Basil Pesto Pasta with mushrooms and lemony chicken

In other updates, I’ve been wildly successful this year in getting things done. I got myself a new scooter. I’ve started composting at home. And I got a scooter.   

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I bought myself a pretty little notebook-cum-planner that I am constantly jotting down things in. I am so excited to cross things off that sometimes I haven’t listed a task at all but I’ve completed it. I go back and write it in and strike it off because I’ve rocked and I need to register it somewhere.


Call up hasini’s friend’s mom – done
order idli rice – done
make idli – done
pack idli – done
eat idli – done
transfer money for gift – done
Trim eyebrows – not done


I like to believe I’ve been productive.  I strongly urge all of you to get yourself a planner. Marking off things gives a great sense of accomplishment.


Apart from making uncomfortable calls, I managed to wade through my stash of card pins and change my card pin, collect my old books and drop them off and even score off a couple of small DIY projects I’ve been postponing forever – I made a thennai olai broom (coming soon on the blog) and made a batch of homemade orange peel face pack. Would you believe that?
All this buoyancy could also be the effect of having completed the tax formalities for the year. It always gives me a high.
I managed to score off this basil pesto pasta which has been on my to-try list for as long as I’ve known pasta and pesto. If you don’t have basil on hand, you can use coriander but it won’t be the same. The aroma of the pesto is breathtaking. It’s fresh, herby flavours marry well with the sharp lemony chicken and I love the way fried mushrooms round out everything. I would put fried mushrooms on anything, just as I’d put a fried egg on anything. I did just that with the leftover pasta. I reheated the pasta stove top, added bonus was the golden fried cheese, plonked a fried egg on top and devoured it.  Just skip the chicken if you want to make it vegetarian. You could easily substitute cauliflower (parboiled and marinated) or paneer for the chicken.

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Making the pesto is the easiest part. Just combine everything together and grind to a smooth paste. For day-in-day-out professional chutney makers like us, pesto comes naturally. If you are not serving immediately, refrigerate the pesto. I recommend assembling the pasta just before serving time. Have all your components ready – cooked pasta, fried mushrooms, stir-fried chicken, sliced olives and grated cheese. Just before you serve, toss the pasta in olive oil, a dash of butter and the pesto, combine the mushrooms, chicken and olives, top with cheese and serve hot.


Basil Pesto Pasta

Basil Pesto Pasta

Jayanthi Padmanabhan
Aromatic and flavour bursting pasta dish!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins


  • For the Basil Pesto
  • Basil leaves – 1 cup
  • Walnuts – 2 tbsp
  • Olive oil – ¼ cup or less
  • Garlic – 1 large clove chopped roughly
  • Salt to taste
  • For the Pasta
  • Fusili or your choice pasta – 200 gm
  • Mushrooms – 2 cups rinsed and sliced
  • Chicken boneless pieces – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces to make about ¾ cup
  • Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
  • Salt as necessary
  • Black pepper powder – 2 tsp
  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp
  • Butter – 3 tbsp
  • Sliced Olives – ¼ cup
  • Parmesan cheese – ½ cup grated


  • Cook pasta as per packet instructions. Boil plenty of salted water, plonk pasta in and drain when al dente. Set aside. Cover to avoid the pasta drying out.
  • Marinate the chicken in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Leave undisturbed for 30 mins to 1 hour.
  • To make the pesto, combine all ingredients called for under pesto in a mixer grinder/food processor, except the olive oil and grind to a fine paste. Add olive oil, little at a time, scraping the sides till the pesto is a fine uniform paste. You can thin it if you want with more olive oil. Set aside. You may have a little leftover pesto after making this pasta which you can store in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • To prepare the mushrooms, heat a pan. Add 1tbsp butter and then toss in the mushrooms. Cook on high heat and wait for all the liquid to evaporate. Lower heat to medium low and fry for 2-3 minutes or till the mushrooms are nice and golden. Remove fried mushrooms on to a plate.
  • To the same pan, add 1 tbsp butter and then the marinated chicken pieces. Stir fry on high heat till the chicken is golden around the edges – about 3-4 minutes. Remove the fried chicken on to a plate.
  • To assemble the pasta, heat the same pan. Add butter and olive oil. On low heat stir in 3-4 tablespoons of the pesto. Immediately throw in the pasta and toss to coat well. Add in the fried mushrooms and stir fried chicken and mix. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more pesto if desired. Throw in the sliced olives and top with grated parmesan cheese. Switch off. Serve hot.
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