Easy Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe

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Easy Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe. This Italian pasta salad comes together quickly, and is easily made ahead of time. Serves great the next day as well!

A delicious, crowd-pleasing vegetarian tortellini salad is easy to make with cheesy tortellini pasta, fresh vegetables, and a simple homemade salad dressing. This pasta salad is a perfect side dish for grilled meat at a cookout, picnic, or potluck.

Italian tortellini salad recipe Italian Style
Easy tortellini pasta salad
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There are infinite pasta-bilities when it comes to pasta salad variations. See my pasta salad variations GUIDE in this post for making your own varieties of pasta salad with one simple FORMULA.

Looking for more delicious Italian summer recipes? Find ideas here: 30 BEST Italian Inspired Summer Recipes.

Easy Italian tortellini pasta salad recipe

Add this easy Italian tortellini pasta salad recipe to your list of weeknight favorites and your family will love you for it.

Increase the vegetables if you like, or use meat for a heartier dish. If you’re serving vegetarians, this recipe is perfect as is.

It doesn’t take much effort to gather friends and family around the table with this well loved meal. Enjoy!

More delicious pasta salad recipes: Easy Italian Style Pasta Salad with Arugula, Antipasto Pasta Salad Recipe, Warm Fregola Salad, and Greek Style Pasta Salad.

Make sure you check out my guide on how to cook frozen ravioli as well!

Simple Ingredients Tortellini Pasta Salad

ingredient shot

This dish is delightful with the summer tomatoes, olives, bell peppers, and fresh mozzarella bocconcini (bites) tossed with tortellini pasta and a balsamic garlic dressing- what’s not to love?

  • Cheese tortellini
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Bell pepper
  • Fresh mozzarella balls- Read more about different types of mozzarella in my post mozzarella vs burrata.
  • Black olives
  • Red onion
  • Shredded carrots
  • Balsamic garlic vinaigrette (olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper)
  • Fresh Basil leaves
  • Pine nuts (optional)

What does “tortellini” mean in Italian?

Tortellini’s diminutive, “tortello,” translates to “stuffed cake”. Tortellini is folded into hat-like shapes similar to dumplings. I love these little stuffed dumblings!

How to make Easy Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe (Video)

What tortellini to use

Use good quality tortellini!

I recommend using the refrigerated tortellini variety. You can find these with the other refrigerated pastas in most grocery stores.

They only take a few minutes to cook once your water is boiling and they’re much better tasting. Use tortellini with any filling you like. I’m a fan of cheese tortellini, but feel free to use whatever kind you prefer.

Traditionally, in Italy, tortellini are served warm in broth. Here are two recipes that are more traditional to how we eat tortellini in Italia. Here are a couple of our favorite tortellini recipes:

Tortellini Soup with Spinach and Lemon and Tortellini in Brodo- a Christmas Eve Tradition, and Tortellini Alla Panna Recipe with Peas.

How to properly cook store-bought tortellini

Read How to Cook Fresh or Frozen Ravioli Pasta (Instructions) for the best tips! You can use the same process for cooking tortellini.

tortellini pasta sald in a bowl

Pasta Cooking tips

Short pasta is best for pasta salad. If you aren’t using tortellini- pick one pound of small pasta of your choice. Feel free to mix it up and try new shapes and sizes. 

Cook the pasta in one gallon of boiling water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of salt until a little past al-dente. Cook it a minute or two longer than you would if you were making hot pasta. 

Read this article for a complete guide on how to cook pasta perfectly. Since we aren’t adding pasta to a hot sauce to finish cooking we don’t want it too al dente.

It is also important not to overcook the pasta or it will turn mushy after marinating with the dressing for too long. Drain, but do not rinse the pasta.

TOP TIP: Do not rinse the pasta for cold pasta salad. It will strip the starches and make the oily dressing slide off the pasta. Instead- toss with 1/2 cup (not more) of the dressing, combine in a large shallow bowl and let cool before tossing in the fresh ingredients.

Coat just so the pasta doesn’t stick together. If needed, add a little extra virgin olive oil to ensure the pasta doesn’t clump. 

Homemade Italian dressing

Italian Balsamic vinaigrette recipe

Recipe for Italian Balsamic Vinaigrette. This is a super easy homemade vinaigrette. The dressing ingredients are wholesome and fresh.

