For this chicken pasta dinner, the pasta, chicken, and creamy sauce cook right in the baking dish for an easy one-pan meal.
This recipe is essentially an oven-baked version of Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. The sauce is as delicious and creamy as the American alfredo that you might find at Olive Garden, but with the ease of a one-pan, dump-and-go dinner. The dry uncooked pasta cooks right into the casserole dish, so there’s no need to boil the noodles ahead of time. And the dreamy creamy sauce (which surprisingly has less cream than most recipes and no butter) is wonderfully smooth and cheesy. The chicken cooks right in there too, so it’s really just the easiest chicken pasta bake out there, and the tastiest too!
Note that you’ll need a deep, 9×13-inch casserole dish for the long fettuccine noodles, not only to accommodate the length without having to break the noodles in half, but also for the depth because they need a lot of liquid while cooking in the oven.
This recipe is done mostly in the oven and is pretty hands-off. And, amazingly, most of the ingredients are probably things that you already have on hand. The ingredients are: chicken stock, fettuccine noodles, uncooked chicken tenderloin (or chicken thighs), heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
How To Make A Chicken Pasta Bake
I often just make chicken pasta bakes by using leftover cooked pasta, cooked chicken, tomato sauce, and shredded cheese. You mix up the pasta, chicken, and sauce with half of the cheese. Put it into a casserole dish and then top it with the rest of the cheese. Bake it until it’s heated through, which will usually be at 350F for 30-40 minutes.
But, a lot of times I want a pasta bake but I don’t already have cooked pasta and cooked chicken. Going through the effort of boiling pasta on the stove and cooking chicken, and then combining it all with sauce and cheese, and then baking it, is all just too time-consuming, especially for a weeknight. And so, instead, I do the version of a chicken pasta bake in the recipe below, where the pasta and the chicken cook in the oven in the sauce. It’s so easy, and it’s seriously delicious too.
How To Cook Pasta In The Oven
For this recipe, the pasta actually cooks in liquid in the oven. This is a great technique to know how to do so I’m explaining a bit more about it here.
When boiling any kind of pasta on the stovetop, there’s usually a high ratio of salted water to pasta, but we never think about just how much liquid the pasta is absorbing before it’s considered “done.” It’s a lot—anywhere from two to three cups.
For this to work in the oven, two things need to happen:
- The pasta has to be fully submerged in enough liquid (4 cups in this case)
- The liquid has to come to a boil in the oven (or it will take a long time for the pasta to soften)
Using a deep, 9×13-inch casserole dish is key. It’s wide and deep enough to fit enough liquid for submerging the fettuccine, but still shallow enough to allow the liquid to come to a boil when tightly covered with aluminum foil (another crucial step).
Pour 3 cups of chicken stock and 1 cup of water into the casserole dish and stir in one teaspoon of salt. Add the fettuccine and swish it around so that the liquid can seep between every noodle. Add the chicken tenderloin pieces on top of the fettuccine, and then cover the dish TIGHTLY with aluminum foil to prevent any evaporation. Bake it for 30 minutes. While this is in the oven, you grate the Parmesan cheese and combine the ingredients for the sauce.
In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, like this one, whisk together a cup of chicken stock, cream, some salt, and the cornstarch, black pepper, and garlic powder until no lumps remain. DO NOT add the cheese to this mixture. It’s weird but true that not whisking the cheese into the sauce makes for a better sauce later.
Now, at first, the sauce ingredients will look liquidy, and you’ll probably wonder how it’s going to turn into that decadent, creamy, clingy, cheesy kind of sauce that’s expected for an Alfredo. The magic happens in the oven, thanks to the little bit of cornstarch that was added. So just keep going. It’s going to work out great!
When the fettuccine is ready to come out of the oven, remove the aluminum foil and set it aside (don’t crumple it up yet). The noodles will be just about done, but not quite – the pasta will look cooked in the middle, with some opaque areas on the ends, and might still feel a little stiff in some spots, but pliable. Using a pair of tongs, give the pasta a good toss around the pan to distribute the chicken and separate the noodles.
