Healthy Baked Pesto Rigatoni

This Healthy Baked Pesto Rigatoni is tossed with heirloom tomatoes and a saucy spinach pesto that will knock your socks off! 340 calories. |

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.

Healthy Pesto Baked Rigatoni with pretty heirloom tomatoes! |

But let’s follow up that bold statement with some red and yellow.

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.

Healthy Pesto Baked Rigatoni |

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.

This Healthy Baked Pesto Rigatoni is tossed with a saucy spinach pesto that will knock your socks off! 340 calories. |

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 Pinch of Yum 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.

This Healthy Baked Pesto Rigatoni is tossed with heirloom tomatoes and a saucy spinach pesto that will knock your socks off! 340 calories. |

4.9 from 14 reviews
Healthy Pesto Baked Rigatoni
Serves: 8-10
For the pasta:
  • 1 lb. whole wheat rigatoni
  • 2-3 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup shredded cheese of choice (I used Asiago)
  • pesto (recipe follows)
For the pesto:
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup basil
  • ¾ cup almonds or pine nuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • ½ 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 past 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 9x13 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.

Nutrition Pesto Pasta

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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. It looks delicious! My husband loves rigatoni and the green sauce is a nice change. Definitely going to try this!

  4. 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?


  5. Wow, this looks amazing! Pesto is so flavorful and delicious! Can’t wait to try it out!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. Oh goodness! I have been in love with green and red things lately – weird! I really need to try this out for dinner one night. Looks absolutely amazing. Yum!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. The more greens th better! Keep them coming = ) YUMMMM

  14. 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.

  15. Kelly Jo says:

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

  16. Samantha says:

    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.

  17. 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! :)

  18. Just curious why you need to oil the foil? Great looking recipe!

  19. There is NOTHING wrong with a little (or a lot!) of green! Green is fresh, it reminds me of summer, and I’m totally in!

  20. 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!

  21. Pasta with pesto is my favorite meal of all time. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life and die happy. (And fat.) This looks delicious! :)

  22. Oh man, that saaaaaauce! So yummy!

  23. 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!

    • 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!

  24. No meal is complete without some green :) Love this simple meal – perfect for my weeknight meal plan or bringing to a friend!

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

    • Great tip – thanks Sondi!

    • 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!

  26. sara wynn says:

    would store bought pesto from Trader Joe’s (or Costco if they sell it) also work? If so, how much would I need?

    • Yes, but no! The pesto is honestly my favorite part of this whole thing. The recipe makes about 2 cups of pesto, so you’d need at least 2 if not 3 small jars of it.

  27. I love recipes like this, keep em coming!

  28. This looks awesome! I love green foods, so bring it! But you’re totally right about $200 on nuts and you get approximately 3 pine nuts for that.

    • So annoying. And they’re not the kind of nuts you can use in just anything because they have such a distinct flavor. I did like them a lot in my first batch, but almonds are also really tasty without breaking the bank. :)

  29. This pesto recipe looks incredible. Definitely making it, although I don’t know how I’ll process it. My toddler hates, hates, hates, when I use the food processor, so I’ve actually started taking it into the bedroom at the end of the hall and processing food behind closed doors so he doesn’t freak out. The things I do for that kid.

  30. This pesto is to die for, I love it!

  31. Your recipe is so well organized! I love it! I invite and welcome you to my blog :)

  32. I was already hungry…this looks sooooo good!

  33. Pesto and pasta are the best comfort foods ever. (And I’m a green foods girl, so, keep on cooking ’em!)

  34. Green rocks! That is all…

    Well.. not really. I am totally loving this pesto with the kale and jazz… great idea. Pesto basically is awesome and needs to be served at every meal. Loving this recipe Lindsay! Spanks!

  35. This looks so delicious! Always love seeing your new recipe posts!

  36. Love green. The more color you add to your plate the better!

  37. Pasta perfection!

  38. I just found your blog an love all your work! Will def have to make this!!!!

  39. This is the kind of meal that is just gorgeous for a summer evening with all those fresh greens. Cant wait to try it.

  40. That pesto looks so yum! Awesome tip to use almonds instead of pinenuts – should the skin be steamed/removed from the almonds?

  41. Love this recipe – perfect for summer (or winter really). Love the tip about the pesto – perfect!

    Anisa – The Macadames. xx

  42. Aren’t you glad tomatoes are finally in season? They have been fabulous here in Tennessee. I don’t think I have made a meal without them in weeks! I just can’t get enough. This pasta looks fabulous, can’t wait to try!

  43. yaaaas to all the green foods. I too love sneaking a little kale in my pesto!

    Love the way you write, btw. Makes me feel like we’re hanging out and obsessing over all the foods.

    • Thanks Katie! I just met with Taylor from Greens and Chocolate the other day and we were talking about your awesome new book. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  44. I loooooove throwing spinach into pesto. It’s the best!

  45. I love pine nuts so much that I tweeted my grocery store in a panic when they were out of stock. They can have all my money. It’s OK. Just stay with me, pine nuts. Stay with me.

  46. My husband and kids will love this!! (I’m not much of a pesto fan) this will also help with our basil overload from the garden. Thanks for sharing. Pinned!!!

  47. Pesto makes everything better. I make mine with walnuts : )

  48. Embrace the green. It is a beautiful color 😀

  49. I totally hit “print” before I even saw the ingredient list. These pictures are amazing. My boyfriend and I have been on a pesto kick lately, we seem to eat it several times per week. I’ve never thought of baking it in a casserole though! Totally going to try!

  50. It was lovely, oh’s and ah’s from the whole family! Gave all credits to “the American lady, you know, the one from all the other nice dishes”. Had to replace kale by extra cup of spinach as kale is not in season this side of the world but seems not a problem as it tasted delicious. And, being obstinate…added grilled chicken….Thanks again for a great recipe!

