Check out this cheesy goodness. This is “Baked Penne Rigate with a Little Kick!” Creamy, warm comfort food at it’s finest!
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Let’s Talk Cheese Please!

We use three cheeses to make the creamy sauce for this penne rigate: sharp cheddar, pepper jack and Parmesan. You can make this recipe mild, medium or give it quite the kick by varying the amount of the pepper jack cheese you use. I will give you several options so you can pick just the right amount of heat for you. I strongly recommend you use good quality cheese that comes in blocks so you can freshly grate it. Pre-grated lower quality cheeses don’t melt as well or as smoothly.


Three blocks of cheese used to make Spicy Penne Rigate from The Organic Kitchen


How to Make a Cheese Sauce:

When making a cheese sauce you start with a roux (pronounced roo) A roux is a combination of fat and flour and is used to thicken a sauce. In this case we use butter for our fat. You can grate the cheese yourself using a cheese grater or make it quick and painless using a food processorMake the roux by whisking melted butter, flour, sea salt and pepper together. Then add warm milk and allow to thicken a bit while stirring. Then add cheese and handful at a time. Stir until smooth and you have yourself a beautiful cheese sauce!

A series of photos showing the process of making a roux and then a cheese sauce to be used in Spicy Penne Rigate from The Organic Kitchen


Bake in a Casserole Dish or Individual Size Baking Dishes!

If I am making this for the family I use a 9×13 glass baking dish, but when I have a dinner party I like to divide it up into smaller ceramic baking dishes.

Four colorful ceramic baking dishes for Cheesy Baked Penne Rigate with a Kick!

Four colorful dishes filled with cooked penne rigate


Pour cheese sauce over pasta and top with extra cheese…

Spicy Penne Rigate in colorful baking dishes on wood surface


…pop in the oven and bake till crispy…


Spicy Penne Rigate baking in the oven


How to Chiffonade:

I like to garnish this pasta with diced tomato and a basil chiffonade, this is totally optional! To chiffonade, simply stack leaves, roll tightly and slice, op, serve and prepare to be very happy!



Making it Gluten Free and Just as Good!

If you live without gluten you don’t have to miss out on exceptional pasta! Jovial Foods makes the best gluten free pasta around. I am lucky enough to live by a store that carries it, but if you aren’t you can order it here! We also recommend Jovial Gluten Free Pastry Flour for the roux.


A green baking dish filled with 'baked penne rigate with a kick' on a white surface in front of fresh basil and wood cutting boards



The Recipe: Baked Penne Rigate with a Little Kick!

Baked Penne Rigate with a Little Kick!
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins

This is “Baked Penne Rigate with a Kick!” Creamy, warm comfort food at it’s finest!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: easy pasta recipe, weeknight dinner
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Linda Spiker
Note: there are various measurements for the cheese sauce, so you can make it mild, medium or "with a kick". The first measurement is for "with a kick", the two measurements in parenthesis are for mild and medium.
  • 12 oz penne rigate pasta, cooked one minute under package instructions
  • 2 cups whole fat milk
  • 2 1/2 cups pepper jack cheese, freshly grated (for the mild version use 1 cup, for mediu heat use 1 1/2 cups )
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar, freshly grated (for the mild version use 2 1/2 cups, for med use 2 cups)
  • ½ cup Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 2 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
Garnish: optional
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 6 basil leaves, chiffonade
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place oven rack in center position. Cook pasta one minute shy of package instructions. Choose mild, medium, or spicy version, then grate all cheeses accordingly and toss together

  2. Set milk in a pan and warm on medium heat. Place a second large saucepan on medium heat, melt butter, add salt and pepper. Add flour to melted butter and whisk. This is your roux, it will thicken your cheese sauce. Slowly add warm milk to the roux, continually whisking and heat until mixture begins to thicken. When milk is thickened, add cheese a handful at a time (retaining the 3/4 cup for later) whisk cheese, slowly adding more as each handful melts. When cheese is completely melted and sauce is smooth turn off heat.

  3. Place pasta in baking dish(es). Pour cheese sauce over. Sprinkle with extra cheese. Don’t worry about covering every nook and cranny, the cheese sauce will spread out as the pasta bakes. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until browned and crispy on top.

Recipe Notes

Note: This recipe is for spicy pasta. Measurements for medium and mild are listed below.



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