If you are looking for something comforting but unique without a bunch of fuss, this creamy chicken and prosciutto pasta with asparagus is perfect for you. Quick enough for a weeknight, but oh so satisfying and flavorful.
This recipe was originally published on June 16, 2015, and was republished in August 2020 to add better quality photos, re-test the recipe, and add more helpful tips.
I love my creamy pasta dishes. Especially with chicken. It is a combination that is especially comforting to me any time of year. While sometimes I like my creamy pastas rich and heavy with cheese (preferably baked in the oven and bubbling), there are times when I want something just as comforting, but lighter and more focused on the unique flavors of the ingredients.
This chicken and prosciutto pasta is my favorite creamy pasta recipe for those times. Lots of flavor from the crispy pancetta, pan cooked chicken, and fresh asparagus, but a creamy, light sauce that coats everything. And it’s fast. Maybe not under 30 minutes, but just over, and with ingredients I tend to keep in my kitchen. Add a glass of chilled white wine and it’s a perfect way to relax over a meal.
Prosciutto vs Bacon
Technically you can use prosciutto, bacon, or even pancetta in this recipe. All three ingredients are different ways of preserving pork belly, but each have unique flavors they bring to the dish because of how they are cured.
Prosciutto is the most unique in flavor. Because it is preserved to be eaten without cooking (though you can and make great crumbles), it is salty and slightly acidic. Because it is sliced so paper thin, when you cook it you get beautiful flakes that will cling to the pasta.
Bacon is the heaviest in flavor and fat, going through the least amount of curing. If you use bacon instead of prosciutto, you might find it almost has a smoky flavor, even if the meat hasn’t been smoked prior to cooking.
Pancetta is the most delicate flavor of these three options. Like bacon, you need to cook pancetta. Chop it up finely before cooking it to get flavorful, crispy, and rich crumbles. The disadvantage is that it is easy to overcook and lose the flavor.
Choosing what shape of pasta to use
Have you ever wondered why there are so many different shapes of pasta? It’s not just for looks! Each of the shapes has its own purpose in the pasta world. They all interact with the sauce in a different way!
Of course, a lot of it has to do with regional cuisine differences too, but outside Italy, that makes less sense. You should still try using different pasta shapes with the kinds of sauce they are meant to pair with and see how awesome it is. Here are some of the ways pastas specialize:
- Spaghetti: Best with thick sauces that cling, smooth tomato bases or something heavy in butter and cream like a lemon cream sauce with chicken.
- Fettuccine: Light sauces that don’t have a bunch of liquid. There is plenty of surface area for herbs and spices to stick to as they do with this Cajun shrimp and sausage.
- Rotini: Big pockets for thick tomato-based sauces with ground meat or lots of vegetable to coat inside and out. Great for baked dishes with plenty of cheese like this one-pan Bolognese.
- Fusilli: What I used for this recipe. Lots of tiny cervices for pesto and other sauces with little flecks of flavor. Works well in pasta salads and light dishes like artichoke pesto pasta. The size is also perfect match for the bite-size pieces of chicken and asparagus. With one fork-full, you can get a little bit of every element in the dish – exactly how it’s meant to be!
Creamy Chicken, Prosciutto And Asparagus Pasta
- 1 lb (450g) boneless skinless chicken breasts , cut into bite-size pieces
- 8 oz. (225g) whole-wheat fusilli pasta , uncooked
- 1 bunch asparagus , trimmed and washed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese , plus more for serving
- 5 slices prosciutto , cooked and crumbled into small pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon salt , divided
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper , divided
- Season chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown on each side. Remove to a plate and set aside.
- Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the asparagus to the water. Drain pasta and asparagus, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Cut the asparagus into smaller pieces.
- Heat butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, add garlic and cook 30 seconds longer, stirring constantly. While whisking, slowly pour in milk then heavy cream. Whisk vigorously to break up clumps. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to medium-low, add Parmesan cheese and cook, stirring frequently, until cheese has melted. Remove from heat.
- Toss in cooked pasta. If needed, add reserved cooking water if it’s too creamy or dry. Add cooked chicken, asparagus and prosciutto and toss to evenly coat. Serve with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.