Creamy, cheesy and so comforting! This family-friendly creamy chicken and bacon pasta bake recipe is indulgent, easy and the perfect pasta bake to feed a crowd.
With plenty of creamy goodness, this pasta bake is definitely saucy and never dry! What's more, this recipe makes enough for 8 servings so are perfect leftovers too!
A little different to my simpler 25-minute Creamy Chicken Pasta with Bacon, this version is not only baked with a generous layer of golden cheese on top, it also uses fresh tomatoes which adds complexity and depth to the creamy sauce.
For lighter pasta recipes, try my healthy, no cream Creamy Mushroom Pasta (yes, you read that right!), 15-minute Garlic Prawn Pasta, Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake (just 540 calories per serving!) and 20-minute Healthy Creamy Prawn Pasta.
Can't get enough of pasta? Take a browse at my Pasta Recipe collection.
- Chicken breasts - can substitute with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Thighs are also more forgiving and do not dry out easily.
- Bacon - since this is a rich and indulgent recipe, opt for middle bacon or short cut (aka back bacon) and not streaky bacon. Middle bacon is leaner and way less fatty than streaky bacon. If you're using streaky bacon, I recommend discarding the excess bacon drip (or saving for other cooking adventures) to prevent this pasta from becoming too oily.
- Fresh tomatoes - adds a touch of freshness and sweetness. Can use canned diced tomatoes instead if preferred.
- Heavy cream - I do not recommend using light cream as it'll yield a runnier sauce.
- Sour cream - adds a delightful and ever so subtle tangy touch to the creamy pasta bake. Substitute: cream cheese or Greek yoghurt.
- Cheddar cheese - a robust choice for pasta bakes. For a stretchy cheesy factor, substitute with half mozzarella cheese and half tasty.
- Sugar - I had accidentally left it out of the image above! Sugar will help balance and bring all of the flavours together. It's a must.
How to make chicken and bacon pasta bake
This chicken and bacon pasta bake recipe takes 45 minutes to make with just about 15 minutes of active cook time.
Cook the pasta
Like many pasta recipes, the first thing you've got to do is to get the pasta going. I like using penne pasta, feel free to use spiral, shell or whatever shapes you prefer.
Cook pasta according to packet instructions and make sure to season the pasta cooking water with plenty of salt. This makes a huge difference to the overall dish.
Whilst the pasta is cooking, get on with the creamy chicken and bacon sauce.
Make the creamy chicken and bacon sauce
Brown chicken breasts on high heat, flipping once, about 1 minute per side. This will partially cook the chicken and add caramelisation which means depth of flavour!
Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
When browning the chicken, spread the chicken into one single layer and season with salt and pepper. Since 1 kg (2 pounds) of chicken is used in this recipe, you'll have to do this in 2 batches or 3 depending on the size of your pan.
Then, in the same pan, saute onions and garlic on medium heat for about 1 minute. Add in the diced bacon and saute on high heat until bacon starts to caramelise and turn lightly golden. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes.
Now, add in chopped tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes or until tomatoes starts to soften. Stir occasionally for even cooking.
Whilst the tomatoes are softening, the pasta should be done at that stage. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
To bring it all together, add the chicken back into the pan with its juices and season with paprika, dried oregano, dried thyme and sugar.
Stir fry on high heat for about 1 minute for all the ingredients to get to know each other then pour in heavy cream and sour cream (or yoghurt if using). Bring up to a simmer then turn the heat off.
Taste the sauce and adjust for salt and pepper if necessary.
Bake on high heat
In a large casserole baking dish, combine pasta and chicken and bacon creamy sauce. I used the standard sized one at approx. 23x33cm (9x11inch) which fits perfectly.
Mix well, then evenly spread with shredded cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese.
Bake at 220°C/430°F for about 15 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven or until the cheese blisters and turns golden.
Baking this pasta casserole dish on high heat has two main benefits:
- Saves time. The cheese blisters and turns golden quickly.
- Prevent the chicken from overcooking. This is especially important since chicken breasts are used. The chicken is already just cooked by the time it goes into the oven. We want to minimise the cooking time as much as possible otherwise the chicken will come out too tough. One way to minimise this risk is by using chicken thighs which is way more forgiving and it is a more flavoursome cut of meat.
Allow the baked pasta casserole to rest for about 10 minutes (just like you would a Chicken and Mushroom Pie or a Lasagna!). This allows time for the delicious creamy sauce to settle into the pasta so it tastes amazing!