    Greetings from Amsterdam!

  51. Hi! This looks amazing. How much can be prepped in advance? Can I make the pesto in the morning and then put it all together to bake in the evening? Thanks!

  52. Just made this last night and it was AMAZING!!! :-)

    Question for future baking – can it be made in its entirety, then put in the freezer to thaw/bake later? I’m wondering if I should prep the entire thing and freeze or just prep the pesto and freeze that on its own.


    • I would make and freeze the pesto on its own instead of the whole thing – in my experience cooked pasta dishes don’t freeze that well.

  53. Tried this Tuesday and it’s fabulous. Going to bring 2-3 pans for lunch for my coworkers (about 20-25 people) next week. I want to serve a side as well to let the pasta stretch more servings, I was thinking one of your salads but can’t decide which would pair best. What do you think? Or is there something else easy that you think would be nice pairing?

  54. Hi,

    Just wanted to say that I made this fabulous dish last night for dinner with some friends and it was an outstanding success! Everyone enjoyed!

    Actually to be honest, every one of the recipes I have tried thus far have been great!

    Keep ’em coming!


  55. Yummy, this looks super healthy fresh but so easy too! Perfect for the thermomix to whip up.

  56. YUMMY! Nice good job..I want also share my Philippines Food Recipes blog. this blog helps you how to prepare best filipino foods in easy way with no hassle. If you have suggestion or if want to know the recipe of specific filipino foods you want to prepare just let me know i will post it. I’m glad to help you. thank you.

  57. Whipped this up last night between patching school pants for a friend and my swim training! It is the BOMB!!! I threw in a chicken breast fillet and decided one could never gave enough cheese so I went to town with it (it 25% less fat cheese so that makes it still healthy right?) stuck it in the oven till I got home from training before baking aka creating awesome melted cheeseyness! Total hit, but then again your recipes always are!!

  58. This looks amazing! Do you have the nutrition info for just the pesto? Thinking I may whip up some and have it with zoodles!

    • No, I don’t, but if you just grab the ingredients and drop them into calorie count’s nutrition tool you should be able to grab a label!

  59. Ok, I have made this so many times now, I am experimenting (and guess what? It’s good..EVERY time) Seriously. thanks for this recipe. I don’t normally like pesto (even tho I grow basil) because it’s just too much of that licorice taste. This,,,Is much better. For tonight’s rendition I used toasted almonds, a mix of Italian cheese and at the last minute threw in some sun dried tomato goat cheese with the pasta. I ran out of EVOO (Horrors!~)and had to use half evoo and half coconut oil, no problem there. Also, only had whole wheat spirals, brilliant. I thank you X10!!

  60. Made this for dinner tonight and loved it! I used rotini and a bit less olive oil in the pesto but otherwise kept everything the same and it was so good. I wouldn’t have guessed there was spinach or kale in the pesto either but I loved that they were in there!

  61. Everyone LOVED this. Thanks for a great pesto recipe.

  62. This was so tasty! I made it last night! I used both pine nuts and almonds for the pesto, and my was it delicious.
    Thanks for the healthy idea.

  63. This recipe was pretty much amazing. I don’t particularly like pesto, but this has opened my eyes. I switched out the kale for swiss chard and it came out wonderful. Thank you for sharing such a simple, delightful recipe!

  64. Thanks so much for this great Recipe Lindsay! I ended up adding about a teaspoon of chilli as well for a bit of extra flavour and adding in some fried onions to the pasta mixture before baking it and I think that it worked well! Have you ever put it in the freezer ? Do you know if it defrosts ok or is it best just to eat it while fresh?

  65. Yes! I’ve got spinach, kale and tomatoes to use up, perfect recipe for me tonight. Especially as I’m feeling coldy, hopefully the green goodness will help me!

  66. I’m so glad this popped up in my Yummly feed. I love pesto and pasta and it can be so hard so find a lightened up dish that I won’t get tired of eating. This will be perfect for lunches and I love that it makes a large number of servings, perfect for holiday potlucks!

  67. i love, love this recipe! I’ve made it many times. Wondering, do you think I could make a large amount of the pesto and freeze some of it?

  68. This looks really good! Can’t wait to try it!

  69. I just made this and it is excellent! It was my first time making pesto. I was surprised how quick and tasty it was. Thanks for posting. I will definitely be making pesto a lot!

  70. My kids and I LOVED this pesto! I used 3/4 cup raw almonds which I toasted, as it intensified the labor. I just tossed the almonds into a dry skillet set over medium heat until they browned up a bit. Easy peasy! I used kale, (since I’m a totally obsessed with kale and always have a bunch washed and ready to go) spinach and basil, and loved the combination of all three! I also added the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. The lemon juice really adds some flavor punch to the pesto! I loved the texture of the pesto, it was a bit crunchy and my kids and I kept sneaking spoonfuls! Great recipe Lindsay, thanks!

  71. I meant to say that the toasted almonds intensified the FLAVOR not labor! Sorry about that! Spell check can be a bit tricky at times 😉 xoxo, Jacquelyn

  72. Hi there! I was wondering, have you ever tried prepping this casserole in advance? Can you assemble, fridge, and then bake later on when you are ready? Or is this one that is really best eaten right after assembly?

    • Hi, Johnny! We have never tried doing the assembly in advance, but I think that would work fine! Just make sure your noodles are cooked al dente, because fully cooked or overdone noodles will become mushy if they sit in the fridge for a long time. Enjoy!

  73. For those who are allergic to pine nuts, I’ve found that equal parts unsalted sunflower seeds can add that nutty flavor and crunch. Just give them a quick rough chop and add them to the blended mixture instead of blending them along with everything else.

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