One of my fave baked pasta dishes of all time, this Summer Pesto Pasta Bake is packed with flavor, color and goodness. You can use store-bought pesto for a simple dish that requires very little active time. Or make your own pesto and kick this dish up a notch. I prefer to use my spinach & basil pesto because it’s less expensive to make, stays bright green and is absolutely delicious, but any pesto will do – classic basil pesto, kale pesto, whatever!
Notice that I give a measurement range for the mozzarella & ricotta in this recipe. This is to demonstrate how to make rich dishes like this a bit lighter by simply cutting back on the cheese/richer ingredients. Or, you can go all out and make it a cheesy extravaganza. I’d go with the scanter amounts for everyday cooking, and the heavier amounts when I’m making this dish for a crowd or celebration. It’s all about balance, there’s no right or wrong here, and both ways yield a totally amaze end result.
Cheesy Pesto Pasta Bake with Corn & Bursted Tomatoes
Serves: 4-6 Start to Finish: 50-60 minutes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 ears corn on the cob, husks removed
sea salt, fine grain
1 lb short cut pasta of choice (penne, fusilli, rigatoni, etc.)
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid
1 cup pesto (get my fave spinach-basil pesto recipe here & my classic pesto recipe here)
1/2 to 1 cup ricotta cheese (organic, whole milk preferred, see notes for varied amounts)
1 to 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (see notes for varied amounts)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 415 degrees. Get a large pot of salted water boiling for pasta.
Toss cherry tomatoes with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Spread onto a line baking sheet. Place corn cobs on baking sheet with tomatoes. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove corn from oven, set aside. Toss tomatoes and return to oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until bursted and just starting to char. When corn is cooled, cut the kernels off the cob.
Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees when tomatoes are finished roasting.
When water is boiling, add pasta. Cook to al dente or slightly underdone. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water before draining pasta.
Mix 3 tablespoons of pesto with 3 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Coat the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with the pesto/water mixture.
In a large mixing bowl, mix remaining pesto with cooked pasta, ricotta cheese, 3 tablespoons reserved pasta water and 1 teaspoon salt. Add more reserved pasta water if needed to created a saucy consistency. Add additional salt to taste. Fold in corn kernels and bursted tomatoes. I use 1/2 cup ricotta, but for a more indulgent version, add up to a cup of ricotta.
Add pesto pasta mix to the baking dish. Top with mozzarella and parm. Again, I use 1 cup shredded mozzarella, but add another half cup for extra cheesiness/richness.
Bake for 15 minutes. Check pasta, and remove from oven when sauce is bubbly and cheese is browned.
I give a measurement range for the ricotta and mozzarella for customization purposes. I use the minimum amount of cheese when cooking this dish for myself, just to keep it on the lighter side. But if you’re looking for something more indulgent, go for the higher amounts of cheese.