Healthy Baked Pesto Rigatoni Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Healthy Baked Pesto Rigatoni

33 reviews / 4.9 average

I have this thing called green foodsession and it's not going away.

Last month when Bjork was putting together the income report, I accused him of choosing all green photos for the cover image. People don't want to see all that green on there, babe. This is starting to look like the Grass Eaters club or something. Except then he pointed out that he had no other choice because all my recipes from last month are, in fact, green. Touche.

I accept that this is my current food calling. Green, delicious, fresh, healthy foods made into tasty, saucy food? This is the hill I will die on.

How To Make Our Baked Pesto Rigatoni:

Tomatoes in a black bowl.

But let's follow up that bold statement with some red and yellow. Because I love tomatoes too.

My food processor is my most used kitchen appliance by ten hundred miles. I try to force myself not to use it in some recipes because sometimes I worry that the homemade sauce and textured food thing is overkill for you foodie friends. But you guys. This little machine (mine is a tiny little 2 cup off-brand machine that's missing one of the grippers on the left back corner so it slips around on the counter every time I use it - fun) is a force to be reckoned with. Anything that can take masses of green vegetables and turn them into something that has me licking my fingers like yes yes yes moooore is a good tool.

I mean, we all like green vegetables, right? We just like them better when they're sausay.

Another thing we like: noodles.

Pasta steaming.

I'm carb-loading for tomorrow when I'm going to need the energy to make this again. Gettin' carby smart, yo.

So let me tell you a little bit about this healthy baked pesto rigatoni.

First, the healthy pesto is the green part involving the food processor. It's a creamy concoction of Parmesan, pine nuts (or almonds because maybe you don't like spending 200 dollars on nuts? I dunno), olive oil, garlic, spinach, kale, basil, and a little lemon juice that will seriously call for a mini-spatula-straight-into-mouth pesto cleanout of all the crevices of your food processor. You can judge or you can be a real person who likes flavor bomb pesto that packs a nutritional one-two punch. Up to you.

Pesto on pasta noodles.

The pesto gets tossed up with that pasta and saucified with a little water, freshified with some little heirloom tomatoes, and yummified with a little cheese. I am so annoyed at myself right now.

You bake it, you eat it, you love the leftovers even more.

Friends? I hope you enjoyed this installment of Skillful Cook Green Foods and I hope you enjoy it even more when it's in a big bowl on your dinner table tonight. Topped with a little extra Parmesan, because that's what we'd do if we were eating dinner together, I'm 900% sure.

Baked Pesto Rigatoni in a white baking dish.
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A picture of Healthy Pesto Baked Rigatoni

Healthy Pesto Baked Rigatoni


This Healthy Baked Pesto Rigatoni is tossed with heirloom tomatoes and a saucy spinach pesto that will knock your socks off.



For the pasta:

  • 1 lb. whole wheat rigatoni
  • 2-3 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used Asiago)
  • pesto (recipe follows)

For the pesto:

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup basil
  • 3/4 cup almonds or pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While the water is boiling, chop up the tomatoes - I just cut the little ones in half. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, place all the pesto ingredients in the food processor until smooth. You may have to push the spinach down periodically to get everything moving. I had to do this in two batches because my food processor is very small. You should end up with 2 heaping cups of pesto.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cooked noodles with the chopped tomatoes, pesto, and enough water to make it a little saucy. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese. Cover loosely with well-oiled aluminum foil and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.


Nutrition is for 10 servings.

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: pesto rigatoni, pesto recipe, whole wheat pasta recipe, healthy pasta recipe

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Definitely laughed @ 200 dollars on nuts. RIGHT?! I get my pine nuts from this sketchy little bulk foods store, where I always feel like I might not return from, but for cheapness – it’s so worth it!
    I definitely enjoyed this installment of Green foods, because pesto is the Especially with carby, cheesy deliciousness. GIMME. Pinned!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I’m sorry if you already covered this in all the comments, but how does this work regarding preparing in advance? Can I make it the day before and then have it in the fridge before I bake it? I know that works with red sauce ziti but I’ve never done a pesto and tomato one before. I’m super excited!

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          Preparing everything the day before and storing in the fridge should work out just fine! We hope you enjoy!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Nice recipe. Thanks for sharing.

