Ground turkey, pesto, pasta and cheese baked into one glorious Italian Pasta Bake. Easy, light and healthy, oh and delicious too!

The other day, while freeing up some space on my computer, I stumbled on a folder labeled “000”. I wasn’t sure what the heck it was, so I opened it. Pow! I saw these pictures of past that I made this back in March, yes with my old lens, just before I had the flu.

All of a sudden it all came rushing back to me in some sort of distorted flashback:

This pasta. American Idol. The flu. Postponing my Dad’s birthday dinner. Ahhh yes. No wonder why these pictures didn’t make it on here, I totally forgot it even happened! Because the flu I had apparently came with a side of temporary amnesia because it’s only been like 6 months. Who does that? Who forgets a recipe? Me apparently.

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My sister Christine emailed me this recipe forever and ever ago. Telling me to “Make it! It’s delicious!” and she was right! I remember loving the combination of the fire roasted tomatoes with the pesto and the copious amounts of cheese. But I believe she got this recipe from someone, who got it from someone and it may have been in a magazine or something, not sure. But who ever thought this little ditty up, me and my family thank you.

It’s awesome.

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This dish is simple and quick to prepare. It makes for a soul warming weekday meal and would even be great to make ahead of time and then just pop in the oven when you’re ready to eat!

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First bring a pot of salted boiling water, add then add the pasta and cook just short of al dente. I usually stop mine two minutes before the recommended time when I plan to finish baking the pasta in the oven.

Next grate a cup and a half of the Asiago cheese or more to taste. Have you ever heard anyone complain about pasta being too cheesy? I didn’t think so.

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Then just mince up the garlic and cook it up with the ground turkey over medium heat in a little olive oil.

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Next add in the entire can of fire-roasted tomatoes or tomato sauce. 

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Ground turkey is a not-so-pretty grey once it’s cooked, so I quickly mix the tomato sauce into it.

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Then add in all the baby spinach. Next, reduce heat a tad and place a lid over top. Then allow the steam wilt and cook the leaves for a couple minutes.

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Meanwhile reserve a cup of the pasta liquids, then drain the pasta and return it to the pan.

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Next, add the cup of pesto, homemade or jarred – who cares? it’s PESTO!

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Then add a cup of the Asaigo cheese.

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Next, stir to combine. I could so totally eat this right here and now but it gets so much better, just you wait!

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Now the spinach should be bright green and tender.

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Then add the pesto pasta {say that three times} to the tomato and turkey mixture. And then give it a toss until everything is well mixed.

Here is where you can add a little of the pasta sauce if you think the sauce needs to be thinned out a little. Your call.

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Next, pour the mixture into a large lightly greased baking dish and sprinkle with more cheese. Confession: I have this thing, where I can’t just leave a recipe alone. Because of this, I always change, add or delete something. I’m not sure why I do this, but admitting has to be the first step, right?

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For this recipe; I couldn’t resist grabbing some panko and sprinkling a cup of it over top and liberally drizzling it with more olive oil. That step is not necessary, but I do like the added texture the panko gives. Bake in a 375° oven until the top is golden about 15-20 minutes. It could be a little longer, I didn’t write this part down and plus I forgot… amnesia remember??

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This is such a hearty pasta dish! I would so serve this with a bottle of wine and some garlic knots. Maybe some candle light and a little Frank Sinatra. Oh yes yes!

Enjoy! And if you give this Italian Pasta Bake recipe a try, let me know by snapping a photo and tagging me on twitter or instagram!

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My cookbook Simply Scratch : 120 Wholesome Homemade Recipes Made Easy is now available! CLICK HERE for details and THANK YOU in advance! 

Italian Pasta Bake
Yield: 8 servings

Italian Pasta Bake

Ground turkey, pesto, pasta and cheese baked into one glorious Italian Pasta Bake. Easy, light and healthy, oh and delicious too!

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes


  • 1 (16 ounce) box dried cavatappi pasta
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 (15 ounce) can fire roasted tomato sauce
  • 1 cup basil pesto
  • 1 bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1-1/2 cups freshly grated Asiago cheese, divided
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and season generously with kosher salt. Add pasta and cook to just shy of al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta water.
  3. Meanwhile in a deep 10-inch skillet, over medium heat sauté garlic in olive oil. Add the ground turkey, use a spatula to break it up and cook until the turkey is no longer pink and is fully cooked, about 8 minutes.
  4. Next add the tomatoes, pesto, 1/2 cup of cheese and stir.
  5. Place the baby spinach on top of the simmering tomato and turkey mixture; reduce heat to low and cover to cook the spinach about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Next, add the cooked and drained pasta to the tomato mixture and toss. If desired add a little of the pasta water to thin out the sauce.
  7. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, panko bread crumbs and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  8. Bake in your preheated oven until the top is golden, about 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.


NOTE: feel free to omit the panko crumbs if desired

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 460 Total Fat: 32g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 20g Cholesterol: 78mg Sodium: 589mg Carbohydrates: 19g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 2g Protein: 26g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
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