It comes together quickly in a mason jar. This is a simple and authentic and simple homemade Italian dressing.

You won’t find store-bought “Italian dressing” (that’s not really Italian anyway) in this pasta salad.

Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe Simple and satisfying with wholesome ingredients.

How to store homemade salad dressing?

The best way to store homemade salad dressing is in a container with a lid with as much air removed as possible and stored in the refrigerator

Here are a few container options I love: glass mason jar, dressing mixer bottle, dressing shaker, and old-fashioned glass.

Italian tortellini salad recipe Italian Style

How to make your own pasta salad GUIDE

If you want to get really fancy here are some ideas to add to this simple and delicious pasta salad recipe. Use this guide to help build any pasta salad creation of your choice.

Pasta Salad Ratios

Here are some ratios to help you create a mix and match of your very own pasta salad. 

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 6 cups of main ingredients (proteins and veggies)
  • ½ cup of unique flavors (olives, strong/unique cheeses, spiced salami, onions, etc)
  • 3 tablespoons herbs, 2 tablespoons zest. 
  • 1 ½ cups salad dressing 

Best pasta types for pasta salad

Feel free to switch out the tortellini for regular pasta shapes. Here is a list of pasta shapes that work well in pasta salads. I recommend short pasta for pasta salads since they match well with the shape and size of other ingredients.

  • Farfalle (bowtie)
  • Elbows
  • Fusilli
  • Cavatappi
  • Mezze Rigatoni
  • Gemelli
  • Trottole

Fresh veggies

(add about 1 cup for each veggie and pick up to 2):

  • Canned artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and quartered
  • Canned beans, drained and rinsed
  • Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Cucumbers, quartered lengthwise, cut into bite-size pieces and lightly salted
  • Fennel, trimmed, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
  • Avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into bite-size pieces (add at last minute to prevent darkening)
  • Zucchini, halved lengthwise if small, quartered lengthwise if large, then thinly sliced
  • Bell peppers, cored and cut into bite-size strips or cubes (green bell peppers, red bell peppers, or other varieties)
  • Tomatoes, seeded and cut into medium dice and lightly salted
  • Frozen green peas, thawed

Proteins and cheeses

(add about 1 cup for each protein and pick up to 2):

  • Chicken breasts, grilled, sautéed, or steamed, and cut crosswise into thin bite-size strips
  • Leftover breaded chicken breasts , cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Leftover Italian sausage and peppers
  • Tofu
  • Cooked lobster
  • Cooked and peeled shrimp
  • Canned tuna, drained
  • Mild cheeses (e.g., mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Ham or salami, sliced 1/4-inch thick and cut into bite-size strips

Unique flavors

These flavors add a unique twist to your pasta salad dish. (add about 1/2 cup) 

  • Spicy Salami, sliced and quartered
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Parmesan, shaved 
  • Goat cheese, crumbled
  • Capers, drained (1/4 cup)
  • Olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped  
  • Red onion, thinly sliced or diced
  • Pepperoncini, drained and thinly sliced
  • Roasted red peppers, cut into strips
  • Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, cut into small dice
  • Bacon, fried and crumbled (8 ounces)
  • Prosciutto (8 ounces), thinly sliced, cut into small- medium dice
  • Smoked salmon (8 ounces), thinly sliced, cut into small- medium  dice
  • Pine nuts, raw or toasted

Add-ons and spices

Hints of fresh herbs and citrus zest help brighten the pasta salad recipe and make it unique. Add about 3 tablespoons of herbs, and 2 tablespoons of zest.

  • Parsley 
  • Italian seasoning
  • Garlic, finely diced
  • Shallots, finely chopped
  • Lemon, lime, or orange zest

Final Assembly for pasta salad

  • Prepare the dressing and let it sit for flavors to marry. Skip if you are using store-bought dressing. 
  • Cook pasta until al dente and toss with some of the dressing. Let cool. 
  • Prepare the veggies. Try to keep veggies about the same size or a little larger than the pasta variety you are using. 
  • Prepare the proteins. Try to cut protein into bite-sized pieces so it is easy to eat. We don’t want to use a knife for pasta salad! 
  • Prepare Cheeses. Cubes are fun for cheese or use round mozzarella balls for different shapes and textures. 
  • Prepare the add-ons, herbs, and zest. 
  • Toss the pasta with the rest of the dressing and ingredients. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, 24 hours is recommended
pasta salad in a bowl with cheese and vegetables

Pasta Salad Tip

The only thing you have to cook is the tortellini! The other ingredients remain cold and are added after the pasta is coated in the dressing and slightly cooled.

