Panera Chicken Tortellini Alfredo

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This rich and creamy chicken alfredo tortellini tastes just like (if not even better than!) the now discontinued Panera Bread version. Made with a homemade alfredo sauce, this easy weeknight copycat recipe is comfort food done right!

Absolutely love pasta dishes? Try my summery cherry tomato pasta alla vodka, pasta with lobster cream sauce, or braised short rib ragu

a close up view of a homemade version of panera bread's chicken alfredo tortellini in a bowl garnished with herbs

Creamy Chicken Tortellini Alfredo Inspired by Panera Bread

Y'all they did it again. Another fan favorite menu item... off the Panera menu.

First it was my beloved chipotle chicken panini (a true Panera classic), then the alfredo tortellini. What's next? The broccoli cheddar soup? The white cheddar mac? They better not!

So let's make this nostalgic, creamy dish at home! I think this one tastes even better than the Panera recipe because we're making a rich alfredo sauce with fresh ingredients and adding some love with lemon zest and a little red pepper flakes.

So if you are on team Bring Back Panera's Chicken Tortellini Alfredo (yep, this too has a change.org petition! Y'all got a passionate love for your Panera Bread!), my post has step-by-step instructions and photos to help you make it at home from scratch, delicious and easy!

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Why You'll Love this Copycat Panera Tortellini Alfredo Recipe

  • Homemade Creamy Alfredo Sauce - we aren't using a jar here because the best alfredo sauce is the one from scratch! Not to mention it's incredibly easy to make and you get to control what's in the sauce and all its flavors.
  • Easy Meal that is Ideal for Busy Weeknights - this delicious recipe only takes 30 minutes from start to finish, an excellent addition to your weeknight dinners.
  • Simple Ingredients and Easy Prep -
  • Kid Approved - this is a dish that is sure to satisfy the pickiest tummiest in the house. Who doesn't love cheesy pasta covered in a creamy sauce?! Even my son, who refused to eat any sauce at one point, caved to the yumminess of cheesy alfredo.
overhead view of a bowl of chicken tortellini alfredo garnished with herbs

Equipment Needed

  • Microplate or Box Grater - you could also use a food processor to shred or chop up the parmesan cheese.
  • Chef Knife and Cutting Board
  • A braiser or large saute pan
  • A large pot for boiling!
  • A Whisk

Ingredients

Full ingredients, measurements, and printable instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Cheese Tortellini - you can use fresh tortellini or frozen tortellini. Boil tortellini according to the package directions, but just to al dente so they can suck up some of that alfredo sauce. You can find fresh tortellini in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store!
  • Parmesan Cheese - as always, use the fresh stuff! Good quality ingredients will always save you in recipes that are very simple. And the flavor of freshly grated parm takes the cake!
  • Heavy Cream - Americanized alfredo sauce is made with heavy cream. It's what was served in the panera chicken tortellini alfredo dish and it's what we are using here!
  • Butter.
  • Minced Garlic - I like mincing my own garlic, it provides great flavor. If you're not fond of chopping garlic yourself, use a garlic press.
  • Lemon Zest and Red Pepper Flakes
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper
  • Chicken Thighs - We're using chicken thighs! They're just so juicy and flavorful and reheat really well, so they're my favorite to use in most chicken recipes!

How to Make the Panera Chicken Tortellini Alfredo Recipe

chicken thighs searing in a braiser pan

Step 1 | Season the chicken thighs and sear them in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat.

Cook them through for about 5 minutes if you dice them up or about 10-12 minutes if you keep them whole. Remove the chicken from the pan.

butter melting in a pan with minced garlic and spices

Step 2 | Melt butter in the same pan with garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes over medium heat.

We really want to use the flavor from the chicken fond in the pan in our sauce, so as you whisk and cook the garlic you'll notice that fond coming off the pan and into the butter.

Cook for 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant, but don't let it burn. At this time, begin to boil your pasta water.

a whisk stirring a pan of simmering alfredo sauce

Step 3 | Whisk in the heavy cream and let simmer and thicken over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Once that's done, cook your tortellini pasta according to package instructions until al dente.

shredded parmesan cheese being added to alfredo sauce

Step 4 | Add the freshly grated parmesan cheese to your alfredo sauce. Whisk it in well over low heat until the cheese is incorporated. Taste, and season as necessary.

chicken tortellini alfredo in a pan

Step 5 | Add chicken and cooked tortellini into the alfredo sauce, give a little stir, then serve sprinkled with parmesan, a little pepper if you're into that, and some fresh herbs if you're feeling fancy.

Variations and Substitutions

There are a variety of ways to make the delicious pasta dish your own! 

  • Make this a fifteen minute pasta dish by using leftover chicken or some rotisserie chicken from the store!
  • Give your alfredo sauce a Cajun flair! Season your chicken with Cajun spices, make the sauce and add a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning. Toss the Cajun chicken and cooked tortellini in the Alfredo sauce and serve with a garnish of chopped green onions.
  • Sauté some fresh spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil until wilted. Combine them with the cooked chicken, tortellini, and Alfredo sauce for a yummy Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Alfredo Tortellini! The combination of the vibrant spinach and tangy sun-dried tomatoes adds a delicious twist.
  • Add a dollop of pesto sauce to your Alfredo sauce to give it an herbaceous and aromatic vibe. Toss the cooked tortellini and chicken in the pesto-infused Alfredo sauce, and garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
  • Use chopped chicken breast instead of chicken thighs if you're a chicken breast person. We can still be friends.
  • Try other cheeses like asiago or pecorino romano cheeses!

