Chicken Florentine Pesto Pasta

We've used fresh spinach in this recipe, but you could easily use frozen. Just defrost and drain.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8


  • 12 ounces dried short pasta (bowties, penne, gemelli, etc)
  • 4 chicken breast cutlets (1 to 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine or stock
  • 8-16 ounces of fresh spinach*, washed, long stems removed and chopped
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (or more) pesto

*To wash spinach, fill up a clean sink basin with cold water and let the spinach soak in the water. Move it around a bit to loosen any dirt. Fresh spinach is usually pretty dirty, so you may need to do a couple of soakings. Remove the spinach and shake off excess water. Lay the spinach leaves down on a clean towel and pat dry.


1 Start cooking the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water (add enough salt so that the water tastes salty) to a boil. Add the dried pasta and cook until al dente.

2 Cook the chicken: While preparing the pasta, cook the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and brown the chicken breasts on both sides over medium-high heat. They don't need to be cooked all the way through, just browned. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

3 Sauté onions: Add the chopped onion to the pan and sauté 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the onions cook, slice the chicken into strips. Put any pieces that are cooked all the way through in one pile, and put the ones that still need a little cooking in another pile.

4 Add garlic, then white wine or stock: When the onions are just beginning to brown, add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the white wine or stock and boil vigorously until the liquid is reduced by half.

5 Add spinach, chicken: Add the spinach and the undercooked pieces of chicken to the pan. Using tongs, turn them over to coat them with the juices in the pan. Continue to cook, turning and stirring often, until the spinach is wilted and the chicken cooked through, about 2 minutes.

6 Combine chicken, spinach, pesto, pasta, cream: Turn off the heat and add some black pepper, the pile of cooked chicken pieces and the pesto. Stir to combine. Drain the pasta put it in a large bowl. Add the cream to the sauté pan and stir well to combine. Add the contents of the pan to the bowl with the pasta and mix well. Serve at once.

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  • Martha

    Please tell me the guidelines for a dish with heavy whipping cream. 1) Can it be served cold? 2) How long do you wait before refrigerating it? 3) How long can it sit out in a buffet before you must throw it out?

    Thank you. I’m leery of dishes with cream or mayonnaise.

  • Achieng

    Made this tonight and it was dee-licious. I loooove your recipes always turn out perfect.

  • Steph

    Made this for my husband and our 2 1/2 year old tonight and they both LOVED it. We all did! Thanks.

  • Bianca

    My boyfriend and I made this the other night and it was great! We added mushrooms to it, and it turned out great :)thanks for the recipe.

  • Jesica

    I just made this for my boyfriend and his friend, we all really enjoyed the end product. The only change I would make would be to add a little more cream and pesto, other than that it was a success. I will definitely be making this again in the regular rotation.

    Thank you Elise!

  • Taryn

    Not a deal breaker, but we had trouble with the spinach clumping up, making it difficult to achieve any kind of balance when we mixed it with the pasta – you either got a huge clump, or you got nothing! Any suggestions? We remedied it simply by sauteing another batch of leaves in more white wine … still clumpy, but more of it to go ’round!

    We cook often but do not work with many pesto sauces, so the flexibility in amount of ingredients in this recipe challenged our ability to get the portions right. Our pasta to sauce ratio was WAY too high initially (we did about 13oz of each to start), and we wound up adding not only more spinach but lots of salt, pepper and pesto. We found that adding a splash of lemon juice really aiding in adjusting the strength of the flavor to our liking. Maybe vinegar then or at an earlier stage would have the same effect?

    The final product was delicious. This has been my go-to site for recipes for several years now! (Last night we made the mango chicken curry – super yummy!)

  • Keith

    Excellent recipe! A little addition I made was to dry-saute some cremini mushrooms at the same time you cook your chicken, then throw them into the main pan right after the garlic. I think it complemented the other flavors nicely.

  • Marc The healthy food lover

    I made this recipe yesterday evening as surprise for my wife. She loves pasta, pesto and french wine. How wonderful it was.It has been a long time I did not cook for her and i wanted to make something special. SHE LOVED IT!!!! so thank a lot for this great recipe.

  • Caitlin McKee

    i made this last night and it was a hit. i did use a little more pesto as suggested, and did half stock half wine, which i think turned out wonderfully. keep the good recipes coming.

  • Hilary

    Made it yesterday and it was lovely. There wasn’t any spinach, fresh or frozen, at my supermarket (I live in a country that’s pretty hit or miss, regarding what’s available at the shops), so I used broccoli and mushrooms, pre-steaming them slightly to get the cooking times right. So technically, I guess it wasn’t Chicken Florentine, but it still tasted super. The pesto is a great addition and it all reheats well! Many thanks for the recipe :)

  • Nikki

    I made this last night and it was a huge hit with my fiance and I! Such a great, fresh summer pasta dish. I used some sun dried tomato marinated chicken breasts I got at the meat counter, and didn’t add the cream because I didn’t think it needed it. Also used frozen spinach – I’m sure fresh is tastier, but frozen was just fine. I added one fresh diced tomato near the end, which I thought was a good touch, especially if you have yummy home-grown tomatoes. Thank you for the great recipe!

  • Janice

    I made this last night and it was very good. I put in more pesto and LOTS of spinach. The spinach got more cooked than I like it. Next time, I will put the undercooked chicken in, cook for about a minute or until done, and THEN I will put in the spinach and cook until just barely wilted. Once you turn off the heat to stir in the rest of the ingredients, the heat from the food will further cook the spinach. Just a personal preference–I don’t like my vegis overcooked.

  • Lynn

    I do a very similar dish, using basil pesto, and the addition of peas.

  • Fortycloves

    I happen to agree with you. On it’s own, chicken florentine isn’t terribly exciting, but pesto wakes everything up. I’d love to add some toasted pine nuts for a bit of crunch, as well!

  • Jennifer Anderson

    Jaime- We are also a nut allergy household, but I missed the nutty taste when I made pesto without them. I have turned to lightly salted pepitas (Dakota Gourmet brand is nut free)as a substitute. They have a light flavor that blends perfectly.

    Brilliant suggestion, thank you Jennifer! ~Elise

  • sheri

    This looks like the ideal recipe for my son- fast, yummy, not expensive, and made with stuff around the house. But he cooks for only one. How do you think this recipe would reheat? Could he halve it, eat one part tonight and eat the other tomorrow or the next day? Will the spinach get too smelly? I love reading your recipes and try a bunch of them.

    I reheated the leftovers in the microwave and loved them. ~Elise

  • Jaime

    Any thoughts on substitutions for the nuts? We have nut allergies in our house.

    I would make your own pesto from scratch without nuts. Works fine. ~Elise

  • Easily Good Eats

    Sounds excellent. Could yogurt instead of cream work well or will it conflict with other ingredient?

    Given the wine in the dish, the yogurt might curdle. If you try it I would use a full-fat Greek yogurt. ~Elise