  • Do not rinse pasta with cold water even for pasta salad!Read more on how to cook pasta perfectly.
    • Rinsing pasta will strip the starches and make the oily dressing slide off the pasta. Instead- toss with 1/2 cup (not more) of the dressing, combine in a large shallow bowl and let cool before tossing in the fresh ingredients.

Coat just so the pasta doesn’t stick together. If needed, add a little extra virgin olive oil to ensure the pasta doesn’t clump. 

  • For maximum flavor let rest in the fridge 6 hours before serving.   
pasta salad in a bowl

Can I make pasta salad ahead of time?

Absolutely! That’s the best part. Enjoy this pasta salad at room temperature or cold.

Yes, you can make this pasta salad two hours ahead of time. Let it sit on the counter (toss well before serving).

Or, try making it a couple of days in advance and store in the fridge. This pasta salad will be your favorite side at your next BBQ or gathering!

Pasta Salad Storage and FAQ’s

As the Italian tortellini pasta salad chills, the flavors may become milder. So, give it a taste test before serving.

Then decide if you need to add any additional seasoning before serving.

HOW LONG DOES PASTA SALAD LAST IN THE FRIDGE?

When stored in an airtight container, pasta salad will stay fresh for 3-5 days. If some of the fresh ingredients go bad faster, it might only last 2 days. 

HOW LONG DOES PASTA SALAD LAST AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?

When it comes to pasta salad, potato salad, or chicken salad (basically salads made with cooked foods) the USDA recommends that it’s ‘dangerous’ to eat any cooked food that sits out at room temperature for two hours or longer. To keep it fresh longer keep it in a cooler with ice, or set in on top of these ice sheets!

BEST STORAGE CONTAINERS FOR LEFTOVER PASTA

Here are a few airtight containers that work well for storing leftover pasta salad, pasta dishes, and more: Pyrex in different sizes, Snapware in different sizes, Glasslock oven safe, and Rubbermaid Takealongs.

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Easy Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe
Bowl of delicious Italian tortellini pasta salad

From my Cucina to Your Table. Mangia! Mangia! (Eat!)

Made with Amore, Elena

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pasta salad in a bowl with cheese and vegetables. Vegetarian recipe

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You will love this easy Italian tortellini pasta salad recipe! It makes a delicious side dish or leftover lunch the next day.

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pasta salad in a bowl with cheese and vegetables

Easy Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad

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5 from 1 review

This Italian pasta salad comes together quickly and can easily be made ahead of time. It is delightful with the summer veggies, olives, and fresh mozzarella bocconcini (bites). It is tossed with tortellini pasta and a lemon garlic dressing.  A delicious classic with so many fresh ingredients. You are going to love it just as much as we do!

  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: about 6 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • Double the recipe forBalsamic Garlic Vinaigrette(or, 1 1/2 cups store bought dressing)
  • 1 lb cheese tortellini of choice
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (or mixed medley variety), cut in half
  • 1 small can pre sliced black olives
  • 1 cup orange bell pepper, sliced into small pieces
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 package fresh mozzarella balls, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoon fresh basil, torn by hand
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook cheese tortellini according to al dente directions (do not overcook).
  2. In the meantime prepare vegetables. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, carrots, red onion, and basil to a large serving bowl. Toss to combine and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside. 
  3. Drain the tortellini and add to a separate large bowl. Do not rinse. Add half of the vinaigrette dressing and toss to coat. Let cool about 10- 15 minutes. 
  4. Then, add the veggies to the bowl with tortellini. Add the rest of the dressing and toss to combine. 
  5. Add the mozzarella, and toss more to combine. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve at room temperature or cold. Sprinkle with pine nuts if desired.  For maximum flavor let rest in the fridge 6 hours before serving.   

Notes

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container 3-5 days.

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian/ American
  • Cuisine: Italian/ American

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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