Pesto Marinara Mozzarella Chicken Bake

Let’s start today out with a bossy command why don’t we:

Get this on your menu plan. Like, now.

A happy accident when my parents came to town a few weeks ago, my intention of making this pesto marinated grilled chicken for them didn’t happen thanks to about three million soccer games, family birthdays, and just generally loads of poor planning.

After hanging my head in shame for being a very poor representative for what I preach all the time here (execute the menu plan already!), the pesto was lovingly repurposed into this delectable baked chicken dish, along with a few other ingredients, and it was amazing. Totally amazing.

I generally keep this homemade, easy marinara sauce on hand in the freezer, and that’s what I used when I made it, but you could very easily use your favorite storebought marinara for an even simpler (which is hard to imagine) meal. As for the pesto, homemade, I’m sure, would totally knock it out of the park – I tend to really love Costco’s refrigerated pesto which is what I employed here.

I know I harp on this a lot, but for super melty, gooey, mozzarella goodness, make sure to slice it off the block yourself (or shred your own). Preshredded cheese is coated with a powdery substance to prevent caking which makes it less heavenly when it melts.

All the saucy, cheesy goodness served over whole grain noodles makes for a perfect after-soccer, weeknight, worthy-of-company meal. We’ll be making this again and again, that is for sure.

It would also make a superb take-in meal if you dare give it away. Even better, just double it for your family, too. It’s easy enough you could feed the whole neighborhood and still have time to whip up a batch of cookies to really impress (you little overachiever, you).

Pesto Marinara Mozzarella Chicken Bake

What To ServeTossed green salad
Divine breadsticks
Roasted broccoli (or other vegetable)

One Year Ago: Sweet and Spicy Pork and Pineapple Tacos
Two Years Ago: Whole Wheat Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Three Years Ago: Pretzel and Toffee Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

Pesto and Marinara Mozzarella Chicken Bake

Yield: Serves about 6 (less if not serving over noodles)

Frozen chicken won't work well here - it will add too much extra liquid to the dish. I have a feeling this dish is super adaptable which means you could probably increase the amount of chicken to three pounds for heartier portions without changing anything else.

Remember, if using shredded mozzarella cheese in place of the sliced - grating your own mozzarella will make it extra melty and gooey (preshredded cheese is coated with a powdery substance to prevent caking which makes it melt less well than freshly grated cheese). As noted in the post and the ingredient list, I like to keep this classic marinara sauce in the freezer to use for dishes like this; you could definitely use your favorite storebought version in place of the homemade. My favorite storebought brand of pesto is Costco's refrigerated pesto.


  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup pesto
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) marinara sauce (my favorite homemade version here)
  • 8 thick slices mozzarella cheese or freshly grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 to 2 cups)
  • Hot, cooked noodles for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch (or slightly smaller) baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel and lightly season all sides with salt and pepper. Spoon the pesto into the baking dish and toss the chicken with the pesto until evenly covered, arranging them into a single layer.
  3. Pour the marinara evenly over the top of the chicken. Top with mozzarella slices (or with shredded cheese, if using).
  4. Cover the dish with lightly greased foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes longer until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is hot and bubbling.
  5. Serve over hot, cooked noodles, if desired.

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

39 Responses to Pesto and Marinara Mozzarella Chicken Bake

  1. I love pesto. It is one of my favorite things on the planet. And simple meals like this are my favorite! We have kiddo activities until late evening several times a week. This is perfect! **Just say no to pre-shredded cheese!**

  2. Brianna says:

    Oh man. I could eat this in a sandwich! A neighbor recently went through some hard times and this would be a perfect meal to brighten their day. Thanks, Mel!

  3. Jenn A says:

    Will definitely be trying this one. Printing the recipe now!

  4. Alicia says:

    This looks amazing! Pesto-with-anything is always a winner. I think I’ll serve it over zoodles. Thanks, Mel!

  5. Micole says:

    Just a thought…have you ever done a post on your freezer? I would love to see a picture of it. I bet it is a magical place:)

    • Mel says:

      Haha! It’s actually a scary place…but it is well-stocked even if you do risk losing a toe when you open it (falling ice cream everywhere!).

  6. Becky says:

    This looks so delicious!

    Do you have any thoughts about how this would work as a bake? Kind of like your baked garlic and fontina spaghetti? This would be great to serve to a group, but I always find it so challenging to keep spaghetti from clumping into a huge lump when I make it family style for a lot of people!

    • Mel says:

      Good question. I’d have to modify the recipe quite a bit to really know, but sometimes I go against convention (real foodies are cringing), and I rinse my cooked pasta lightly with cool water. It eliminates all that sticking and clumping and if it’s serves with the piping hot sauce, it still tastes amazing!

