An easy vegetarian dinner with lots of flexibility and flavor! Tortellini, veggies and beans bake in a creamy pesto sauce with a cheese topping – only 7 or 8 ingredients and minimal prep required here for an amazing dinner. You can swap ingredients around as much as you like to make it perfect for you!

This tortellini bake is the best kind of dinner

It’s a unicorn recipe! One of those really easy, flexible, carefree kind of dinners that come together in one pan and seem to work out just fine no matter how much you stray from the recipe. I love to give you recipes you don’t really need to follow. It’s a dinner format, more than a recipe.

We are going to pick out some packaged fresh tortellini, and add a bunch of other ingredients to fully round out the meal (my lineup includes tomatoes, kale, white beans and artichokes). We’re going to bake it in a pesto cream sauce, which sounds fancy but actually just involves stirring pesto and cream into the baking dish with the other ingredients. And there will a crispy cheese crust because of course there will.

Pesto is the magic in this recipe. It provides a ton of flavor. I don’t bother with garlic or fresh herbs because the pesto does it all. This also means if you’re using bagged pre-chopped kale, you will have nothing – nothing at all! – to chop. For me there is no greater dinner time gift than a lack of chopping.

This recipe comes together in a big baking dish (though you do need to pre-boil the tortellini in another pan so it’s not a fully fledged one pan recipe). It’s a very easygoing, forgiving process where you don’t even really need to measure anything. So relax, pour a glass, and enjoy the process.

What you should know about the Ingredients and Substitutions

I want to emphasize that this is a reeeeally flexible recipe, and not a lot can go wrong. If you’re wondering how you can make changes or if you don’t have any of the ingredients listed, scroll through my notes for some ideas of how to make it work anyway.

  • Tortellini: Any flavor you like, mine was spinach and ricotta but plain cheese is a great choice too. This recipe was tested with fresh refrigerated tortellini. You could use any tortellini, but the weight will not correspond if you’re using dried or frozen, so you’ll need to eyeball it. This recipe is flexible enough that the exact quantity doesn’t matter too much. Similarly, if the tortellini you’re buying doesn’t come in the right sized package to correspond with the recipe, you can round down a little and it won’t matter.
  • Jarred pesto: The jarred stuff works best here. While I normally push homemade pesto where possible, the fact that jarred pesto has been heat treated means it can withstand being baked for a while without losing its flavor. I use green pesto but red would work – it’s a different flavor profile but would be just as good.
  • Cream: Heavy / double cream or single, half and half – all will work. The thicker creams will yield a thicker sauce. You could probably melt some cream cheese in if you don’t have any pouring cream, just thin the sauce with some broth or pasta cooking water if you need to.
  • Baby plum or cherry tomatoes: These are roasted so they burst and add some lovely juiciness to the sauce as well as delicious bites of jammy tomato within the bake. These could be replaced with vine tomatoes sliced widthways into thirds if needs be. If you can’t manage any tomatoes at all, consider another juicy vegetable like zucchini or mushrooms. Otherwise, you’ll probably need to use more pesto and cream to get things feeling moist and saucy enough – just eyeball it and use your judgement.
  • Marinated artichokes or other antipasti: These are optional, and they aren’t the cheapest ingredient so only include them if you love them + have the budget for them. You could also throw in an antipasti mix, olives, sundried tomatoes, whatever is floating around in your fridge threatening to go bad if you don’t use it up soon.
  • Canned white beans: Any variety will work – I use cannellini beans but butter beans and navy / haricot beans are also great choices.
  • Cheese: I just use a pre-grated bagged mozzarella here for maximum ease, and those pre-grated cheeses do tend to give you the best crispiness, but you can use anything at all. I’ve also tried dotting in some soft goat cheese, or torn fresh mozzarella into the casserole, so if you have something to use up – throw it in!
  • Kale: Or spinach, arugula (rocket), chard or whatever leaves work for you. I do like kale the best in this dish because it’s more bulky and chewy – this adds a different texture to the dish alongside all the melty / creamy stuff. If you don’t have leaves, but still want a pop of green, some frozen peas will play nicely here.

This recipe works on a budget

While I’ve used a mix of budget and premium ingredients for the recipe photographed, I want to reassure you that it can be made with entirely budget ingredients – nothing needs to be top tier.

  • If you’re buying budget range tortellini, I find that pure cheese tortellini is usually the tastiest in these ranges – cheaper spinach tortellini can be hit and miss. Aldi’s four cheese tortellini is my recommendation!
  • Speaking of Aldi, you can get everything you need for this dish there – this is true of Aldi in both the US and UK. You may not get the artichokes there, but they are not essential anyway.
  • A mild cheddar cheese, grated off the block, is your most cost effective option for cheese. (This is true in the UK, but cheese math is different in the US so if you’re over there, just know that you can use whatever cheese is cheap and it’s going to be fine!).
  • If you want to make this with canned tomatoes instead of fresh, you could try this method of roasting canned whole tomatoes.

How to use up the remaining ingredients

This leaves you with some leftover pesto + leftover kale (if you’ve bought a typically sized package of each) so these recipes can be meal planned for the same week to help use it all up!

Pesto Tortellini Bake

An easy vegetarian dinner with lots of flexibility and flavor! Tortellini, veggies and beans bake in a creamy pesto sauce with a cheese topping – only 8 ingredients and minimal prep required here for an amazing dinner. You can swap ingredients around as much as you like to make it perfect for you!
5 from 2 ratings


  • 18 oz (500 g) fresh tortellini, any flavor
  • 1 lb (450 g) cherry or baby plum tomatoes, whole
  • 14 oz (400 g) canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2-3 cups (80 g) fresh spinach or kale
  • 1 cup canned or jarred artichokes (optional), chopped if necessary, drained and patted dry
  • ¼ cup jarred basil pesto
  • ½ cup heavy (double) cream, more if you'd like it to be saucier
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella


  • Heat the oven to 200C / 390F.
  • Add the tomatoes, whole, to a large casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they have burst and started to brown.
    1 lb cherry or baby plum tomatoes
  • Just before taking your tomatoes out of the oven, set the tortellini boiling according to package instructions.
    18 oz fresh tortellini
  • Add the kale, white beans, artichokes (if using) and about 1/4 of the grated cheese (save the rest for the topping) directly into the pan with the tomatoes. Mix through, then add the pesto and cream, and mix until a creamy sauce is forming.
    14 oz canned white beans, 2-3 cups fresh spinach or kale, 1 cup canned or jarred artichokes (optional), 2 cups grated mozzarella
  • Drain the tortellini, then add it into the pan with the other ingredients and mix until it's just combined. Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and crispy.
  • Serve!
Calories: 612kcal, Carbohydrates: 58g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 85mg, Sodium: 848mg, Potassium: 531mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 2525IU, Vitamin C: 33mg, Calcium: 429mg, Iron: 5mg