Chicken Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms is pure comfort food and an easy-to-make family friendly dinner! Perfect any time of the year but especially during the Summer, when fresh basil abounds. The delicious creamy pesto sauce is made with milk, basil pesto, red pepper flakes.
I love pesto, and cook a lot with it in the Summer. I've been making this chicken pesto pasta for years, and only now finally posting the recipe on my blog. It combines some of my most favorite flavors: basil pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh basil, red pepper flakes. And, the whole recipe takes only 30 minutes from start to finish. Perfect amount of time since you want to spend most of the time in the Summer outdoors and not cooking, right?
Types of pasta to use with creamy pesto sauce
- I use penne because pesto sauce covers more surface with short pasta like penne.
- Long strands of spaghetti pasta are also perfectly suited for a creamy and oily sauce like basil pesto sauce.
- Angel hair pasta is an excellent choice for this sauce, as thin noodles will be perfectly smothered with this creamy pasta sauce.
How to make basil pesto from scratch
There are lots of great recipes for homemade basil pesto, and below are my favorites from trusted sources:
- This beautifully green basil pesto is everything that a pesto should be: pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.
- Another classic recipe is this fresh basil pesto.
- And this recipe for homemade pesto is amazing!
- There is always option #4 - purchase a pre-made basil pesto in the store!
How long can you store basil pesto
- Store freshly-made pesto in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 1 week. Add a thin layer of olive oil on top of the surface of basil pesto - this will help prevent the pesto from turning brown.
- You can freeze fresh basil pesto for up to 3 months. It freezes really well.
Can you freeze basil pesto?
For long term storage, use ice cube trays. Fill clean ice cube tray with basil pesto. Allow the basil pesto to freeze. Release basil pesto "ice cubes" from the ice cube tray. Add basil pesto "ice cubes" into small baggies and keep them frozen for up to 3 months. This way, when it's time to use pesto in a recipe, you don't have to thaw a whole container of basil pesto. Just take an ice cube or two and use them for your recipe.
How to defrost pesto
- Allow frozen pesto to sit at room temperature for about an hour or until it's completely thawed.
- Place frozen basil pesto in the refrigerator in an air-tight container overnight so that it gets defrosted.
- If you use basil pesto in the sauce, like in this recipe, you can just add basil pesto "ice cube" directly to the sauce and stir on medium heat, allowing the heat to defrost the pesto.
I use skinless and boneless chicken thighs in this recipe and highly recommend you do too! They are so flavorful, moist, easy to chop and perfect for this kind of recipe.
How to make chicken pesto pasta:
Below are some step-by-step photos and instructions demonstrating the key steps for how to make this delicious pasta dish.
First, heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken (chopped up) with sun-dried tomatoes (chopped into smaller bites) to the skillet, sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Saute for about 1 minute on medium heat.
Next, add sliced mushrooms (add another 1 tablespoon olive oil if needed):
and saute for about 2 more minutes (or a little bit more), until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are softened:
Then, add garlic, pesto, milk, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil, immediately reduce to simmer and simmer, stirring until everything is well combined. Remove from heat. Taste, and add more salt, if needed.
Finally, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain. Add cooked pasta to the sauce, reheat.
Top with chopped fresh basil.
Other chicken pasta recipes featuring basil:
Tomato Spinach Chicken Spaghetti with Basil
Chicken and Zucchini Tortellini with Basil Pesto Sauce
Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Sauce
Chicken Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ lb chicken thighs , boneless, skinless, chopped
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes , drained of most oil, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 oz mushrooms , sliced
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- ½ cup basil pesto
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ teaspoon salt and more
- 8 ounces penne pasta (use gluten free for gluten free version)
- fresh basil chopped
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken (chopped up) with sun-dried tomatoes (chopped into smaller bites) to the skillet, sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Saute for about 1 minute on medium heat.
- Add sliced mushrooms (add another 1 tablespoon olive oil if needed) and saute for about 2 more minutes (or a little bit more), until chicken is cooked through and mushrooms are softened.
- Add garlic, basil pesto, milk, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil, immediately reduce to simmer and simmer, stirring until everything is well combined. Remove from heat. Taste, and add more salt, if needed.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain. Add cooked pasta to the sauce, reheat.
- Top with chopped fresh basil.
- Want to make basil pesto from scratch? Here is a super flavorful and creamy 20-Minute Homemade Basil Pesto Recipe.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
This recipe was originally published on June 14, 2016 and republished with updates, cooking tips in May 2018.
What would happen if heavy cream is used in this recipe . instead of milk?
Linda, you can use milk or half-and-half here, too. Probably in smaller amounts.
I’ve made this recipe a quite a few times since discovering it a couple years ago. Tonight is the first time I made it with homemade pesto - so much better. Thank you for great recipe!!
Jolene, you are very welcome! Glad you've enjoyed this recipe! And, yes, homemade pesto is the best! It makes recipes like this one taste so much better!
I’ve been a big fan for years and this recipe was delicious BUT looked nothing like your photos… the milk and pesto made everything almost grey w the milk… what went wrong?
Greg, I am so happy to hear you've been making this for years - that's a huge compliment to me! For presentation purposes, after step 2 (where you cook the mushrooms and the chicken is cooked through), remove half of the mixture (cooked chicken, cooked mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes) to a plate. To the remaining half of the mixture, add the sauce ingredients. When serving, top each pasta serving with reserved chicken-mushroom mixture and sprinkle something green on top, such as chopped fresh basil or parsley.
This was easy to make and tastes fabulous!This is our new favorite!!!
Getting really good pesto is difficult. What do you use/recommend?
Dana, thank you so much for such a positive comment! I agree about the challenges of finding a good pesto. One option is to get a refrigerated kind of basil pesto from the Whole Foods store - only the refrigerated kind! Another option is refrigerated basil pesto by the Buitoni brand - it always tastes amazing!
Oh my gosh!!! I have never had pasta with so much flavor and I make pasta dinners almost every Sunday. It’s my new favorite. My sauce was a little runny so I added some shredded Parmesan to thicken it. Next time I will drain the chicken, sun dried tomato and mushroom mixer before adding the pesto and milk.
Kathy, your comment made my day! 🙂 I really appreciate it when people take the time to share their feedback on recipes - thank you for this! What a great solution to thicken this sauce by adding some shredded Parmesan cheese!
I just made it for lunch today and I’ll be making it again for sure!! I added Romano and parm. Soooo good?
Christie, I am so glad you made it for lunch and will make it again - it's a huge compliment to me! Thanks for sharing this positive feedback!