This creamy lemon-basil chicken pasta is a weeknight dream recipe. It’s easy to make and finished with the best homemade citrus salt.
I just had my wisdom tooth removed, and on the evening of the surgery, I felt like I just wanted to cook. I took my swollen-faced self to my kitchen and cooked up this creamy lemon-basil chicken pasta. While I could only eat the soft pasta, my husband told me this was one of the best pasta recipes I’ve ever made. I felt like I would be remiss not to share it with you all.
The best part of this dish is the homemade citrus salt, which I’ve used on other pasta dishes like this lemon-basil squash pasta.
How to make homemade citrus salt:
The citrus salt is just two ingredients: lemon zest and flaky sea salt. Maldon salt works best, but kosher salt will also do. You can use regular old table salt, but it will be much saltier, so you’ll want to be careful using it as a garnish.
Simply combine the lemon zest and salt in a bowl and stir to combine. Homemade citrus salt will keep for 2–4 weeks in an airtight container on your container. You’ll want to sprinkle it on everything!
How to make the lemon-basil chicken pasta:
Once you make the citrus salt, prepare the pasta! It’s just a few steps and so easy to make. Here’s what you do:
- Step 1: Fry up the ground chicken and shallot. Add some butter and lots of spices. I love Sun of Italy Italian seasoning because of the extra flavor from Pecorino Romano. Add cherry tomatoes and a little water or stock, and simmer the sauce.
- Step 2: While the sauce simmers, cook up the pasta. Scoop out the cooking water and drain the pasta.
- Step 3: Finish the sauce by adding heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, pasta water, and cooked pasta. Finish it with lemon juice and basil leaves.
- Step 4: Serve it up! Spoon the pasta into bowls and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of that citrus salt. It’s a perfect summer pasta recipe!
Creamy Lemon-Basil Chicken Pasta
- Wide pot or skillet
- Large pot
- 1 large lemon
- ¼ cup flaky sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 shallot, peeled and diced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- Crushed red pepper to taste
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- ¾ cup water or chicken stock, more if needed
- 16 ounces rigatoni
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 12–15 basil leaves, a few reserved for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the citrus salt:
- Zest the lemon and transfer the zest to a bowl. Juice the lemon into a separate bowl and set aside. Add the flaky sea salt to the lemon zest and mix to combine. Set aside for garnish.
Start the sauce:
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wide pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, for 7–8 minutes. Add the shallot and cook an additional 8–10 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked through and the onion is softened. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Simmer the sauce:
- Create a well in the middle of the pot and melt the butter. Once bubbly, add the Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper to the butter and stir to combine until fragrant, about 1 minute. Toss to coat the chicken with the butter and seasonings. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or crushed red pepper to taste.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and turn the heat to high. Once the skins begin to split, pour in the water or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. The liquid should reduce by half. Taste and season.
Cook the pasta:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt and cook the rigatoni according to package instructions. Scoop out ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Set aside.
Finish the sauce:
- Pour the heavy cream and half the pasta cooking water into the sauce. Bring to a boil and add all but 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese. Stir often to melt the cheese into the sauce.
- Reduce heat to low and add the cooked pasta and toss to combine. Cook for 1–2 minutes to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding more pasta cooking water if needed. Finish the sauce by adding the basil and lemon juice. Cook for 1 minute more. Then, turn off the heat and season once more to your preferences.
- Spoon the pasta into bowls and serve with the remaining Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of citrus salt on each bowl. Garnish with a few additional basil leaves on top if you like. Enjoy!