Creamy Pesto Tortellini Salad

Picture this: cheese tortellini bathed in a creamy, dreamy pesto sauce…no mayo or sour cream here, my friends! Instead, we’re ramping things up with a little luscious mascarpone cheese for loads of velvety richness. Tossed with savory salami,sharp fontinella cheese, two kinds of tomatoes and olives, this is a pesto tortellini salad that will have you coming back for seconds, thirds, and maybe even fourths (no judgment here!).

close up of pesto tortellini salad in dark brown bowl with basil on top
The creamiest pesto tortellini salad gets help from mascarpone and pasta water!

There are plenty of reasons why a big scoop of this creamy pesto tortellini salad will be the star of your plate.

  • First, it’s incredibly easy to make, requiring just a handful of ingredients.
  • Second, it’s versatile, making it suitable for casual weeknight dinners or as the star attraction at your next backyard gathering.
  • Finally, it’s a crowd-pleaser – the creamy pesto sauce getting in all the nooks and crannies of that cheese tortellini.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry!

Other easy recipes like this you’ll ♥️: pistachio pesto sauce, an unbelievably good bow tie pasta with burrata, or a beyond easy Alfredo pasta salad. Or whip up a batch of pesto eggs for brunch this weekend…so good!

The secret to really creamy pesto pasta salad

dark brown serving bowl of super creamy pesto tortellini salad

In addition to starting with really good pesto —my super simple 2 minute pesto recipe is the best—we add mascarpone to add such a rich, creamy texture!

p.s. Yes! you can use store-bought pesto! Do yourself a favor and buy the greenest pesto you can find!

Ingredient run-down

ingredients for pesto tortellini salad
Fresh cheese tortellini along with mascarpone, pesto, fresh parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, olives makes the best tortellini salad (not pictured: cherry tomatoes)
  • Cheese tortellini. Store bought! See? EASY! If you’re a Chicago local, I love Perfect Pasta but feel free to purchase your favorite!
  • Pesto. Can’t eat pine nuts? My pistachio pesto and my walnut pesto recipes will be your go-to’s!
  • Fontinella cheese. Not fontina cheese but fontinella cheese. It’s sharp and dry and beyond flavorful. You can also use sharp provolone.
  • Genoa salami. I looove Genoa Salami. You can also use a spicy soppressata.
  • Veggies. Black olives and two kinds of tomatoes (sun dried and cherry).

⇢ You can find the full ingredient list + measurements in the recipe card directly below.


Ingredient spotlight: mascarpone

Mascarpone is Italian cream cheese made with cream instead of milk. I love using it instead of mayo and sour cream in ranch dressing for a tangy flavor and rich texture. Mascarpone also makes the BEST mashed potatoes!


How to make pesto tortellini salad

mascarpone and water being mixed for pesto tortellini salad with pasta water
Blend mascarpone with pasta water in a bowl.
clear bowl of creamy pesto dressing for pesto tortellini salad
Stir in pesto a little at a time and mix until creamy.
pesto tortellini salad mixed with a dark spatula in a clear bowl
Toss cooked tortellini in with pesto sauce.
clear bowl of pesto tortellini salad being mixed together
Add veggies, meat and cheese and stir.

If you’re making homemade pesto, the time to do that is now. And then, all you need to do is:

  • Cook tortellini in heavily salted water. Be generous! Reserve some pasta water.
  • Slice up the salami, cube the fontinella cheese, halve the olives and prep the sun dried tomatoes, if needed.
  • Toss the tortellini with the pesto and some pasta water until all the tortellini is coated.
  • Add in the meat, vegetables and cheese and toss some more along with some fresh parmesan.

Make ahead tip

Cook the pasta and mix with half of the pesto sauce. The hot pasta will absorb the flavor. Toss in the rest of the dressing right before serving!

Tortellini pasta salad tips

dark bowls of creamy pesto tortellini salad and fresh basil leaves with a fork and napkin
  • Don’t overcook the tortellini. You want it firmer than softer so that it holds up to the ingredients and pesto sauce.
  • Start with less pesto. Once it’s mixed with the pasta water, a little goes a long way. Add more to your taste.
  • Add salt and pepper to the sauce as opposed to the whole salad.

Storage and serving suggestions

Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Pasta salad isn’t recommended to be frozen.


Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


close up of pesto tortellini salad in dark brown bowl with basil on top
5 from 1 vote

Creamy Pesto Tortellini Salad

Prep Time:13 minutes
Cook Time:7 minutes
Total Time:20 minutes

Ingredients
 

Instructions

  • Cook the tortellini in heavily salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the tortellini in a colander.
    12 oz cheese tortellini
  • Chop and/or slice the meat, cheese and vegetables.
    ⅔ cup sun dried tomatoes, ½ cup black olives, 5 oz sharp fontinella, 1 container cherry or grape tomatoes, ¼ lb salami
  • To a large serving bowl, add the mascarpone along with 1/2 cup of pasta water to start. Mix together until creamy. Stir in the pesto to make a creamy pesto sauce. Taste for seasoning.
    ⅓ cup mascarpone cheese, ⅓ cup pasta water, ½-1 cup pesto
  • Add the hot cooked tortellini and toss until the pasta is coated. (If making ahead, only start with half of the dressing and toss with the other half before serving.)
  • Add in the chopped veggies, meat and cheese. Toss until all is mixed and coated with dressing.
  • Sprinkle over fresh parmesan and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
    ½ fresh grated parmesan, fresh basil leaves

Notes

  • Start with less pesto initially and add more to taste as desired. 
  • Season the pesto sauce with salt and pepper instead of the whole salad.
Course: pasta salad, Salad
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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