Incredibly delicious, comforting and satisfying but without being overly indulgent, this chicken and leek pasta dish recipe is made with crispy pancetta, a lighter cream sauce and finished with fresh parmesan and lemon. A must-try!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- The flavor combination is amazing! The sweetness of the leeks, mixed with tender chicken breast seasoned with smoked paprika, tossed in a lighter creamy sauce. The crispy pancetta adds that extra deliciousness to this pasta dish.
- It's a wholesome meal the whole family will love! Even my picky 8 year old gobbled up this dish! It's also impressive enough to make for a dinner party and I guarantee you, your guests will love this recipe.
- While it is a pasta dish higher in carbs, it's really not overkill when it comes to the calories. It's definitely a little indulgent but as a certified nutritionist, I always keep in mind the nutrients when I create recipes. This dish is high in protein and not drenched in butter or cream.
- It's customizable and easy to make! You can use any kind of pasta you'd like, from regular wheat, to gluten free, protein pasta made with chickpea or lentils, even zoodles if you prefer a lower carb option. Up to your preference! Besides the pasta, everything is cooked in one skillet.
- Leeks: you need about 2 to 3 small-medium leeks, which comes to 4 cups chopped. Use the white and very light green part of the leeks, discarding the tough dark green top part. Make sure to wash the leeks well, dirt loves to sneak in the layers. One of the easiest way to clean leeks is by slicing them first, and rinsing them really well under cold water using a colander or salad spinner basket, moving them around with your hands to get rid of all the hidden dirt. Dry them with the salad spinner or by setting them on top of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
- Chicken breast: I use 2 medium boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken breasts for this recipe, cubed in about 1-inch pieces.
- Pancetta: it's so flavorful, and adds a ton of flavor. I get it already cubed up to make it easier. You can also use chopped bacon in its place.
- Smoked paprika: I find that this spice goes extremely well with chicken and balances the sweetness of the leeks of this dish.
- Pasta: while I chose a long shaped pasta (linguine), you can use any shape that you prefer.
- Pasta water: don't forget to reserve about ½ cup of pasta water before draining them to help thicken the sauce.
How To Make Chicken and Leek Pasta
- Start by cubing the chicken breast. As always wash your hands, cutting board and knife thoroughly after handling raw chicken.
- Get the leeks chopped and cleaned up.
Season the chicken with smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta per package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.
Cook the pancetta until crispy, about 6-7 minutes.
Remove the pancetta from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet.
Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.
Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
Add the leeks and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Then add the garlic, cook until fragrant about 1 minute.
Add the Dijon mustard, broth, half and half, pasta water, salt and pepper. Cook until thickened about 10 minutes.
Add back the pancetta and chicken and mix in. Cook for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle fresh parmesan and lemon juice.
Add the pasta, mix in together. Serve and enjoy!
More Chicken Recipes You'll Love
- Air Fryer Chicken Cutlets
- Chicken Zucchini Boats
- Ground Chicken And Vegetable Stir Fry
- Creamy Dijon Chicken With Mushrooms and Leeks
- Chicken Pizza with Black Beans & Smashed Avocado
Tips and Frequently Asked Questions
- Don't overcook the chicken. It's easy to think that chicken breast needs more time to cook that it really needs, but when it's cubed, it cooks very quickly, and needs only about 3 minutes on each side. Also keep in mind it continues cooking while resting and it's added back to the leek sauce at the end for a little bit.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add more if you need, trust your taste buds when it comes to salt and pepper. Keep in mind too that pancetta is salty, so make sure taste before adding too much salt.
- Don't skip the lemon! Adding a little acidity will balance this recipe perfectly.
- When it comes to the parmesan, if you can, I highly recommend using fresh Italian Parmigiano Reggiano. You can buy a block, and shred or grate it yourself when needed. It'll keep fresh in the fridge for months! Fresh parmesan tastes incredible.
- Can I substitute the leeks for onions? I mean technically yes but it doesn't have the same flavor, the leeks are sweeter and have such a unique flair that make this dish delicious.
- This chicken and leek pasta dish is best eaten right away but you can store any leftovers in an airtight container refrigerated for up to 4 days. It won't be as creamy but still very flavorful.
- If you want to add some spice, feel free to sprinkle some red pepper flakes in the sauce.
Chicken and Leek Pasta with Pancetta
- 2 chicken breast medium, skinless, 1-inch cubed
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 ounces pancetta cubed
- 10-12 ounces pasta of choice like linguine, about ⅔ of a 1 lb pack
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil optional, if needed
- 4 cups leeks finely chopped, about 2 medium leeks, white part only
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon black pepper more or less to taste
- salt to taste
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ⅓ cup chicken broth
- ⅔ cup half and half
- ½ cup reserved pasta water
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- chopped parsley to taste
- Season the cubed up chicken breasts with smoked paprika, a pinch of salt and pepper, mix it well, then set aside.
- Heat up water and cook the pasta per package direction. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.
- Heat up a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the cubed pancetta. (no need for oil). Cook the pancetta until crispy, stirring often, about 6-7 minutes.
- Once the pancetta is crispy, remove and transfer the cooked pancetta to a bowl with a a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet.
- Add chicken to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Once the chicken is ready, remove it from the skillet with the slotted spoon, and keep it aside on a plate or bowl.
- Add some olive oil if the skillet feels dry, but you might not need any. Add the chopped leeks, reduce heat to medium, and cook stirring often for about 10 minutes or until leeks are tender. *watch the heat level as you don't want to burn the leeks.
- Add the minced garlic to the leeks and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Sprinkle salt and black pepper, then add the Dijon mustard, broth, half and half and pasta water to the leeks, scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan, bring to a low boil, keep the heat to medium/medium-low, let the sauce thicken, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
- Once the sauce has reduced a bit, add the chicken and pancetta back to the skillet and mix them in. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkled the lemon juice and grated parmesan over the dish and mix it in.
- Add the pasta to the sauce and mix together, cook for another couple of minutes until the pasta are well coated.
- Serve, add a little more parmesan and chopped parsley if you wish, adjust salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!
- Pasta: use any kind of pasta you like, from wheat, gluten-free, protein, chickpea, lentils. I prefer a long shaped pasta like linguine but any shape works with this recipe. You can even use zucchini noodles to make this dish low-carb, or half regular half zoodles too.