There’s nothing more comforting than a big pan of this Spicy Red Sauce Pesto Tortellini Bake! It’s an easy make ahead meal that can feed a crowd!
We’ve been making this dish over and over lately at our house! Why? It’s sooooo easy to make, it freezes easily and it’s a total crowd pleaser. Plus, it’s major comforting and craveable. It’s a dish that BMW and I can always agree on. I made something similar to this last year for my family on Christmas Eve. I loved it because I made it ahead of time and froze it. Then I took the frozen casserole dish and put it into a cooler and drove it to my Granny’s house about 3.5 hrs away. It was defrosted by the time I arrived and ready to go in the oven. Then I got to be the hero that showed up with dinner!
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Make Ahead Tortellini Bake
Hello stretchy cheese pull! I love mozzarella and how stretchy it is. And delicious. It’s the perfect cheese for this recipe. You can mix in a little parmesan if you feel so inclined but mozzarella is really the go-to cheese for that stretchy, yummy texture we are going for in this recipe.
What if I don’t like spice, you ask? Easy, don’t use spicy sausage or spicy red sauce. Now, it’s not spicy, just savory and delicious! This recipe is super easy to make vegetarian, just use a thick red sauce in place of red meat sauce. Easy peasy.
Short Cuts for Make Ahead Recipes
For this recipe, I like to use fresh basil pesto (recipe below!) and BMW’s Spicy Red Wine Spaghetti Sauce. These are the two sauces that are going to give your tortellini bake all it’s flavor!
That being said, you can definitely use a pre-made spaghetti sauce and pesto. Just remember if you choose a bland sauce, then your recipe might not have as much flavor. But I feel ya, sometimes there’s just not time to make a sauce, so use your favorite pre-made, store-bought brand.
Frozen vs Fresh Tortellini
In this recipe, I actually use frozen store-bought cheese tortellini. You can use fresh if you like though! Since the little tortellinis go swimming in a bath of sauce, the freshness isn’t going to make a huge difference in this particular recipe. The sauces are really the stars of the show.
Pro-Tip: under cook the pasta slightly since it will continue to cook in the sauce when you bake the casserole. If you over cook the pasta, it will fall apart after baking.
Makes one 9×13 casserole, approximately 8 servings
2 lbs of cheese tortellini, frozen or fresh
4 cups of mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup of basil pesto (recipe below)
6 cups (approx) of red meat sauce — we use this recipe for BMW’s Spicy Red Wine Spaghetti Sauce
1 cup, packed, fresh basil leaves
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon, approx 1 ounce
1 teaspoon salt
To make fresh basil pesto, blend or process all these ingredients together until smooth.
- Pre- heat oven to 350 degrees. If using frozen tortellini, boil for 3-4 minutes until tender but slightly under cooked. Drain. If using fresh, simply add to mix in steps below.
- Spread about 1 cup of the red sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish. Then spread tortellini into pan and top with about another cup of red sauce. Top with half of the mozzarella. Top with remaining red sauce, then pesto and top with remaining mozzarella.
- Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Then remove cover and bake for 5 minutes more until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.
*To freeze, make and assemble, then cover tightly and place in the freezer. If you thaw, the cooking time should stay about the same. If baking from frozen, double baking time but may still need more depending on your oven, etc.
Do you have a favorite make ahead meal? Tell me in the comments!