By Chelsea from Chelsea’s Messy Apron

A (Lighter) Creamy Penne Chicken Pasta Dish with mushrooms, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes. Easy, 30-minute dinner that can be made in ONE pot!

All throughout my high school and college years, I worked at a local sit-down restaurant. I loved the job, the people, and (most importantly), I loved the food on the menu! The menu would change every six or so months, but a few of the classic dishes always stayed the same. The creamy chicken penne pasta was one of the most popular dishes and in all the 7 years I worked there, this dish was never removed or changed from the menu.

So today I’m bringing you my own twist on this “famous” creamy chicken penne pasta. The one I’m “copycatting” actually had a few more ingredients (shrimp and artichokes), but I’m simplifying it a bit and lightening it up. As much as I loved this dish (and ate it way too often), I never felt amazing after eating a bowl of it. It’s loaded with butter and heavy cream which is delicious during the eating and not so much after.  So today, I’m taking out a few ingredients to make the prep faster AND I’m lightening it up a whole bunch. I’m not saying this is a healthy dish per-se, but the sauce is FAR healthier than heavy cream-based sauces.

It’s also still super simple and quick to make — you can have this on the table in 30 minutes or less!

Technically this dish can be made in ONE pot, but it does take a little bit longer to do it the one-pot route. For one pot, you cook the pasta first in the pot and then drain it. In that same pot, you can then quickly sauté the mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, remove those and make the cream sauce. Once the cream sauce is finished, everything gets tossed together and it’s ready to DEVOUR.

If you want to make this dish a little quicker, you can use two pots. One pot cooks the pasta while the other prepares the mushrooms + tomatoes and then the cream sauce.

Either way this comes together quickly and it’s so delicious! Feel free to double the cream sauce if you like things extra creamy, but it won’t be nearly as light of a dish with double the sauce 🙂


How to Make:

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 servings
  • 12 ounces Penne Pasta (use Barilla Pronto for super quick prep!)
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (prepared/leftover) rotisserie or grilled chicken, shredded
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Parmesan Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or oil from the sundried tomatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons white flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or chicken broth; stock has more flavor)
  • 1 cup milk (1%, 2%, or whole milk; 1% for the lightest version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Optional: fresh thyme
  1. Cook the penne pasta according to package directions*. Drain and set aside.

  2. In the same pot, over medium heat, add in 1 tablespoon of oil from the sundried tomatoes. Add in the mushrooms and stir for 3-4 minutes. Add in the coarsely chopped tomatoes and stir for another 1-2 minutes. Dump this mixture on top of the set aside Penne.

  3. In the same pot again (return to the burners and put at medium-high heat), add 1 more tablespoon sundried tomato oil OR olive oil and the butter. Once the butter is melted, stir in the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Slowly add in the flour, whisking constantly. Whisk for one minute.

  4. Slowly add in the chicken broth while whisking and then slowly add in the milk while continuing to whisk. Increase the heat and allow the mixture to get to a boiling point and then reduce and allow to simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally. Add in the Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  5. Once the sauce is thickened, add back in the pasta + veggie mixture. Add in the leftover rotisserie chicken (or leftover grilled chicken) and spinach to warm through (get the spinach to wilt) for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir the ingredients until combined and add in the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

  6. Stir and enjoy immediately garnished with fresh thyme if desired.

Recipe Notes

*If you want this dish a little quicker and don’t mind dirtying another pot, cook the pasta in one pot and as soon as that’s going, start the mushrooms cooking in another pot.