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This creamy chicken bacon pasta features crisp bacon, tender peppers and onions, in a smoked gouda cream sauce that coats every bite with cheesy, smoky flavor. It’s a comforting pasta dish perfect for weeknight dinners, and uses only one chicken breast to feed the family.
We eat a lot of pasta in our house. It’s a great way to bring together vegetables and proteins in a meal that feels cohesive. This particular pasta dish is a quick weeknight meal that combines simple chicken breast, a flavorful cheese and a few key ingredients to create a dinner that we all enjoy.
One of my favorite ways to infuse a quick dinner pasta with flavor, is to use a highly flavored cheese. For this creamy chicken and bacon pasta I used smoked gouda, combining that with sweet peppers and onions, and a hint of vinegar that balances the smoky flavor of the cheese and bacon.
It’s a quick meal to make from scratch, 40 minutes and it’s on the table. Served up with some homemade garlic bread rolls from the freezer, or a quick and easy tomato spinach salad, and dinner is homemade and delicious.
Ingredients for making Creamy Chicken and Bacon Pasta
When I’m tossing together a pasta dinner on a weeknight, I’m after easy ingredients. I usually choose one to highlight and feature in the meal. In this case a smoked gouda chicken pasta was the result. I had this delicious creamy gouda in the fridge, and a large chicken breast. Here’s the ingredient list for the perfect creamy pasta combo
- Bacon – we used just half a pound, raw and chopped.
- Chicken breast – we tend to take it easy on meat, and used just one chicken breast, fileted into two to serve my family of 3 (with leftovers).
- Red bell pepper – we like the sweetness of red bell pepper in this recipe. Yellow or orange would be fine, as would another sweet red pepper variety. Learn why green wouldn’t be ideal, in my guide on bell peppers!
- Onion – I use yellow onion in most recipes, it’s mellow and cooks up buttery, but white will work as well.
- Smoked gouda – I typically find it in the deli section of the grocery stores, where they keep the ‘gourmet’ cheeses.
- Heavy cream – instead of making a roux, we’re using heavy cream to create the sauce really quickly and easily for a weeknight meal.
- Milk – this thins out the cheese and heavy cream for a sauce that clings without being gloopy.
- Pasta water – my secret trick for most pastas, is reserving a bit of water after your pasta has boiled.
- Pasta – this recipe makes enough for 4 adult meals, using just half a pound of dried pasta. We went with penne, but use your favorite.
- Apple cider vinegar – Just a splash really makes all the difference in your sauce.
- Salt and pepper – I always use Morton’s coarse kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper in all of my recipes.
If smoked cheeses aren’t your thing, please feel free to use an unsmoked gouda, a Munster, or a good quality jack cheese.
Tips for Perfect Creamy Chicken Bacon Pasta
As with anything made from scratch, I have a few tips to make sure this recipe turns out as perfectly for you as it did for me.
- Butterfly the chicken breast to create ‘two’ breasts and allow them to cook faster.
- Leave ½ slice of bacon unchopped and in the pan while you make your sauce. It will infuse the salty, bacon flavor in your cream sauce. Discard the piece after cooking (it’ll be soft and chewy)
- Reserve 2 tablespoons of pasta water when your pasta is almost done. The starches released into the water from the pasta help the sauce bind to the noodles.
- Don’t stop stirring, and be patient for a really creamy sauce. It’s best to cook over very low heat to avoid any potential graininess.
This recipe really comes together easily and it only takes one pan and one pot to make perfectly. With just a short few minutes of preparation, and about 30 minutes of cooking, dinner is served.
Questions about Making Smoked Gouda Chicken Pasta with Bacon
My pasta sauce is grainy, what happened? If your creamy sauce isn’t creamy, odds are the sauce broke due to too high of a heat. It’s very important to turn the heat down after sautéing the peppers and onions, and allowing the pan to cool slightly before adding the cream. Also be sure to stir constantly, and add the cream, milk, and cheese slowly.
Can I use precooked bacon? With a few tweaks, yes. Simply skip the step of crisping the bacon in the pan. Then add a splash or two of extra oil to the peppers and onions to make up for the lack of grease.
You’ll lose a little flavor that comes from cooking the bacon, but the gouda will still pack plenty of smoky flavor.
Can I store leftovers? Yes. The pasta stores well for up to 4 days in the fridge. To reheat you’ll need to add a teaspoon or water or so to loosen the sauce again.
Can I freeze this? I don’t recommend freezing creamy pasta sauces. The flavor will likely be fine, but the sauce will break and no longer be creamy upon thawing.
You’ll love this pasta because…
This easy weeknight pasta is really flavorful and a great way to stretch a chicken breast into a full meal for the whole family. With some smoked gouda creating a flavorful creamy sauce, you’ll have a delicious dinner on the table without a lot of drama.
We often enjoy this as a leftover lunch and it’s just as good on day two. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out some other delicious and easy pastas.
- Creamy Lemon Broccoli Pasta
- Marsala Cream Sauce Pasta
- Creamy Salmon and Broccoli Pasta
- Italian Sausage Bow Tie Pasta
- Authentic Penne Arrabbiata
- 1/2 lb dried pasta
- 1/2 lb bacon, diced
- 1 large chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1 cup red bell pepper diced
- 1 cup yellow onion diced
- 1 1/2 cups smoked gouda shredded
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons pasta water reserved while cooking
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Heat a wide skillet over medium heat and bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Chop all but ½ slice of bacon and add it all to the pan, the unchopped slice included. Stir occasionally, until the bacon is crisped.
- Meanwhile, slice the chicken breast in half to create two thinner filets, then season each with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
- When the bacon is crisp, remove it to a paper towel lined plate and add the chicken into the pan to sear on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.
- Remove the chicken, and add in the peppers and onions, sautéing for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Turn the heat down to low, then return the ½ slice of bacon to the pan, and slowly whisk in the heavy cream.
- Stir in the milk, vinegar, and pasta water, then add the cheese in handfuls, stirring between additions.
- Bring up to a gentle simmer and allow to thicken, then remove the bacon piece. Season with salt to taste if needed.
- Add in the cooked pasta. Allow to cook gently until thickened and creamy, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining bacon pieces and top with sliced chicken breast.
I’d love to hear what you think, feel free to tag me on Instagram @theflourhandprint so I can see how it went! Until next time, Happy Eating!
Last Updated on June 23, 2021 by Mikayla M
Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.