Pour the cream mixture over the pasta, add the cheese, and then toss everything together until well combined. The sauce will begin to thicken, but won’t be thick enough yet. Re-cover the pan using the same aluminum foil, and pop the casserole dish back into the oven for 10 more minutes.
Remove the dish from the oven, uncover, and toss the pasta again. You’ll see a creamy, cheesy sauce clinging to every noodle. Let this stand uncovered for five minutes before serving to allow the sauce to fully thicken. Don’t skip this resting step. It makes a big difference. But then you can dig in. This chicken pasta bake is best when eaten immediately.
Note: The total cook time will give you al-dente fettuccine. If you like a softer noodle, increase the first bake time to 40 minutes, instead of 30.
Frequently Asked Questions
In theory, you can use this oven technique (and the sauce) with any pasta shape, however different shapes will have different cook times and require different amounts of liquid, as you’ll see in my No-Boil Pasta Bake and my No-Boil Baked Feta Pasta. Tag me in your experiments as you try different pasta shapes, I’d love to see your results and combinations!
Chicken breast can be used instead of chicken tenderloin, however it can sometimes become rubbery from boiling in the liquid. Chicken tenderloins always stay tender throughout the cooking process and are quicker and easier to cut during prep time. If you don’t want to use tenderloins, I’d go with boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces.
The pre-grated, packaged Parmesan cheese at the grocery store contains additives to prevent the grated cheese from clumping. These are often called “non-caking or non-clumping agents.” Because of this, the cheese might not fully melt, resulting in a grainy sauce. Invest the few minutes it takes to grate the cheese yourself. It will keep the additives out of your homemade food, and make a better sauce, too.
Simply by removing the chicken or substituting it with drained canned legumes, this recipe can easily convert to a vegetarian version. You can also adding fresh spinach, escarole, or chopped broccoli just before adding the cream mixture to the fettuccine.
Yes! Actually, my kids don’t like Parmesan cheese very much so often make this with finely shredded mozzarella cheese, or with half Parmesan and half mozzarella. When choosing a cheese to substitute, just make sure you like the flavor of it, because it’s a main part of the dish and the flavor really does come through.
This is the easiest, and the tasties, chicken pasta bake! The fettuccine noodles and the chicken cook right in the baking dish along with a creamy, cheese sauce. Note that I recently retested this recipe and simplified and changed it a little bit. I’ve swapped out 1 cup of the stock for 1 cup of water so that you only need to buy 1 carton of stock. I also omitted the 1 tablespoon of melted butter that was in the sauce since it turns out perfectly without it. I’ve also increased the amount of chicken by 1/2 of a pound so that it is a better portion of chicken for 6 servings. I hope you enjoy these changes!
Listen to me explain briefly about how to make this pasta, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:
- 1 (32 oz.) carton chicken stock*, divided
- 1 cup water
- 1 and ½ tsp. salt, divided
- 1 lb. uncooked dry fettuccine noodles
- 1 and 1/2 pounds raw chicken tenderloins, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 8 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- In a 9×13-inch casserole dish, combine 3 cups of the chicken stock, the water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt.
- Add the fettuccine. Use tongs to move pasta around so that it’s submerged and well coated in liquid.
- Distribute chicken evenly overtop of pasta.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place pan in oven. Bake 30 minutes.**
- In a 4-cup measuring cup or medium bowl whisk together the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, the cream, cornstarch, garlic powder, and pepper until no lumps remain. Set aside.
- Remove baking dish from oven, remove foil. Using tongs, toss pasta to separate. Pour cream mixture over pasta. Add cheese, toss well to coat.
- Cover baking dish with foil. Place pan in oven. Bake 10 minutes more.
- Remove baking dish from oven, immediately toss pasta to coat in sauce. Let stand uncovered for 5 minutes before serving (the sauce will thicken in this short time).
*A 32 ounce container of chicken stock is equivalent to 4 cups.
**For softer pasta, increase bake time in Step 3 to 40 minutes.