This Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad is loaded with cheese tortellini, tons of veggies, and plenty of fresh mozzarella - all tossed in a super simple pesto vinaigrette. Whether you need a quick salad for your next backyard barbecue, an easy meal prep recipe, or just something different to lunch today, this tortellini salad will quickly become a family favorite!
You can use homemade basil pesto or store-bought. My homemade pesto is super easy to throw together in just a few minutes, but store-bought will work just as well if you don't have time to make your own. My favorite store-bought pesto is this brand. Either will work great, but fresh pesto will give you a bit more flavor!
Use whatever kind of pasta you'd like. I love cheese-filled tortellini in this pasta. However, any kind short cut of pasta would work just fine including rigatoni, fusilli, rotini, elbow macaroni, or penne. The cheese tortellini just adds a little extra flavor but it's not totally necessary.
Moderately salt your pasta water. I recommend adding 2-4 tablespoons of Kosher salt to the boiling water before you add the pasta. Salting your pasta water is the first step in salting the pasta itself and will go a long way in boosting the flavor of the entire dish!
Cook just until al dente. Whichever pasta you choose, be sure to cook it just until al dente. I like to set my timer for 1 minute less than the lowest recommended cooking time and start tasting the pasta at that point. So if the recommended cook time is 4-6 minutes, I'll set the timer for 3 minutes and start tasting the pasta then so that I can strain it as soon as it's cooked through, but still has a toothsome bite.
Toss cooked pasta with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Don't skip the step of tossing the cooked pasta in olive oil and seasoning it with salt and pepper. This will ensure that the noodles don't stick together and also help the dressing stick to every nook and cranny of the noodle.
If you'd like to make this salad ahead of time, I recommend tossing the pasta with just half the dressing initially and then adding the remaining dressing to the pasta salad just before serving. This will ensure that the flavors are fresh and the pasta doesn't get soggy. I would not recommend making this more than 2-3 days in advance.
Keywords: basil pesto pasta salad, pesto pasta salad, summer pesto pasta salad, cold pesto pasta salad