Bridging the gap between seasonal cooking isn’t always easy but this Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto hits all the marks for an easy and delicious meal.

Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto being served from the casserole dish with a black and wooden serving spoon.

I don’t know about you but I always feel a little lost cooking between the seasons. Oftentimes in the spring, the weather here in northern New England calls for warm and comforting meals but the calendar is almost begging for light and fresh meals like spring risotto with grilled shrimp and cobb salads.

It’s a tough line to walk, especially when we have a fire warming the house in the fireplace and snow still on the ground outside.

A black serving spoon is scooping Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto out of the casserole dish.

So this baked pasta recipe makes the best of this wacky situation. I get to belly up to a warm bowl of cheesy pasta – FOUR types of cheese! – and make pesto with fresh basil, giving me all the warm weather feels, for the dish at the same time.


Here’s the basic shopping list for this recipe. Keep in mind that if you want to shortcut through making your own pesto, go right ahead! Or feel free to use your favorite pesto recipe in place of the one I have here.

Ingredients for Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto.

It’s an adaptable recipe so let’s keep it simple!

For the basil almond pesto:

  • Fresh basil
  • Roasted almonds or pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto in a small white bowl with a spoon in it. There are ingredients for the pesto on the counter around the pesto.

For the baked pasta:

  • Fusilli or another twirly pasta
  • Marinara sauce
  • Ricotta cheese (whole or part-skim)
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Goat cheese, crumbled
  • Fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to Make this Pesto Pasta Recipe

Not unlike any of the other baked pasta recipes you’ve made in your life, this is one is also pretty straightforward. Here’s what you’re going to do to make it. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card below for the full ingredient and instructions lists!

STEP 1: Boil your pasta to al dente. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large casserole dish and spread some sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Making Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto. A hand is pouring pasta water in to the cheese mixture.

STEP 2: If you’re making the pesto, blend all of the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Stream the oil through the feed tube with the processor on. The pesto will loosen up and become glossy.

STEP 3: Mix the cheeses with chopped fresh basil. Stir in some hot pasta water and the rest of the marinara sauce. Mix the cooked pasta into the cheese mixture.

STEP 4: Transfer the pasta to the casserole dish and dollop some of the pesto over the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Uncooked pasta mixture for Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto in a white rectangular casserole dish. Pesto is dolloped on top of the pasta.

Why Use Pasta Water?

There are a couple of reasons to use pasta water in this baked pasta recipe.

First, the water loosens up a very heavy cheese mixture. This will help the cheese to coat the pasta better when you mix it all together.

Second, pasta water has a lot of starch from the cooked pasta. In most pasta recipes, like this roasted garlic butter pasta, the starchy cooking water will help to create a glossy sauce that sticks to the pasta.

Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto being scooped with a fork from the plate.

Third, it’s got lots of flavor! Instead of adding plain water to the recipe, you’ll get an extra boost of flavor from the salty, starchy water in your dish.

Ooops! I dumped all of the pasta water!

If you end up pouring the pasta water down the drain before you skim some of it out of the pot – I’ve totally done this before! – use some low-sodium chicken broth in place of the pasta water.

Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto served on a round white plate with a side salad and piece of bread.

This won’t give you the starchy benefits but you still need liquid the thin out the cheese mixture and it might as well have some flavor.

What We Thought about this Recipe

Honestly, I was completely on the fence about making this recipe at all. I have never been a fan of goat cheese and so I’ve steered clear of any recipes with goat cheese for years.

But I had the chance to do a Zoom cooking meet up* with Dan Pelosi of Grossy Pelosi fame last spring where we’d be making his stuffed shells version of this recipe. And it was a matter of passing on the opportunity or sucking it up and trying a new thing.

So I made it, didn’t skip the goat cheese, and Riley and I both ended up really loving this meal! The goat cheese gives the pasta a subtle tanginess and it wasn’t at all overpowering.

All of the cheese flavors work great together here but the pesto really is the star. It gives a heavy, cheesy baked pasta dish a fresh lift that the meal definitely needs.

Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto all baked and ready to serve.

More Baked Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

Here are some of our other favorite baked pasta recipes that we’ve made over and over through the years:

*Most of the recipe ingredients were supplied by Murray’s with the cost of a ticket to participate.

Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto all baked and ready to serve.

Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto

Yield: 8 to 12 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Four Cheese Baked Pasta with Pesto is a great meal to bridge the gap between winter pasta recipes and summer cooking. Creamy goat cheese boosts flavor in the dish and is a natural food buddy to basil almond pesto. This is a big favorite in our house and it makes for a fantastic potluck dish too!


For the pesto:

  • About 2 cups (2 oz) fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup roasted almonds or pine nuts
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large garlic cloves (or 3 to 4 smaller cloves), peeled
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup olive oil

For the pasta:

  • 16 oz fusilli or another twirly pasta, cooked until al dente according to package directions
  • ¼ cup of pasta water reserved before drained
  • 12 oz marinara sauce
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese (whole or part-skim)
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup chopped basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. To make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add all of the pesto ingredients except the oil. Pulse until roughly chopped. With the processor on, drizzle the oil through the feed tube in a slow stream. Blend the pesto until it reaches your desired consistency. I like it with just a tiny bit of texture left in it.
  2. To make the pasta: Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 3-quart (13x9-inch) baking dish. Spread a light layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish; set aside.
  3. Mix the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and goat cheeses with the basil and a heavy sprinkle of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl. Stir in half of the reserved pasta water to loosen up the mixture. Mix in the remaining marinara sauce and then stir in the cooked pasta until the pasta is completely coated. Transfer the pasta to the baking dish. Dollop the top of the pasta with about 1 cup of pesto and sprinkle with some extra Parmesan cheese. Refrigerate or freeze the remaining pesto for other uses.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the sides of the dish are bubbly. If you like pasta with crispy edges, turn on the broiler and broil the top of the pasta for about 1 to 2 minutes, just until the tips of the pasta brown just a little.


adapted from Grossy Pelosi

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