This Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta Bake is made with my Dairy Free Pesto and is one of my favorite easy vegan casseroles. All you need is 10 minutes to get this into the oven, making this Italian inspired pasta perfect for busy weeknights when you need something quick and easy. It’s also oil-free, packed with 6+ cups of veggies, and delicious as leftovers.
I’ve tried a few of the dump and bake casserole recipes from From My Bowl and love the idea behind them! They’re easy, quick, hearty and help make getting dinner on the table realistic when I don’t have a lot of time to spare.
Her Buffalo Cauliflower and Chickpea Casserole is by far my favorite one she’s shared.
This vegan pesto pasta is inspired by this “dump and bake” method, and I am so happy with the results!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Healthy homemade vegan dinner when you need something that’s actually quick and easy. This pesto pasta comes together in the casserole dish, meaning less dishes for you.
- Just 9 ingredients! Make this recipe even easier by using store-bought pesto as needed.
- Indulgent tasting without excess oil. This pasta is made without any added oils at all, making it a great WFPB option.
- No boiling the noodles ahead of time. So many pasta casserole recipes require you to cook the pasta al dente before baking, which is an added step I wanted to avoid here to make it a true no-boil, 1 pot vegan pasta recipe.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- pesto – I use my homemade dairy free pesto in this pasta bake but you can use any homemade version or store-bought version. If opting for a store-bought version, just make sure that it is vegan as most pestos are traditionally made with dairy cheese.
- plant-based milk – I like to use full fat coconut milk to make this pesto pasta sauce extra creamy, but you can use any unsweetened plant-based milk you have on hand.
- vegan parmesan cheese – A homemade vegan parmesan or a store-bought version from Violife or Follow Your Heart work well here. If preferred, you can also use just nutritional yeast.
- vegan cream cheese – If you’ve tried my other recipes that use vegan cream cheese like my Vegan Pumpkin Banana Bread or my Vegan Hamburger Helper, you know that I recommend Kite Hill. It’s oil free and by far the best tasting, in my opinion. If you are new to vegan cream cheeses, I’d recommend avoiding Miyoko’s brand of cream cheese. It is very sour and not a very accurate flavor.
- rigatoni – I used rigatoni in this pesto pasta but you can use any shorter pastas like rotini, penne, or ziti.
- broccoli – I use 4 cups of fresh broccoli florets in this recipe. I don’t recommend using frozen as frozen broccoli will release a lot of moisture that will water down the flavor of the pesto sauce, but you can substitute fresh cauliflower florets, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus.
- kale – I used lacinato (dinosaur) kale, but feel free to substitute another type of kale or even spinach as needed.
Step by Step Instructions
- In a 9×13 casserole dish, whisk together the plant-based milk, vegetable broth, cream cheese, parmesan, pesto, and minced garlic until smooth.
- Add in the rigatoni pasta and submerge it completely in the liquid. If the pasta is not properly submerged in the pesto sauce, it will not bake through properly.
- Add the broccoli overtop and gently spread it over the pesto pasta. You do not want the broccoli submerged. This will prevent it from over cooking in the oven.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. After baking, the pesto pasta sauce will have thickened considerably and be nice and creamy!
- Add the thinly sliced kale over the pesto pasta and cover again with tin foil for 10 minutes to wilt the greens and allow the pasta to finish cooking.
- Serve the pesto pasta with veggies immediately while hot with more parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste, as desired!
Traditional pesto is not vegan because it typically contains a couple different types of dairy cheeses, like parmesan and pecorino. Most store-bought versions of pesto contain dairy cheese and often contain cow’s milk. If you are looking for a store-bought version of vegan and dairy free pesto, always read the label.
I have not tested this pasta bake with gluten free noodles, so I unfortunately cannot advise or recommend it. If you do choose to try it, please let me know.
8 ounces of uncooked rigatoni pasta is equivalent to about 3 cups.
If you want to double the recipe, I would make two pesto pasta bakes in two separate casserole dishes. That will ensure the pasta cooks through and doesn’t overflow out of the casserole dish while baking.
- Make sure that the pasta is almost completely submerged in the liquid prior to baking to ensure that it bakes through properly.
- Do not mix the broccoli in – just pour it on top of the pasta and press it in slightly. It does not need to be in the liquid to cook through. You want all of the pasta to be below the broccoli to ensure it will cook through.
- Save some for meal prep! This pesto pasta reheats really well and is just as delicious as leftovers!
More Easy Vegan Dinners to Try
Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta Bake
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- 5 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 cup unsweetened plant based milk
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- ½ cup dairy free pesto recipe - can substitute store-bought vegan pesto
- ¼ cup vegan parmesan - can substitute nutritional yeast
- 4 ounces vegan cream cheese
- 8 ounces rigatoni pasta - uncooked
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups lacinato kale - thinly sliced
- salt and pepper - to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish, whisk together the minced garlic, pesto, vegan cream cheese, vegan parmesan, vegetable broth, and coconut milk.
- Stir in the uncooked rigatoni pasta, pressing down to make sure all pasta is submerged in the liquid.
- Pour the broccoli overtop and lightly press it down into the liquid (do not mix it in, just lightly press it in overtop. It is okay that it is not submerged.
- Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. After baking, remove casserole dish from oven, stir in the 2 cups thinly sliced kale, recover with tin foil and allow to steam and thicken for 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately with additional vegan parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
- This pasta keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- I don’t recommend using frozen broccoli as it will water down the pesto sauce. Feel free to substitute the fresh broccoli florets with cauliflower florets, asparagus, or Brussels sprouts.
- Can substitute spinach or another kale for the lacinato kale.
- I like to use full fat coconut milk for the unsweetened milk because it makes this pasta extra creamy, but any unsweetened plant-milk will work.
- This recipe has not been tested with gluten free pasta.
- If you are going to double the recipe, I recommend baking in two separate casserole dishes so it cooks evenly and doesn’t overflow.
General note about salt
Please pay attention to the type of salt called for in the recipe (if applicable). Not all salts are made equal and cannot be substituted 1 for 1. If you are substituting table salt for kosher salt, you will need to cut the amount called for in the recipe by at least half.
Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.
This recipe was originally published on June 4, 2020 and has been updated on February 1, 2022 to include a new and improved recipe, new photos, step by step instructions, ingredient notes and substitutions.