad. I was looking for a pasta recipe that had spinach AND with ingredients that I already had in my kitchen and this was perfect! Scott is such a picky eater lately and won’t eat anything flavored, and he actually really loved this dish. Thanks a bunch 🙂

  54. alyssa says:

    Just looking up this recipe. Making it for about the 10th time- so yummy and easy! Thanks!

  55. Made this recipe and it was delicious!! Just re-posted the recipe with a few minor changes on my blog because it was SO good! Thanks for sharing!

  56. Katie says:

    This is so good. I made it with fettuccine because it was all I had on hand, and it was very delicious. Definitely going into the rotation!

  57. meg says:

    Oh this is good!!!! My four year old stopped eating it to announce, “I love this dinner!” That’s the best compliment ever in my book:) seriously Mel, thank you for what you do!!! These recipes have become part of our little family. Thanks for your help in my raising my kids as well as possible:)

  58. Sherri says:

    Oh my gosh! This was awesome! I had a rotisserie chicken so I used it instead of cooking raw breasts. I shredded it and sautéed it in 2 tbsps of the oil mixture to heat it back up. I then added the spinach to the chicken and covered it to wilt while I boiled the pasta. Once the pasta was done I added the chicken/spinach mixture and the rest of the ingredients – DELICIOUS!! I will definitely make this again and again. So easy with the rotisserie chicken. Thank you!

  59. Laura says:

    This is one of my family’s favorite meals. My husband says it tastes like it came from a restaurant, and my three boys all love it, too. My favorite way to make it is to grill extra of your delicious Island Chicken on the weekend, and use a couple of the chicken breasts in this recipe!

  60. Angelica says:

    I love this pasta dish! It highly recommend this dish to anyone, especially someone who loves chicken breast and pasta like me lol

  61. Joan says:

    This is an extremely delicious pasta – loved it and so quick to prepare. Absolutely delicious! (Did I say that already?)

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