30 Minute Pesto Tortellini Salad with asparagus, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes. This vegetarian, Mediterranean pasta salad can be enjoyed warm or chilled for easy entertaining or a quick weekday meal.
Tortellini Salad with Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Firstly, I want to apologize for it taking me THIS long to share this dead-simple recipe with you. I make this salad on the regular, for both easy entertaining and quick weekday meals, and it’s always a crowd-pleaser. Plus, it’s ready in just 30 minutes and can be enjoyed at room temperature or chilled. Basically the perfect pasta salad for any and every occasion.
This salad has especially come in clutch while we’re at the height of holiday craziness. I actually can’t believe we are 4 DAYS out from Christmas. I say it every year, but where the heck did December go?! Between Christmas shopping, holiday parties, and the business of blogging this time of year, each day feels like a whirlwind. Which is why I’m especially glad to have reliable recipes to lean on to fuel the daily hustle AND serve the ones I love.
Italian Tortellini Salad: How to Make
I love that this salad combines lots of vegetables while still feeling hearty. It’s brimming with so many delicious Mediterranean flavors and packed with heart-healthy fats. Here’s what you need:
- Packaged, refrigerated cheese tortellini; I prefer the three-cheese variety. If not available in the refrigerator section, you can also use frozen cheese tortellini. Cook times will likely vary, so just make sure to review the package instructions.
- Canned/jarred vegetables such as artichoke hearts, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. So easy and convenient.
- Fresh greens; I like arugula or baby spinach, however you can also use baby kale. Arugula is more delicate, which means it will soften more quickly once tossed in the salad. Just something to keep in mind if you’re making the salad ahead.
- Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. These actually do double duty since you use both the tomatoes and the olive oil from the jar. The oil infuses the salad with even more bright, umami flavor.
- Homemade or store-bought pesto. I purchase a fresh, local pesto from Whole Foods that I love, however you can also use jarred!
- More cheese, please! Freshly grated Parmesan is the perfect topping because of its salty, nutty flavor.
- Nuts or seeds for a crunchy garnish. Pine nuts, pepitas, or even walnuts will do the job!
Once you have all of your ingredients, the salad couldn’t be easier to make. Simply cook the tortellini, blanch the asparagus in the same pot, and toss it all together. If you are making it ahead, I suggest waiting to add the fresh greens until ready to serve. This helps keep them crisp (arugula, especially). However, if you use baby spinach instead, a little wilting is totally fine. After it’s made, the salad will keep for up to 4 days refrigerated.
How to Cook Tortellini:
Cooking time will vary depending on if your tortellini is refrigerated or frozen. It also depends on how fresh your tortellini is. For example, super fresh tortellini may only need 3 to 5 minutes in boiling water, while other varieties may need 7 to 10. Either way, I like cooking my tortellini until just al dente. (Which usually translates to 1 or 2 minutes LESS than the suggested cooking time.) This ensures the pasta retains some texture and doesn’t turn to mush once tossed in the salad. Also keep in the mind that the pasta will continue to soften once saturated in dressing.
This recipe calls for one pound of tortellini, which should be enough to serve 6. However if your package has a few ounces more or less, you can scale the other ingredients as you see fit. The recipe is more of an outline, so no need to be exact! And, if there is any particular ingredient you don’t like, leave it out or sub it for something else.
If the salad starts to dry out once refrigerated, just add a drizzle of olive oil before serving to re-hydrate it. Give this recipe a try for easy entertaining or quick weekday meals. Both kids and adults absolutely love it, and I guarantee you’ll start making it on repeat! And, as always, be sure to snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations.
More Healthy Vegetarian Pasta Recipes:
- 1 lb. refrigerated cheese tortellini
- 8 oz. fresh asparagus, trimmed and sliced into thirds
- ½ cup homemade or store-bought pesto
- 1 (14-oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced (plus 2 Tbsp. oil from jar)
- ⅓ cup sliced kalamata olives
- 3 cups fresh arugula or baby spinach
- 3 Tbsp. toasted pepitas or pine nuts
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare tortellini according to package instructions in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer cooked tortellini to a large bowl. To the same pot, add asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, and transfer asparagus to a bowl of ice water. Drain, and add asparagus to bowl with tortellini.
- Add pesto, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes plus 2 Tbsp. oil from the jar, olives, and arugula (or spinach); toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with nuts and cheese; serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.