Pro Tips

  • You can pan sear the chicken in a separate pan while you make the alfredo sauce and make tortellini at the same time in other pots. You will have an extra pan to clean but this cuts the time down to about 15 minutes!
  • Save some of the pasta water - Reserved pasta water can help both thin and/or thicken a pasta sauce. Save about ½ cup of the pasta water, and if the alfredo is looking a little too thick, add a little in! If it doesn't look thick enough, add some of that starchy goodness and let simmer until the sauce thickens up.
  • Taste before seasoning - Cheese is naturally salty, and if you use salted butter that also counts. Taste the sauce before adding more salt, it's always easier to add than to take away in a recipe.
  • Alfredo must avoid high heat - heat can really mess up a creamy or cheesy sauce. We want to keep the sauce, from the melting of butter and sautéing garlic to adding the cheese, around medium low. Nothing bad will happen at medium low! 
  • If you ran out of fresh garlic, garlic powder does work in this recipe.
close up overhead view of chicken tortellini alfredo served in a bowl and garnished with parmesan cheese

What to Serve with Tortellini Alfredo

My mama always said that you need something green on your plate, so add broccoli (a classic) or a fresh green salad to your meal!

Okay, a great meal with pasta always needs garlic bread. It's a must! Or garlic knots or breadsticks if you want to go the Italian restaurant or Olive Garden route.

Storage and Reheating

Store your leftover panera chicken tortellini alfredo in an airtight container in the fridge. Refrigerate for 3-4 days.

Reheat: you can reheat the chicken alfredo tortellini in the microwave in a covered microwave-safe dish, heat your serving up in 30 second intervals and give a stir after each one so the alfredo doesn't get too hot in one part and start acting funky (curdling, splitting, etc).

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I freeze Panera chicken tortellini alfredo?

Yes, you can freeze your chicken tortellini alfredo! Cool it down to room temperature, portion it out as serving sizes into freezer safe zip top bags or containers. Freeze it for up to 3 months.

What kind of chicken should I use?

I use chicken thighs in my recipe, but any chicken part can be used as long as it's boneless and skinless. You can also use a rotisserie chicken from the store, just shred and add the meat into your alfredo sauce for a fast and easy dinner!

I bought tortellini that’s already cooked. How do I reheat it?

Cook the tortellini according to package instructions. Otherwise, boil a pot of salted water and reheat the tortellini in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Drain and add the cooked tortellini into your alfredo sauce

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📖 Recipe

chicken tortellini alfredo in a pan

Chicken Tortellini Alfredo (Panera Copycat)

Eden Westbrook
This homemade chicken alfredo tortellini tastes just like (if not even better than!) the now discontinued Panera Bread version. Made with a creamy from-scratch alfredo sauce, comfort food is done right with my easy weeknight recipe!
4.96 from 21 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Kid Friendly
Cuisine Italian American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 1343 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoon high heat oil like vegetable oil
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs, diced
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups heavy cream at least 36% butterfat
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 20 ounces refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil and thyme for garnish
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Set a large pot to boil with about 2 tablespoon of salt.
  • As the water is coming to boil: heat oil in a separate large saute pan or braiser over medium-high heat, then season the diced chicken thighs and cook them. Don't overcrowd the pan, we want the chicken to gain brown color and get flavorful. Cook for 5 minutes, until the diced chicken is fully cooked, then remove from the pan onto a plate. Set aside.
  • Turn the heat down to medium under the braiser pan, and melt in the butter. Add the minced garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Stir it around a little bit and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until the garlic is really fragrant. Don't let it burn!
  • Pour in the heavy cream and whisk to really get the garlic off of the bottom of the pan. Whisking to make sure the cream doesn't scorch at the bottom, bring the cream to a simmer for about 5-7 minutes, thickening it up. Around this time, your pot of water should be boiling. Add the tortellini pasta to the boiling water and cook til al dente.
  • Once the cream is thickened, turn the heat to low and add the parmesan cheese. Whisk it in well until fully incorporated. Give the sauce a taste and season as needed with kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Add the cooked chicken and cooked tortellini pasta to the sauce, tossing gently. The tortellini will absorb some of the sauce, which is why we didn't want to overcook it in the pot.
  • Serve hot with fresh herbs and parmesan cheese as garnish!

Notes

Storage and Reheating

Store your leftover panera chicken tortellini alfredo in an airtight container in the fridge. Refrigerate for 3-4 days.
Reheat: you can reheat the chicken alfredo tortellini in the microwave in a covered microwave-safe dish, heat your serving up in 30 second intervals and give a stir after each one so the alfredo doesn't get too hot in one part and start acting funky (curdling, splitting, etc).

Pro Tips

  • You can pan sear the chicken in a separate pan while you make the alfredo sauce and make tortellini at the same time in other pots. You will have an extra pan to clean but this cuts the time down to about 15 minutes!
  • Save some of the pasta water - Reserved pasta water can help both thin and/or thicken a pasta sauce. Save about ½ cup of the pasta water, and if the alfredo is looking a little too thick, add a little in! If it doesn't look thick enough, add some of that starchy goodness and let simmer until the sauce thickens up.
  • Taste before seasoning - Cheese is naturally salty, and if you use salted butter that also counts. Taste the sauce before adding more salt, it's always easier to add than to take away in a recipe.
  • Alfredo must avoid high heat - heat can really mess up a creamy or cheesy sauce. We want to keep the sauce, from the melting of butter and sautéing garlic to adding the cheese, around medium low. Nothing bad will happen at medium low! 
  • If you ran out of fresh garlic, garlic powder does work in this recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 1343kcalCarbohydrates: 76gProtein: 51gFat: 95gSaturated Fat: 50gPolyunsaturated Fat: 37gTrans Fat: 3gCholesterol: 365mgSodium: 2070mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5g
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