Chicken, bacon, ranch, and pasta? Yes, please! This bubbling beauty is everything you want in a creamy, cheesy casserole and a dazzling dinner dish!
One of my favorite restaurant sides (though it makes a great lunch too) is an obscene baked potato, so covered with bacon, and cheese, and ranch dressing you can’t even see the potato any more.
Imagine, if you will, tossing all those creamy, crispy toppings into a casserole dish with perfectly cooked penne and even MORE cheese. That is my Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta in all its carbo-licious glory!
Chicken bacon ranch recipes are plentiful on the foodie web, including a chicken bacon ranch pasta Facebook has whole pages devoted to and hundreds (thousands?) of chicken bacon ranch pasta Pinterest pins.
There are lots of variations as well, and I’ve chosen the best ingredients to make a truly epic dish.
My Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta (not to be confused with the chicken bacon ranch pasta salad that’s served cold and missing several of these creamy, cheesy ingredients) has big chunks of chewy pasta, crispy crumbles of salty, smoky bacon, and tender pieces of chicken, all draped in a rich, velvety sauce spiked with the herby, garlicky goodness of our favorite salad dressing, sour cream and cream, plus three types of cheese.
Just a little time at the stove top to boil the pasta and about 30 minutes in the oven to get everything bubbly and happy, and you’ll have a hearty, indulgent dinner on the table.
One bite, and you’ll wonder where this recipe has been all your life!
I like to start with penne, one of my favorites for chunky pasta dishes that also happens to have a giant hole in the middle for capturing lots of the creamy, cheesy sauce in this particular recipe.
The decadent sauce itself is extra special thanks to Alfredo sauce, and I like to use double the amount I found in most other recipes. Alfredo sauce is a luscious, cream-based pasta topping with a touch of garlic and tons of grated Parmesan.
Many of the chicken bacon ranch pasta recipes use heavy whipping cream instead, thickened with a roux, but the Alfredo sauce adds both richness and lots of nutty, salty flavor from the cheese. It’s also a great time saver to avoid making your own béchamel.
The “ranch” part of this recipe comes from a package of dry seasoning mix. Some recipes (like the chicken bacon ranch casserole Facebook has made famous) use bottled ranch dressing.
There’s definitely more concentrated ranch goodness when you start off with the packet, and, since the bottled dressing is usually a combination of mayonnaise and milk, I can substitute sour cream for that mayo to add a little tanginess to the dish. Sour cream also tightens up the sauce more.
To supplement all the herbs and spices in the ranch dressing, I also like to add a teaspoon of dill. While we don’t use dill much in the U.S. except for flavoring those ubiquitous pickles, it’s a popular herb in Central and Eastern Europe (think borscht, gravlax, and tzatziki).
It’s also a pretty common ingredient in many recipes for homemade ranch dressing, and it’s a strong enough flavor to standout even in this rich dish. I think it’s one of the special ingredients that makes my chicken bacon ranch pasta tasty.
Rather than sprinkle all the crispy bacon on top of my pasta, I mix it in with the rest of the ingredients. I find this incorporates more bacon in every bite and eliminates hungry guests fighting over which spoonful they’ll take to maximize their bacon consumption.
What I do like to add to the top is a generous sprinkling of cheese. Dividing up the shredded cheese this way lends the necessary cheesiness to the sauce but also protects the pasta while it’s in the oven to keep it from drying out too much.
The main purpose, though, is to create that golden brown, gooey, glistening cheese layer that’s a requirement for every good casserole.
I like to use two types of cheese (technically three if you count the Parmesan in the Alfredo sauce) to add the nice sharp flavors of a good cheddar along with the thick, stringy quality of the mozzarella.
Sometimes I sprinkle the top with a little chopped green onion so my obscene-baked-potato-turned-pasta-dish looks complete, and it’s super easy to put together a steamed veggie or salad to complete this meal while the pasta is baking.
Some say it’s love that makes the world go ‘round, but I believe it just might be these creamy, bubbling, heart-warming casseroles, and my creamy Chicken Ranch Pasta definitely spins our little globe more than most!
Pasta Subs – You can substitute another large pasta in this dish – rigatoni, gemelli, medium shells, or bow ties; however, I don’t recommend making a chicken bacon ranch spaghetti version. It’s hard to get a perfect fork-full when the pasta is so thin, and it won’t hold onto this heavy, creamy sauce as well as some of the bulkier pasta sizes. For a little extra texture, you can use whole-wheat pasta, or substitute a gluten-free version if needed.
Chicken – Leftovers or a store-bought rotisserie chicken make preparing this dish extra easy. If you don’t have any on hand, though, you can cube 2-3 boneless chicken breasts and saute’ them in olive oil, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.
Add-ins – Try adding a small can of chopped green chilies to give this dish a little kick. If you want to make this a one-pot meal (and mitigate the calorie guilt on this a bit), you can add a small package of chopped frozen spinach or broccoli, thawed and drained well, before baking.
Save some for later – You can split this into two smaller casserole dishes, then bake half now and freeze the other for later. To freeze, you’ll want to cover the casserole, unbaked, with some non-stick cling wrap, then foil, or lightly greased foil. When you’re ready to serve, just thaw the pan(s) overnight in refrigerator, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 50 minutes or until the casserole reaches an internal temperature of ~165 degrees. Take the foil off a few minutes early if you want it to brown a little.
More Pasta Recipes?
Creamy Artichoke and Creamy Pasta -Refreshing light sauce loaded with chunks of chicken , bacon, artichokes, and capers.
Chicken Alfredo – Easy, ultra creamy, rich, decadent and just may be the best pasta recipe ever!
Greek Pasta – An easy dish that your whole family will enjoy—carnivores and herbivores alike!
One Skillet Shrimp and Pasta Scampi – Delicious meal for the family, all conveniently cooked in one skillet!
Lemon and Garlic Pasta – Quick and easy combination of olive oil, lemon and garlic to make a delicious pasta!
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
- 1 Pound Dried Penne Pasta
- 2 15 Ounces Each Alfredo Sauce
- 1 Cup Sour Cream
- 1 Cup Whole Milk
- 1 Envelope Dry Ranch Dressing Mix
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Dill
- 2 Cups Mozzarella Shredded~Divided
- 2 Cups Cheddar Shredded~Divided
- 6 Slices Cooked Bacon Chopped
- 3-4 Cups Cooked Chicken Shredded or Chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Cook the pasta in well salted water, according to package instruction. Drain and dry pot.
- Add Alfredo Sauce, Sour Cream, Milk, Dry Ranch Dressing Mix, Dill, 1 Cup Mozzarella, 1 Cup Cheddar and Bacon to the pot dried pasta pot and stir to combins. Add pasta and chicken and stir until evenly coated.
- Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 cup of Mozzarella and 1 cup of Cheddar. Bake in preheated oven until heat through and bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Serve.