Instant Pot or Skillet: Both Win with Creamy Chicken Bacon Penne

When an Instant Pot pro turns her attention to the most-pinned pasta recipe on Pinterest, everybody’s a winner and the result is Pressure Cooker Chicken Bacon Penne in a Garlic Cream Sauce. This recipe originated on Julia’s Album, where a food blogger and food photographer shares easy recipes for weeknight dinners. With 2.8 million Pinterest repins and 50,000 shares on Facebook, Julia clearly knocked this one out of the ballpark. Food Network declared the gooey, creamy, bacony and spinach/tomato-packed dish a “stick-to-your-ribs dinner (that) is cheesy and layered with flavor, but certainly easy enough to whip up on a weeknight.” An FN reader passed the word along to Pressure Cooking Today, and Barbara Schieving converted the recipe for Instant Pot devotees. Whether you try this recipe in your Instant Pot or skillet, you’ll see what all the fan fuss is about. Both versions follow.

Barbara Schieving’s Pressure Cooker Chicken Bacon Penne in a Garlic Cream Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 3 minutes; Additional Time: 17 minutes; Total Time: 30 minutes


  •  1 teaspoon paprika
  •  1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  •  2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts or 1 lb. chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  •  6 slices bacon, diced
  •  2 tablespoons butter
  •  5 garlic cloves minced or pressed
  •  1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  •  1 can (14.5 fluid ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  •  1 package (1 pound) penne pasta
  •  3 cups water
  •  1 cup half and half
  •  1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded plus more for serving
  •  1 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped 1 cup grape tomatoes diced
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning


  1. Add chicken, paprika and Italian seasoning to a Ziploc bag and toss to combine. Set aside.
  2. Select Sauté and add the bacon to the pressure-cooking pot. Fry for about 5 minutes until crisp, stirring frequently. Transfer the bacon to a plate, leaving the bacon fat in the pot.
  3. Add the butter to the pressure-cooking pot. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chicken to the pressure-cooking pot and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the chicken broth and deglaze the pot if necessary. Add the pasta and stir to combine. Add enough water to cover the pasta, about 3 cups. Lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 3 minutes cook time. When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker. Use a quick pressure release, or if necessary, use an intermittent release to prevent liquid from coming out of the valve.
  5. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid. Stir the mixture and taste penne for doneness. If needed, select Simmer/Sauté and cook for a few minutes more, stirring often, until the pasta is tender. Stir in the half and half and Parmesan a little at a time until cheese melts. Stir in the bacon, spinach, and grape tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Julia’s Album Chicken and Bacon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce

Prep Time: 20 mins; Cook Time: 20 mins; Total Time: 40 mins


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb chicken (chicken breasts or tenderloins)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (thyme, oregano, basil – combined)
  • 5 tomatoes (medium, chopped in large cubes)
  • 1 cup spinach cooked
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes , crushed
  • 6 bacon strips , COOKED, DRAINED OF FAT, AND CHOPPED
  • 1 1/3 cups half and half
  • 1 1/3 cups Parmesan cheese , shredded
  • 10 oz penne pasta (for gluten-free version, use gluten-free brown-rice penne)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese , shredded, for serving


1) In a large skillet, on high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add chicken breasts (or tenderloins) and cook on one side on high heat for 1 minute.

2) While the chicken cooks, sprinkle the uncooked sides of chicken with paprika and Italian seasoning.

3) Flip the chicken over and cook on the other side for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to medium, flip the chicken over again and cook, covered, for several more minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep the chicken warm.

4) To the same pan (but without chicken), on medium heat, add chopped tomatoes, spinach, garlic, crushed red pepper, 1/3 of the chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon (it should be already cooked and drained of fat).

5) Mix everything well.

6) Add half and half to the skillet and bring to boil. Only after half and half starts boiling, add shredded Parmesan cheese.

7) Immediately reduce the sauce to simmer and stir, while simmering, until the cheese melts and makes the sauce creamy, only about 1 minute (at most 2 minutes). Then, immediately remove from heat. Season with more crushed red pepper and salt, if needed.

8) In the meantime, bring a large pan of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain

9) Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce.

10) Add remaining half of bacon (already cooked and drained of fat).

11) Season with more salt if necessary.

12) Slice the remaining 2/3 of chicken into thin strips.

13) Top the pasta with chicken strips and finely shredded Parmesan cheese.

Read More: Julia’s Album: I Make Lots of Dinner Recipes and Most Popular Electric Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot) Recipes

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