This chicken pasta bake is a cheesy, rich comforting dinner recipe with bold flavor from sun-dried tomatoes and capers.
I love a good baked pasta recipe, and this chicken pasta bake checks all the boxes. It’s cheesy, rich, and just a little briny and tangy. Best of all? It’s easy as anything to make.
The key to this pasta bake recipe is a paste made from blitzing sun-dried tomatoes and capers in a food processor. This adds an irresistible tangy, briny undertone to the sauce.
What you need to make my pasta bake recipe:
To make this chicken pasta bake, you need the following ingredients:
- Chicken: I use chicken thighs because they won’t dry out like breasts. I season them liberally with salt, pepper, and a good quality Italian seasoning blend.
- Sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and garlic: These are the aromatics of the sauce. I blitz them in a food processor to form a paste. I use an onion in the sauce as well, but this won’t be blended into the paste.
- Whole peeled tomatoes: Use crushed tomatoes if you don’t have whole peeled. If you want to cut the simmer time in half, use your favorite store-bought tomato sauce instead.
- Pasta: I love rigatoni, but any tubular pasta works in this pasta bake, so try it with ziti or penne. You could even use fusilli or rotini instead if you prefer.
- Cheese: The best part! I add ricotta to the sauce, and I top the bake with grated mozzarella before baking. I finish the dish with finely grated Parmesan right before serving.
- Fresh herbs: Top the bake with fresh parsley or basil leaves, depending on what you have available.
How to cook it:
- Step 1: Start with the chicken. Dice up the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into bite-sized cubes. Season all over with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Add a few pinches of crushed red pepper for a little extra heat. Fry up the chicken in olive oil until mostly cooked through.
- Step 2: While the chicken cooks, blitz the sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and garlic in a food processor. Add the paste and the diced onion to the chicken and cook for 3–4 minutes.
- Step 3: Simmer the sauce. Add whole peeled tomatoes to the chicken and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, mashing the tomatoes as they cook.
- Step 4: Cook the pasta. As the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until 2 minutes under al dente.
- Step 5: Assemble the bake! Add the cooked pasta to a large casserole dish, add the sauce, and toss to coat. Cover with mozzarella and bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and browned.
- Step 6: Let the bake stand for 5–10 minutes, and then serve it up! Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and garnish with fresh herbs.
I recommend serving this with my roasted broccoli and spinach. You can chuck the broccoli in the bottom rack of the oven as the pasta bake roasts!
Chicken Pasta Bake Recipe
- 2 Large pots
- 9×12 Baking Dish
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained
- 1½ tablespoons capers, drained
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- ½ cup water or chicken stock
- 28- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes or a 24-ounce jar of your favorite pasta sauce
- Pinch of sugar, if needed
- 16 ounces rigatoni
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup loosely packed parsley, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the chicken:
- Place the chicken in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and arrange in an even layer. Cook for 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until cooked through.
Make the sun-dried tomato paste:
- Add sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and garlic cloves to a food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Set aside.
Simmer the sauce:
- Add the sun-dried tomato paste and the yellow onion to the chicken and toss to coat. Cook for 4–5 minutes. Pour in ½ cup water or chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Add the whole peeled tomatoes or tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes if using whole peeled tomatoes or 15 minutes with jarred tomato sauce. Taste and add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, or a pinch of sugar if needed. If using whole peeled tomatoes, mash them as they cook.
Make the pasta:
- Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and the rigatoni. Cook until 2 minutes under al dente. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a 9×12 baking dish.
Finish the sauce:
- Add the ricotta cheese to the sauce and stir until melted and combined. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat.
Assemble the bake:
- Spoon the sauce over the pasta and toss to combine. Sprinkle the grated mozzarella cheese on top. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15–20 minutes until browned and bubbly.
- Remove the pasta from the oven and let stand for 5–10 minutes. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and finish with freshly minced parsley. Serve immediately and enjoy!