This Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad is a fresh and easy summer pasta salad that can be ready in the time it takes you to boil your pasta! It consists of mozzarella pearls, juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, and a delicious pesto dressing.
It’s a quick fix for when you need to bring a last-minute side dish to a potluck or BBQ or is one of the best ways to enjoy a light lunch or easy dinner.
Sometimes when I’m craving a pasta dish, but don’t want anything hot, mostly because it’s sweltering outside, having a cold pasta salad hits the spot. Its ingredients are so light and fresh and it presents so colorfully and pretty! It’s one of the first things to go when I serve it at any gathering.
To make this simple dish even easier, you use a store-bought pesto sauce but just know a homemade pesto is almost effortless with a few fresh ingredients and a food processor. See the recipe below!
Why we love this recipe
- Quick and easy and comes together in minutes.
- Always a hit at parties and is always the first o go.
- Light and fresh and never leaves you feeling heavy even though it is pasta.
- Healthy wholesome ingredients.
- Can be customized to your liking, it’s very flexible. Check out the variations below.
- Similar to my Easy Greed Pasta Salad with is also light, fresh, and easy!
- Cheese tortellini – Cook according to package directions.
- Pesto sauce – Can use a jar you have on hand or a quick homemade version.
- Cherry tomatoes – Halved tomatoes make for a more pleasing bite. Grape tomatoes will work too.
- Mozzarella pearls – Fresh mozzarella pearls come in brine and are nice and soft. Don’t mistake it for prepackaged mozzarella!
- Fresh basil – A lovely fresh herb, sliced thin.
How to Make Tortellini Pasta Salad
This recipe will come together in a few simple steps in as much time as it takes to boil your pasta, combine, and toss!
Step 1: Cook the pasta, set aside 1 cup of pasta water before draining, and place tortellini in a large serving bowl.
Step 2: In a small bowl, make the dressing by adding the pesto and 1/4 of the reserved pasta water to help thin it out.
Step 3: If you find the dressing is still too dry, and not pourable, add another 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
Step 4: Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil to the bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For an easy 5 minute homemade pesto, combine 1 cup of fresh basil leaves with 3 TBSP of pine nuts, 1/3 freshly grated parmesan cheese, 3 cloves of peeled garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor and slowly add in the oil to emulsify and blend until smooth.
1: Add meat like sliced pepperoni or salami or even diced grilled chicken.
2: Add additional fresh veggies like bell peppers, black olives, artichoke hearts, fresh spinach, kale, or peas.
3. Swap the mozzarella cheese for feta cheese or parmesan cheese.
4. Not a pesto fan? Swap it out for an Italian dressing or balsamic dressing.
5. Swap cherry tomatoes for sun-dried tomatoes.
- Scoop out the pasta water with a big ladle or use a measuring cup.
- Despite the awesomeness of a cold pasta salad, it can actually be served warm as well!
- Serve alongside any grilled meat or seafood or enjoy as an appetizer salad on its own.
- Cheese tortellini sounds a little fancy, but it’s readily available in your grocery stores.
- Make ahead of time, up to 3 days in advance, and store in the fridge. Just before serving toss with a little extra olive oil to thin out the pesto.
This salad is a great make-ahead salad. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge, which means meal prep made easy for lunch throughout the week.
You can! Place in a labeled freezer-friendly zip lock bag or airtight container to freeze. Thaw in the fridge overnight. You might need to add more pesto dressing to liven it up again.
Other Salad Recipes to try:
- 19 ounces cheese tortellini
- ¾ cup pesto homemade or store bought
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 cup mini mozzarella pearls
- ¼ cup fresh basil sliced thin
- Cook the tortellini pasta according to package directions
- Remove 1 cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta into a strainer.
- Place the drained tortellini to a large serving bowl.
- In a small bowl, add the pesto and ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water and pour over the pasta and toss gently to coat the pasta. ( If the sauce is too dry, add another ¼ cup of the pasta water)
- Add the sliced tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and basil and toss to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.