Pesto is undoubtedly the besto! And this Cheesy Baked Pesto Pasta Recipe celebrates my favorite pasta sauce in all its garlicky, herby glory. This creamy, vegetarian casserole is made with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and baked to bubbly perfection.
With an easy pasta swap, you can make the entire thing gluten free. Let’s get into it!
What’s in this baked pesto pasta recipe
Coming in at under 10 ingredients, this Cheesy Baked Pesto Pasta is a breeze to make. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Pasta. Any kind of shorter cut pasta will be great in this recipe. Think ziti, penne, fusilli and shell shapes. For a gluten free option, find a gluten free pasta that’s made with potato and/or rice. They hold their shape much better than corn-based pastas.
- Pesto sauce. I’ll include the homemade version in this recipe, but a store bought version will save you prep time. More on that later.
- Mozzarella cheese. I use the whole milk variety in my recipes. You can save some calories and fat by using the part skim kind. Just don’t expect it to melt as well.
- Milk. Nobody believes me when I say that I use nonfat milk in all of my recipes. It’s what we keep in the house! And if nonfat milk works, any kind of milk will. Use whatever you have.
- Flour. A tiny bit, just to thicken the sauce. For a gluten free option, use cornstarch or gluten free flour.
How to make this Baked Pesto Pasta
This is any easy one. We’re basically making a bechamel sauce and then adding pesto.
A bechamel sauce is a simple mixture of butter, flour and milk. There is no cream or cheese in bechamel, so it is not the same as an alfredo sauce.
Once we have the bechamel together, we’ll stir in the pesto sauce and mozzarella cheese. The whole mixture gets poured over cooked pasta. Then, just bake it up!
Homemade pesto vs. premade pesto
It’s never a bad idea to keep a jar of premade pasta sauce in the house. That said, making your sauce from scratch is always the best option. Especially when pesto is front and center, as in this Cheesy Baked Pesto Pasta Recipe.
Making pesto sauce can be done quickly in a blender, and enables you to adjust for certain ingredients that you can’t adjust for with a premade sauce.
For example, one of my best friends has a nut allergy. When I’m making pesto for her, I leave out the pine nuts. You can’t do that with a jar.
If you grow basil in the summer, put it to good use and make pesto! I stockpile pesto sauce all summer long in the freezer and it usually lasts us clear through to the next summer. You can literally freeze pesto sauce forever.
This Cheesy Baked Pesto Pasta Recipe is one that the whole family will love. The big 9×13 serving dish will feed a hungry crowd!
And when you make it, I’d love to hear about it. Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more recipes using pesto sauce, try these:
For more baked pasta recipes, try these:
- Chicken and Broccoli Mac and Cheese
- Vegetable Lasagna with White Sauce (Stouffer’s Copycat)
- Smoky Rigatoni and Cheese
Cheesy Baked Pesto Pasta Recipe
- 1 lb. short-cut pasta
- 1 1/2 cups pesto sauce recipe below
- 5 cups mozzarella cheese grated
- 4 cups milk
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp. pine nuts optional
- 2 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- Boil and drain pasta according to package directions. Place the cooked pasta in a 9×13 baking dish.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto sauce: Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and flour, and whisk until bubbly.
- Pour in the milk. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Lower the heat and stir in the mozzarella and pesto sauce. Stir until smooth. Pour the mixture evenly over the cooked pasta.
- Bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm.