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This One Pot Spicy Pesto Cheese Baked Rigatoni is for nights when you’re craving Italian, but also need something simple and easy to prepare. Rigatoni pasta baked in a spicy tomato pesto vodka sauce that’s creamy and so delicious! The secret to this one-pot pasta? A little Italian chicken sausage and plenty of cheese on top. This is a terrific fall and winter dish to serve any night of the week. But is equally awesome for your next Saturday night dinner party. It’s delicious and looks pretty on any table…not to mention everyone LOVES a GOOD baked pasta. This dish will be your new go-to when serving family and friends.

overhead photo of One Pot Spicy Pesto Cheese Baked Rigatoni

Serious question for you all? Are you cooking for Thanksgiving this year? Are you lined up to bring a side dish to your family’s meal? Or do you have nothing to do with actually cooking the Thanksgiving Day dinner? I’m so curious to know because I feel like only about one and every five people are actually cooking on Thanksgiving. The rest are either attending a family gathering and bringing a side dish/dessert, or just attending and not worrying about the food.

Am I right? Or no? I ask because every November I always see so many Thanksgiving recipes, but never many recipes for all the other days within this cozy month. Bottom line…we all LOVE Thanksgiving, but we also have to eat some good meals leading up to T-day too!

And that’s where I come in. I’ve made it a point each year to not only share Thanksgiving dishes but easy dinners too. Dinners like this one-pot pasta that I love so much. It’s such a busy time, so keeping things simple (and delicious) is my current goal.

One Pot Spicy Pesto Cheese Rigatoni before baking in pot

My family loves any and all pasta, but give them something saucy, a little spicy, baked, and cheesy too? That’s their meal!

My favorite part about a pasta dish though is its simplicity. And the fact that every person in my family will not only eat this recipe but really enjoy it too. When you have picky eaters this is music to your ears.

overhead photo of One Pot Spicy Pesto Cheese Baked Rigatoni

Here are the details.

Start off by making the sauce. It’s very important with this recipe to use a large pot, bigger than you’d think you might need. Because we are making the sauce and cooking the pasta together, you’ll need extra room. So be sure to use your largest pot available.

Next, the sauce. It’s made spicy with ground Italian chicken sausage, canned tomatoes, vodka (for best flavor), herbs, and pesto…to keep things creamy and cheesy too. Now I want to say, if Vodka’s not your thing, I totally understand. In this case, just swap the vodka for chicken broth or even just water. Either one will work totally fine and your sauce will still be great.

BUT, if you do drink or you’re ok with using alcohol for cooking, you must add vodka to your sauce. The vodka adds a sharp bite that helps to balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes. When used in small amounts, the vodka will boost and intensify the aroma of the sauce. The key is to slow simmer the sauce, which will release the flavors and cook out the alcohol. So yes, this is safe to serve to kids!

side angled photo of One Pot Spicy Pesto Cheese Baked Rigatoni with spoon pulling up pasta and cheese pulling

Moving along…

Since I wanted to keep it quick and simple, I set out to make this a one-pot pasta. What does this mean? Well, it’s simple, everything from making the sauce, to the boiling of the pasta is all done in just one pot on the stove-top before being transferred to the oven to finish baking. If you have oven-safe pots, you don’t even need to transfer the pasta to a baking dish.

Easy, right? YES.

Once the base red sauce has been made, simply add the water and dry pasta right into the red sauce. I know it may seem odd, but trust me, it works. Just bring the mix to a boil and cook until the pasta is al dente. Cooking the pasta together with the sauce only takes a few minutes and saves you from having to break out another pot. Not sure about you guys, but I am all about fewer dishes.

overhead close up photo of One Pot Spicy Pesto Cheese Baked Rigatoni with serving of pasta removed from baking dish

Once the pasta is cooked, simply top with cheese and bake. If you’re cooking with cast iron or stainless steel, you can bake the pasta right in this very same pot. If not, simply transfer the pasta to your favorite baking dish. Either option works just the same!

And about thirty minutes later you’ll have cheesy baked pasta ready for eating….and your kitchen will be semi-clean! But even more importantly, it’s going to smell like an Italian grandma’s house. It’s an amazing aroma, and trust me, this rigatoni tastes even better. Think saucy, but still heavy on the pasta, a touch spicy, with a good amount of seasonings and herbs. The pesto adds fresh flavor and creaminess, and all that cheese on top…well that’s the best part!

Oh, and I forgot to mention the shredded kale that’s stirred into the pasta as well. Delish, and the greens help to balance out all the cheese.

You see, you can’t go wrong with a baked pasta like this. My one tip? Make this dish fancy…ish and serve it topped with fried rosemary and a bottle of red wine. Perfect for these long November and December nights.

overhead ohoto of One Pot Spicy Pesto Cheese Baked Rigatoni with portion of pasta removed and plate of pasta next to dish

If you make this one-pot spicy pesto cheese baked rigatoni, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Watch the How To Video:

One Pot Spicy Pesto Cheese Baked Rigatoni

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories Per Serving: 668 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

Instructions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the shallot and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken sausage and brown all over, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook another minute. Slowly add the tomatoes, vodka, 1/2 cup pesto, oregano, rosemary, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Then add 2 1/2 cups water, the pasta, and kale. Increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir frequently until the pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes. 
    3. If needed, transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Top with the fontina cheese, then drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup basil pesto evenly over everything. Add the mozzarella.
    4. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned on top. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh rosemary. Enjoy!

Notes

You can find my homemade basil pesto recipe inside this post
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious despite the fact that rather than “sausage” I used sausages that were almost impossible to get out of their casings (but finally did, more or less). I also used baby spinach instead of kale and shredded mozzarella, not torn. All in all we loved it, and I’ll definitely be making it again.

    1. Hey Helen,
      Awesome!! Love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks for making it and sharing your review:) Happy Thanksgiving! 🍽

    1. Hey Raquel,
      Happy Sunday!🌾🌽 I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for making it and sharing your feedback! xx

    1. Hey Linda,
      Any short cut pasta will work well for you here! Please let me know if you have any other questions, I hope you love this recipe! xT

  2. Hi, so excited to make this! One question. I would like to use chickpea pasta. Was thinking I could cook the pasta separately and add to the sauce. Since I’m not boiling pasta in with the sauce, how much water should I use? Love all of your recipes! Thank you for sharing your love of cooking with us! 😉

    1. Hey Andrea,
      I’ve not tested this recipe with chickpea pasta, but I would probably completely omit the water here. Please let me know if you give the recipe a try! xT

      1. 5 stars
        I boiled the chickpea pasta separately and added 1/2 c of water. It was very good! Next time I will prob omit the water completely. Thank you for your response!!

  3. Do you think the fontina cheese could be taken out? I have someone allergic to it. She can have the mozzarella though.

    1. Hey Sherry,
      Totally, you can use any cheeses that you like here:) Please let me know if you give this recipe a try, I hope you love it! xT

  4. Hi Teighan!
    Do you think I could adapt this recipe to be done in an instant pot? I have seen pasta recipes posted before that are one pot type pasta dishes? Just curious what your thoughts are on that and if so how long would you recommend to set for cook time ? Or any other guidelines?

    1. Hey Judy,
      Sorry, I’ve never tested this recipe in the instant pot, so I’m not sure how well that would work for you! Please let me know if you give this recipe a try, I hope you love it! xT

    1. Hey Dawn,
      Thanks so much! So sorry, this dish is super old from Terrain, I no longer have the link. Please let me know if you have any other questions! xx

    1. Hey Erin,
      Totally, that will work well for you! Please let me know if you give this recipe a try, I hope you love it! xx

    1. Hey Megan,
      You can follow the recipe as written using gluten free noodles. I hope you love this dish, let me know how it turns out! xx

  5. I’m wondering if you have a brilliant idea about making this vegetarian by doing more than removing the sausages…like, what might you substitute? Thank you!

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      I would add some other veggies that you enjoy like mushrooms and zucchini! I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xT

  6. 4 stars
    This was tasty. We rarely think to use rigatoni and it was a perfect noodle for this dish. The sauce tastes wonderfully rustic. I added a bit of honey since our tomatoes were quite acidic and we used Italian pork sausage since it is what we had on hand. The blend of cheeses with the pesto and sauce was delicious. A great HBH recipe as usual!

  7. I’m wondering about freezing this recipe? Preparing up to the baking portion, and then finishing off in the oven. I’m expecting my first baby in the next four weeks and trying to find a few more good freezer meals to have at the ready.
    Thanks for the help.

  8. 5 stars
    Very good and easy dish to make! Personally love one pot meals for less dishes. I substituted for mild Italian sausage and spinach. Delicious!

  9. Hi!!! Made this last night to test for a larger family party and loved! Quick question …. I am going to be making four … have you ever left out the sausage ? I need to make a vegetarian option. Curious if it would work. Thanks !!!! Cannot wait for the new book.

    1. Hey Jess,
      Awesome! Love to hear that you liked the recipe, thanks a bunch for trying it out! Yes, totally fine to skip the sausage. Happy Holidays! xx