      • fmandds says:

        I like that you “go against convention” when you like what you like. If it works for you and yours then do it. Personally, our “against convention” here is over cooked chicken. We like it just slightly dry. Probably about 180-190 degrees.

      • CathyG says:

        Just a quick suggestion from a long-time lurker/fan: my italian MIL taught me to stir a ladle of sauce into the drained noodles. Just enough to lightly coat and it eliminates clumping but the sauce still sticks to the noodles.

  7. Paula says:

    This looks like such an easy delicious meal. I have a confession to make. I’ve never used pesto in any recipe I’ve made. I have had it at restaurants and didn’t care for the flavor. Maybe I had bad pesto? This recipe could make me a pesto lover!

  8. MelanieL says:

    Me too, Brianna! This recipe screams “put me in a toasted sub bun”! Of course, I also LOVE noodles so I will be trying this very soon. I’m guessing from the photo, my people will never know there’s pesto in there either! 🙂

  9. Kaylee says:

    This looks awesome! Would you serve it with noodles as a take-in meal? Stored separately, or together?

    • Mel says:

      I think it could do either, but for ease, I’d layer the cooked noodles in a disposable pan and spoon the baked chicken and sauce over the top, trying to keep that cheesy layer intact. 🙂

  10. Melanie says:

    Welcome back, Mel! I am a pesto virgin. It scares me. But given the simplicity of this meal and your rave reviews, I would like to try it. Where is the pesto usually located in a grocery store?

    • Mel says:

      You are funny. 🙂 there is usually jarred pesto by the bottled spaghetti sauce in the stores, but I find the flavor is usually too strong for our tastes, so I look for the refrigerated pesto at Costco (by the refrigerated tortellini). Your grocery store may have a refrigerated pesto option…I find the flavor is more fresh.

  11. Rachel says:

    Yes this looks awesome. Thank you!

  12. Jamie says:

    There used to be a restaurant in Orem, Utah that served pasta with alfredo, marinara and pesto. It was amazing! I will have to try this soon.

  13. Wendy says:

    Do you think pizza sauce would work instead of marinara?

  14. Teresa R. says:

    I love pesto. I have all the ingredients for this dish bur I’ll probably wait to make it till I get the refrigerated pesto at Costco. The pesto I have is the jar kind found in the pasta sauce section of the grocery store. Thanks for another great recipe!

  15. Melanie B says:

    Using all these ingredients that I always have on hand. . .Brilliant! Thanks for another meal to add to our regular rotation.
    Also, I love that you are becoming so famous (as you should be) you are getting recognized by your readers at Disneyland. Sounds like you’ve reached celebrity status to me!

  16. Chrystalyn says:

    Mel, do you think this would work to do the chicken , pesto and marinara in the IP? If so would you top with cheese after cooking and just let it melt?
    You so ROCK!!

  17. karen says:

    So easy! So delicious!

  18. Sara says:

    Hi there. Up nursing and couldn’t stop thinking about this dish. Could I use boneless/skinless chicken thighs in place of the breasts? Thanks!

  19. Sarah says:

    Made this last night! It was so delicious and a hit with the family. Can’t wait to eat the leftovers tonight! Thank you!

  20. Dianne says:

    Made this tonight, it was a hit with my husband which is always a plus and my little girl said “yummy sauce”. Another Mel recipe in the books!

    • Sarah says:

      Holy Cow! You have revolutionized dinners for me. This is the fifth meal I’ve used from your site and I’m again thrilled with how it turned out. Thank you so much!

  21. Barbara says:

    I made this last night after having the stuff for almost a whole week. I loved how easy it looked but I was kinda unsure on how the pesto mixed with marinara would taste. HOLY COW it was AMAZING! Even my picky eaters loved it and could it be any easier?? You continue to amaze me Mel…..more easy stuff like this is right up my alley! Thank you so much!!!!

  22. Melissa says:

    This was simply awesome!! So incredibly simple and so tasty!!! Definitely a keeper for sure!!

  23. Jocelyn says:

    This is delicious and easy. There was quite a bit more marinara sauce than we needed, so I will decrease it next time. Thank you!

  24. Jill says:

    This.was.delicious. And so easy. The flavor was excellent, thanks for another great recipe!

  25. Bri says:

    Minus my oldest son, we all really loved this meal! And it’s SO EASY! Definitely a hit. My dad came over for dinner, and he was a very happy man! I will use 3 cups of marinara next time because there was a bit too much sauce. But this was very yummy, and very easy! You rock Mel!

  26. Bri says:

    Oh, and next time I will slice the cheese like you did instead of grating it.

  27. Kristen says:

    Just made this tonight and thought it was delicious. I missed your comment about not using frozen chicken but it still turned out great. I used about 24 oz of marinara sauce and it did end up a bit saucy(I think from using frozen chicken) but I liked having extra sauce for the noodles. Thank you for such an easy dinner option.

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