This cheesy buffalo chicken pasta dish is penne pasta covered in a creamy ranch dressing, hot sauce, cheddar cheese, and blue cheese sauce.
Cheesy pasta is the perfect comfort food. The creamy buffalo sauce is made with a basic white sauce (butter, flour, and milk), seasonings, sharp cheddar, zesty ranch, and blue cheese crumbles.
Penne is the pasta of choice, but swap it out for your favorite type of pasta like elbow macaroni for a true buffalo chicken mac and cheese. This is an easy buffalo chicken pasta recipe because you start with cooked chicken like rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken.
While the pasta boils, make your creamy sauce to keep cooking time to a minimum. Get food on the dinner table for the whole family on a busy weeknight in no time.
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- 30-minute meal: Takes about 25 minutes from start to finish
- Simple ingredients: Pantry staples only
- Easy recipe: This family favorite is a simple stovetop recipe
- Penne pasta: Tube-shaped pasta that is great for thick sauces
- Cooked chicken breast: Diced boneless skinless chicken breasts or breaded chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken
- Hot sauce: Frank's RedHot Original or Original Louisiana Hot Sauce (NOT buffalo wing sauce)
- Salted butter: Provides richness and enhances the overall taste and texture
- All-purpose flour: Used to create a roux that thickens the sauce
- Whole milk: To create the base of the cheesy sauce.
- Garlic powder: For flavor
- Salt: For flavor
- Black pepper: For flavor
- Cheddar cheese: Shredded sharp cheddar (skip pre-shredded cheese and try freshly shredded for an even creamier texture)
- Ranch dressing: Creamy, tangy, and zesty prepared ranch dressing
- Crumbled blue cheese: Adds tanginess, a perfect pairing for buffalo sauce
- Green onions: To garnish, optional
See the recipe card for quantities.
Cook the penne pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a separate large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour to the butter and whisk to create a roux. Cook for a minute or two until the roux is golden and bubbling.
Slowly whisk the milk into the roux, ensuring there are no lumps.
Add the hot sauce, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to the milk mixture and stir to combine. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, stirring frequently.
Once simmering, remove from the heat and add the cheddar cheese, stirring until it is melted and the sauce is smooth.
Stir in the ranch dressing and crumbled blue cheese and mix well.
Add the cooked chicken to the sauce and stir to coat evenly.
Add the cooked penne to the saucepan and stir to evenly coat the pasta with the sauce.
If desired, garnish with green onions and additional blue cheese (optional) and serve warm.
- Roux: Be patient when creating your roux (the mixture of butter and flour). It needs to cook for a minute or two to remove the raw flour taste. When you add the milk, be sure to stir frequently to prevent the milk from curdling.
- Pasta Cooking: Do not overcook your pasta. It will continue to cook a bit when mixed with the hot cheese sauce.
- Spice Level: Adjust the amount of hot sauce based on your preferred level of spiciness. You can start with less and add more to taste.
- Penne pasta: You can substitute it with any kind of pasta. Try other short pasta shape like rotini, shells, or macaroni or even pasta noodles.
- Chicken: While the recipe calls for chicken breast, you can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for a richer flavor. You can also use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Using a rotisserie chicken can be a great time-saver. In a pinch, you can use frozen chicken nuggets or buffalo chicken tenders.
- Hot sauce: Frank's RedHot Original and Louisiana Hot Sauce have the same Scoville rating (450 SHUs) and are considered to be mild sauces. For a more mild cheese sauce, control the spice level and use less hot sauce (start with half and go from there). For more spicy flavor, use extra buffalo sauce or try Texas Pete's Original Hot Sauce (740 SHUs).
- Salted butter: Unsalted butter can be used if you prefer to better control the amount of salt in the dish.
- Whole milk: For low-fat, try reduced-fat milk. For higher fat content, evaporated milk and half-and-half are great for any bechamel sauce.
- Sharp cheddar: You can substitute with other types of shredded cheese like mozzarella cheese, Monterey Jack, or pepper jack cheese.
- Ranch dressing: If you don't have ranch dressing, you can substitute with blue cheese dressing.
- Blue cheese: If you're not a fan of blue cheese, you can use crumbled feta cheese, goat cheese, or shredded Parmesan cheese as alternatives.
- Gluten-free: To make this dish gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta and make a gluten-free roux by swapping the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend. Be sure to read all product labels.
- Vegetarian: To make this dish vegetarian, skip the chicken or use plant-based chicken or breaded patties.
- Creamy Sauce: For an extra creamy sauce, consider adding a spoonful of cream cheese, a splash of heavy cream, or a dollop of sour cream.
- Large pot - For the cheese sauce
- Colander - To drain the cooked pasta
- Whisk - To mix the cheese sauce
- Wooden spoon - To stir and serve
Allow your pasta dinner to cool down to room temperature before storing. Transfer the leftovers into an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking. Enjoy the leftovers within 3-4 days.
How to Reheat
In the Oven (recommended): Preheat your oven to 350°F. Transfer the pasta to an oven-safe dish if it's not already in one and cover it with aluminum foil to prevent it from drying out. Heat the pasta in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until it's heated through.
Check it several places with a fork to make sure it's hot all the way through. Be careful when removing the dish from the oven, as it will be hot.
In the Microwave (faster): Transfer a serving of the pasta to a microwave-safe dish. Cover the dish with a paper towel. Heat the pasta on medium power for about 2-3 minutes or until it's heated through. Stir it halfway through to promote even heating.
Be careful when removing the dish from the microwave as it will be hot. Let it stand for a minute or two before eating.
How to Freeze
You can freeze this dish but I do not recommend freezing the dish prepared with the pasta. The texture of pasta can change when frozen and then reheated.
Pasta, especially when cooked to a perfect al dente, can become mushy after being frozen and then thawed. This is because the freezing process breaks down the starches in the pasta.
If you still want the convenience of a make-ahead meal, consider freezing the sauce separately and then making fresh pasta when you're ready to eat it. This way, you can have the convenience of a pre-made meal, but still enjoy the taste and texture of freshly cooked pasta.
Transfer the sauce to freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Label with the date and contents. When you're ready to use the sauce, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat it in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Pair buffalo chicken dishes with carrot sticks and celery sticks. Other side dishes include steamed broccoli, coleslaw, green salad, and green beans.
Buffalo chicken was created in Buffalo, New York.
Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Pasta
- 16 ounces penne pasta
- 2 cups chicken breast cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup hot sauce
- ¼ cup salted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup ranch dressing
- ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
- Cook the penne pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a separate large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour to the butter and whisk to create a roux. Cook for a minute or two until the roux is golden and bubbling.
- Slowly whisk the milk into the roux, ensuring there are no lumps. Add the hot sauce, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to the milk mixture and stir to combine. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, stirring frequently.
- Once simmering, remove from the heat and add the cheddar cheese, stirring until it is melted and the sauce is smooth.
- Stir in the ranch dressing and crumbled blue cheese and mix well.
- Add the cooked chicken to the sauce and stir to coat evenly.
- Add the cooked penne to the saucepan and stir to evenly coat the pasta with the sauce. If desired, garnish with green onions and additional blue cheese (optional) and serve warm.