Crack Chicken Penne

Crack Chicken Penne offers a comforting and indulgent twist on classic pasta dishes. This hearty meal combines tender chicken, crispy bacon, creamy cheese, and savory seasonings to create a flavor explosion that will leave you craving more. Perfect for a cozy dinner with loved ones, this dish promises satisfaction with every bite.


  • 6 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch diced pieces, divided
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ounce packet of Ranch seasoning
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound penne pasta
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 10.5 ounce can cream of chicken soup
  • 8 ounce block of Colby jack cheese, shredded, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, divided


  1. Crispy Bacon Prep: In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the diced bacon for 9-11 minutes or until crispy. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving 1/4 cup for garnish. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the skillet.
  2. Chicken and Onion Sauté: Add the cubed chicken breasts, chopped yellow onion, salt, and black pepper to the skillet. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the chicken is lightly browned.
  3. Seasoning and Cooking Pasta: Add the ranch seasoning and chicken stock to the skillet. Bring to a boil, then add the penne pasta. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
  4. Creamy Cheese Blend: Remove the lid and stir in the cream cheese and cream of chicken soup until fully combined and no lumps remain.
  5. Cheese and Bacon Addition: Add 1 1/2 cups of shredded Colby jack cheese, the cooked bacon pieces (except for the reserved 1/4 cup), and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley. Stir to combine.
  6. Final Touch: Top the pasta with the remaining 1/2 cup shredded Colby jack cheese (do not stir in) and cover the skillet again for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese has melted on top.
  7. Garnish and Serve: Remove the lid and garnish the melted cheese with the reserved 1/4 cup of bacon and the remaining 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley.

Serving and Storage Tips:

Serving Tips:

  1. Plating Presentation: Serve Crack Chicken Penne in a large, shallow dish or individual bowls, garnished with a sprinkle of fresh parsley for a pop of color.
  2. Accompaniments: Pair this indulgent pasta dish with a side salad dressed with vinaigrette or garlic breadsticks to complete the meal.
  3. Family Style: Bring the skillet directly to the table for a cozy and inviting dining experience, allowing everyone to serve themselves.
  4. Gourmet Upgrade: Elevate the presentation by serving the pasta in individual ramekins or small cast iron skillets for a rustic touch.

Storage Tips:

  1. Refrigeration: Store any leftover Crack Chicken Penne in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  2. Reheating: To reheat, place the pasta in a microwave-safe dish and heat in intervals, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Alternatively, reheat in a covered skillet over low heat on the stovetop, adding a splash of chicken stock or cream to prevent drying out.
  3. Freezing: While pasta dishes can be frozen, the texture of cream-based sauces may change slightly upon thawing. If freezing, store the pasta in a freezer-safe container for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  4. Individual Portions: Consider portioning leftovers into individual containers before refrigerating or freezing for easy grab-and-go lunches or dinners.

With these serving and storage tips, you can ensure that your Crack Chicken Penne remains delicious and enjoyable, whether you’re serving it fresh or savoring leftovers later on.


  1. Vegetarian Twist: For a meatless option, omit the chicken and bacon, and instead, add sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes for a flavorful vegetarian alternative.
  2. Spicy Kick: Incorporate diced jalapeños or crushed red pepper flakes to the dish for a spicy kick. You can also drizzle hot sauce over individual servings for those who prefer extra heat.
  3. Italian-Inspired: Add Italian sausage or ground beef to the dish for an Italian-inspired twist. Mix in some marinara sauce and top with grated Parmesan cheese before serving.
  4. Tex-Mex Fusion: Give the dish a Tex-Mex flair by using taco seasoning instead of Ranch seasoning. Add black beans, corn kernels, and diced green chilies to the mix. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped cilantro on top.
  5. Seafood Delight: Substitute the chicken with cooked shrimp or diced cooked lobster for a luxurious seafood version. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley for a burst of freshness.
  6. Pesto Perfection: Replace the cream of chicken soup with basil pesto for a vibrant and herbaceous twist. Stir in roasted cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts for added flavor and texture.
  7. Greek-Inspired: Swap the Colby jack cheese for crumbled feta cheese and add sliced Kalamata olives, diced cucumbers, and chopped fresh dill. Serve with a side of tzatziki sauce for a Mediterranean-inspired feast.
  8. Healthy Option: Use whole wheat or gluten-free penne pasta and opt for reduced-fat cream cheese and cream of chicken soup to lighten up the dish. Load it up with colorful veggies like bell peppers, broccoli, and peas for added nutrition.
  9. Cajun Flavors: Season the chicken with Cajun seasoning and add diced bell peppers, celery, and onions to the skillet for a Creole-inspired twist. Finish with a sprinkle of chopped green onions for a burst of freshness.
  10. Mac and Cheese Variation: Turn this recipe into a creamy macaroni and cheese dish by swapping the penne pasta for elbow macaroni. Increase the amount of cheese and cream for an extra decadent and cheesy experience.

With these creative variations, you can customize your Crack Chicken Penne to suit your taste preferences and culinary cravings, ensuring each meal is a delightful and satisfying experience.


  1. Can I use different types of pasta for this dish? Yes, you can substitute penne pasta with any pasta shape you prefer, such as rigatoni, farfalle, or spaghetti. Just adjust the cooking time according to the package instructions.
  2. Is it necessary to use smoked bacon, or can I use regular bacon? While smoked bacon adds a distinct flavor to the dish, you can use regular bacon if that’s what you have on hand. The flavor profile may be slightly different, but it will still be delicious.
  3. Can I make this dish ahead of time? Yes, you can prepare the dish in advance and refrigerate it before baking. Simply cover the skillet or transfer the pasta to a baking dish, then refrigerate. When ready to serve, bake until heated through.
  4. Can I use low-fat or fat-free cream cheese and cream of chicken soup? Yes, you can substitute low-fat or fat-free cream cheese and cream of chicken soup for a lighter version of the dish. Keep in mind that the texture and flavor may vary slightly.
  5. Can I freeze Crack Chicken Penne? While pasta dishes can be frozen, the creamy sauce may separate slightly upon thawing. If freezing, store in a freezer-safe container for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  6. How do I prevent the pasta from becoming mushy? To prevent the pasta from becoming mushy, be sure to cook it until al dente before adding it to the skillet with the other ingredients. Additionally, avoid overcooking the pasta when reheating leftovers.
  7. Can I make this dish gluten-free? Yes, you can use gluten-free pasta and ensure that all other ingredients, such as the chicken stock and seasonings, are certified gluten-free.
  8. What can I substitute for the Ranch seasoning packet? If you don’t have Ranch seasoning, you can use a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill, dried parsley, and salt to season the dish to taste.
  9. Can I add vegetables to the dish? Absolutely! Feel free to add your favorite vegetables such as bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, or peas to the skillet for added flavor and nutrition.
  10. How do I store leftovers? Store any leftover Crack Chicken Penne in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Reheat individual servings as needed.

Crack Chicken Penne is a delightful fusion of flavors and textures that will elevate your pasta game. With its simple preparation and delicious outcome, it’s bound to become a staple in your recipe repertoire. Enjoy the warmth and satisfaction of this comforting dish with family and friends.