Pesto and Marinara Mozzarella Chicken Bake
Impress your family or guests with this simple pesto chicken bake. One of the easiest pasta dishes to prepare and so yummy!
Let’s start today out with a bossy command why don’t we:
Get this pesto chicken bake 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.
However, 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 pesto chicken bake 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).
What To Serve With This:
Tossed green salad
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
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ to ½ cup pesto
- 4 cups marinara sauce (see note)
- 8 thick slices mozzarella cheese or freshly grated mozzarella cheese, about 1 to 2 cups
- Hot cooked noodles for serving (optional), cooked noodles for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch (or slightly smaller) baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- 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.
- Pour the marinara evenly over the top of the chicken. Top with mozzarella slices (or with shredded cheese, if using).
- 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.
- Serve over hot, cooked noodles, if desired.
Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
58 Comments on “Pesto and Marinara Mozzarella Chicken Bake”
I gave this 5 stars – it’s not the best recipe on this whole website full of so many amazing recipes, but what was best of all is that it was SO easy and everyone in my family loved it. This will definitely be on our regular rotation!
Yum. This has become a go-to weeknight recipe. I often prep it earlier in the day (or the night before) and it makes it as easy as throwing it in the oven and putting water on to boil for pasta. It’s a beautiful change of pace from “regular” spaghetti, and it’s wowed some guests from time to time (and who doesn’t like an EASY meal that is company worthy?). Occasionally I shake it up and use feta cheese in place of the mozzarella. I also use the Costco pesto, and since there’s so much of it, I freeze what’s leftover in pint-size freezer bags. This is seriously delicious. If you’re on the fence about trying it, do your whole family a favor and do it!
I just tried making this….left the chicken in for a little longer than called for. Everything was boiling, but the chicken was raw. So disappointed. I’ll try again another time. It smelled awesome, and my family was disappointed they didn’t get to eat it.
I was at the grocery store at 5:30 searching your quick meals (after a tactical error of telling children my plans to make potato soup for dinner and having them strongly rejected). I used a little over 2 lbs. chicken tenders and still used only one regular size jar of spaghetti sauce (20-24 oz). I would say the liquid/sauce ratio was just perfect! So quick and easy and delicious! I’ll definitely be making this again!
Haha, you aren’t the only one that has abandoned plans after adverse reactions! 🙂 Glad this quick and easy meal did the trick. Thanks, Anna!
Have you ever tried this in the crock pot?
I haven’t; sorry!
Made this for dinner last night. So delicious. We all loved it – hubby, myself and two kids (3.5 and 1.5 years old). After two helpings, my husband was eating sooonfuls from the baking dish on the counter and told me I had to take it away! Thanks, Mel! I’m a longtime reader and cook from your site weekly. Appreciate your delicious, easy, approachable recipes. Keep it up!
I’ve used several over the years and the Presto one I have now isn’t sold anymore (but it’s great because it’s huge) – however, my mom has this one and it’s great: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005FYF3OY/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Thanks so much for the feedback, Maddie!
It was pretty good. I think I would prefer more pesto.
I love this dish!! I make it several times a month. I agree with the previous comment about using a thick sauce. I made Mel’s marinara sauce and it worked well! Thank you for another delicious recipe!
Word to the wise: use a marinara sauce that is THICK. I had issues with too much liquid as other noted. I wish I had gone with a homemade sauce, but we needed to opt for a quicker dinner and I had some jars of our favorite store bought sauce, Victoria brand. Unfortunately, Victoria is extremely thin, so that contributed to the excess liquid in the finished product. Taste is great, presentation not so great. If you are considering making this, go for a thick sauce if possible. The recipe couldn’t come together easier— it really is great for a quick weeknight meal.
This was really tasty and so quick to put together, but mine was really watery as well. I wasn’t crazy committed to “patting the chicken dry,” so maybe that would help out? I would also season the chicken pieces more heavily–I felt like it was a little low on flavor. I would still make it again though–it’s an easy way to make something spaghetti-ish that uses chicken instead of ground beef. When I make this again, I think I’ll serve it with breadsticks (to soak up the sauce) instead of pasta. I think it’d make for a more flavorful dinner.
Also… I’d be hesitant to serve it to company without plating it first because mine looked so soupy/questionable in the pan. And even with plating, my presentation wasn’t nearly as pretty as yours, Mel. You’ve got skills! 🙂
So disappointed in this one. I’ve been making your recipes for years Mel and you are my go to website for recipes. I used half the marinara you called for and it was like chicken soup. So watery. 🙁
I have made this recipe a couple of times and my family loves it! Making it again tonight to take to neighbors. Thanks for the recipe.
Fantastic! I love how fast and easy this was! Thanks for avither great one Mel! You are the best!
Hi! I love this dish. I’m making this as a freezer meal for a friend, unbaked. Wondering how long you would think I should have her bake it, either from frozen or thaw first and then bake??
From frozen, I’d suggest baking covered for an hour and 15 minutes, then uncover and bake another 30 minutes until cooked through. If thawed, she could bake according to the recipe (maybe adding 10-15 minutes if it’s chilled).
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.
Oh, and next time I will slice the cheese like you did instead of grating it.
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!
This.was.delicious. And so easy. The flavor was excellent, thanks for another great recipe!
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!
This was simply awesome!! So incredibly simple and so tasty!!! Definitely a keeper for sure!!
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!!!!
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!
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!
Made this last night! It was so delicious and a hit with the family. Can’t wait to eat the leftovers tonight! Thank you!
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!
I think so!
So easy! So delicious!
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!!
Certainly worth a try! If you cube the chicken, I would only do 4 minutes in the InstantPot so the chicken isn’t dry.
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!
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!
Do you think pizza sauce would work instead of marinara?
I think a lot depends on texture and flavor – if you love the taste, I’d say go ahead and try it!
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.
Yes this looks awesome. Thank you!
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?
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.
This looks awesome! Would you serve it with noodles as a take-in meal? Stored separately, or together?
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. 🙂
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! 🙂
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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:)
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!).
This looks amazing! Pesto-with-anything is always a winner. I think I’ll serve it over zoodles. Thanks, Mel!
Will definitely be trying this one. Printing the recipe now!
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!
In a sandwich!! Brilliant idea!
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!**