        I wonder how well it would turn out with arugula? It does have a nutty flavor that would go well with pine nuts.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Poor Bjork! They guy is always getting “yelled” at when we’re just helping out. I feel your pain Bjork. Well green isn’t a bad color. I love green. Right now our green leaf lettuce is coming up from the garden and yes those veggies only add. The addition of tomatoes and cheese wow,I’m officially hungry.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Don’t feel too bad for him – he gets to eat as much of this as he wants without having to lift a finger. Not a bad trade off. 🙂

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    It’s crazy how expensive pine nuts are! I bought maybbeeeee an 1/8th of a cup at whole foods from the bulk section. When the cashier rang them up and the register said $8.00 he kept typing in the number over and over in disbelief of the price. They were $32/lb!

    Maybe we’re in the wrong business and we should take stock in Pine Nut sales? Any takers?


  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    I had a recipe I wanted to try awhile back that involved a few teaspoons of pine nuts. The smallest size they came in was this small box. Then I looked at the price and balked. And I ran away from whatever evil aisle that was.

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Pine nuts are such a treat food; I like to use cashews or pumpkin seeds in place of it when I run out. That pesto is amazing! I love using kale in pasta recipes so I got to try this flavorful bake.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Well I personally love all your green foods so keep em coming! Love this rigatoni, it looks gorgeous! Also I think we have similar food processors, mine is on it’s last leg and is kind of a pain to use, but I still love it!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Cheers to green! Actually, that shot of pouring the noodles is my fav in this post — perfection!

    And I want to eat All The Pesto this time of year. This looks wonderful!

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    You know why it’s impossible for me to stay Paleo? Because of amazing recipes like this one that throw all of my favorite things in a casserole dish! YUM. This is the kind of thing I would make Sunday and eat all week…thank you so much for sharing! I love all of the greens in that pesto.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    I just made pesto for the first time last week. I never thought of using spinach. I will for sure be using this pesto recipe next time.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    OMG This looks incredible. My pesto is usually just basil, but I love the idea of adding other leafy greens!

    Also, this: “You can judge or you can be a real person who likes flavor bomb pesto that packs a nutritional one-two punch. Up to you.” I’m dying.

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m probably the only person left who doesn’t own a food processor. I need one, STAT! This looks soooo yummy.

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Oh my gosh, so excited to try this! I got a food processor for Christmas & it has been amazing! Chopping veggies, making pesto, hummus, salad dressings. Yes!

    Haha, silly pine nuts, I always substitute slivered almonds and never notice a difference.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Pine nuts are for the froofy food people! …Okay fine I like them a little bit, too, but I am just as happy with almonds.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    How can you torment me like this before breakfast? Pesto! Divine! I have used spinach but never thought of kale — gonna try it. Got to get more greens! 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Yep, so the cheese doesn’t stick! I still kind of propped it up even with the oil because I hate when the cheese gets stuck!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I roast my pine nuts in a saute pan to bring out their flavor prior to adding them to the processor. I also used whole wheat pasta for more health benefits. I have also used cilantro instead of basil in my pesto and add a jalapeno for something different and spicy. It was super yummy. I look forward to trying this recipe soon! Heirloom tomatoes are the best!

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    I am also a pesto maniac! Thanks for the inspiration Lindsay! If you want to go for the classic pine nut taste try looking for them at Costco where they cost much less but do come from China. I leave them in the freezer so that they don’t go bad. I like to add cashews and a few walnuts to the pesto to reduce the cost and add a more complex flavor. I bought some little short ones from Trader Joes a while ago (also from China) and they gave me a metal taste that lasted a week! I checked on the internet and others expereinced the same problem and called it “pine nut mouth.” so watch out for those!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thanks Salvi! I did see them at Costco but I couldn’t take the plunge since we had like 800 containers of almonds already at home. 🙂 and really weird about the lingering taste! buyers beware!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love greens so keep ’em coming. For an even cheaper option, pestos also work well with sunflower seeds.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I use pistachios instead of pine nuts! they work great. I am also going to add/toss in some marinated artichoke hearts to this also as the pesto and artichoke go together so well!

      Great recipe and i have never used kale in pesto so I cant wait to try!