Look at that golden, crispy cheese on top of the chicken and bacon pasta bake! This is what comfort food is all about - no skimping on all the goodness, the cream, the cheese and of course, flavour!
Useful tips and tricks
- Only turn the chicken once when searing. The key here is to sear on the highest heat possible. About 1 minute per side is all that's needed and do not stir the chicken or turn it more than once. Stirring or turning the chicken often will promote excess moisture to be released from the chicken. This stops the searing process and you end up with watery chicken in the pan.
- Brown the chicken breasts in 2 or 3 batches. Just like stirring, overcrowding in the pan will drop the temperature of the pan and lead to watery chicken. It'll be impossible to get any golden searing when the pan is watery.
- Use chicken or vegetable stock powder instead of salt to season the sauce. This will add more oomph and depth of flavour into the pasta casserole! It's a useful trick I love using and one I swear by when making a simple Prawn Fried Rice!
- Rest the chicken and bacon pasta bake for about 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the sauce to settle into the pasta and I find the sauce thickens a little more too!
Good to know
Yes, you can reheat in the microwave, in the oven or even on the stove. Scroll down to see how.
If reheating in the microwave or in the oven, make sure to cover the dish tight to prevent moisture from escaping. Another trick is to splash in some water and roughly mix to add moisture into the pasta.
Anything you want! Some suggestions are: serve with garlic bread, a simple Greek salad or a garden salad. Check out below for more suggestions.
Since this chicken and bacon pasta bake is quite rich on its own and quite filling, opt for a contrasting, refreshing side. Below are some suggestions:
- Chicken Salad with dried cranberries, avocado and almonds - just take out the chicken and you've got a delicious meal!
- Pumpkin Salad with Spinach - extremely delicious with a little creamy goat's cheese drizzled with a mouthwatering and easy balsamic dressing.
- A simple Greek salad
- A garden salad
- Or, get indulgent and serve with a Cheesy Garlic Bread - why not continue with the comfort food theme!
Leftovers, freezing and reheating
Keeps well in airtight containers for up to 3 to 4 days in the fridge or 2 to 6 months in the freezer.
Reheating is simple enough, you can reheat it in the microwave, on the stove or in the oven. To reheat in the oven, loosely cover the pasta with a damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out in the heating process.
To reheat in the oven, place the pasta into an oven-safe dish and tightly wrap with foil paper (aluminium foil). Reheat in the oven at 180°C/350°F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until warm to your liking.
If the pasta is looking a little dry (soaked up by the pasta!), simply mix in a splash of hot water or chicken stock before reheating. This goes for any reheating method.
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you. 🙂
If you're active on Instagram, take a picture once you've made this recipe and tag me on Instagram! I'd love to see them!
Happy cooking! - Gen
Creamy Chicken and Bacon Pasta Bake
- 1 kg / 2 pounds chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 500 g / 1 pound penne pasta or other pasta shapes
- 300 g / 11 ounces middle bacon diced (note 1)
- 3 tomatoes large, roughly chopped
- 1 onion finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1½ cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- salt or chicken/veg stock powder (note 2)
- black pepper
- 2 cups shredded tasty cheese or 50/50 tasty and mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/430°F.
- Cook pasta according to packet instructions. Remember to season the pasta cooking water with plenty of salt. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
- Whilst the pasta is cooking, prepare the creamy chicken and bacon sauce. In a large non-stick pan over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and half of the chicken breasts. Spread the chicken into a single layer, season with salt and pepper. Brown both sides, turning once, about 1 minute per side. (note 3) Remove the chicken and set it aside.
- Repeat for the remaining batch of chicken and set aside. (note 4) Note, the chicken should be browned but not cooked through.
- In the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, onions and garlic. Saute on medium heat for about 1 minute. Add in bacon. Turn the heat up to high. Saute until bacon starts to caramelise, about 3 - 4 minutes.
- Add in tomatoes and continue to cook on high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add in browned chicken including its juices, dried oregano, dried thyme, sugar and paprika. Stir fry on high heat for 1 minute then pour in heavy cream and sour cream. Reduce heat to medium-low, mix well and bring up to a simmer then turn the heat off.
- Taste the creamy sauce and adjust for salt (or chicken stock powder if using) and pepper to taste.
- In a large baking dish (I use the standard sized one at approx. 23x33cm (9x11inch)), combine cooked pasta and creamy chicken and bacon sauce. Mix well with a spatula.
- Evenly sprinkle the cheeses all over then bake for 15 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven or until cheese blisters and turns golden.
- If you can wait, rest for 10 minutes then serve.