This delicious Italian tortellini salad is a recipe that breathes new life into the world of pasta salads. I created this recipe to be full of Italian flavors and ingredients that shout pure indulgence.
My Italian tortellini pasta salad recipe is not only mouthwatering, but it is quick and easy to make. Tortellini takes at least 15 minutes to cook, which is enough time to prepare all the remaining pasta salad ingredients.
This recipe is filling and satisfying and makes for a delightful dinner or lunch and is terrific as leftovers!
About my Italian Tortellini Salad
When I first told my Italian husband I wanted to create a new pasta salad using tortellini, his first reaction wasn’t very positive. He’s not a fan of tortellini, but I love these little stuffed pastas.
Fast forward to when I gave it to him to taste-test and he became a believer. He even brought it up the following day about how good it is.
Personally, I never had tortellini cold or in a salad before creating this recipe. So I was pretty excited to start experimenting and come up with a recipe I knew my readers like you would really enjoy. I believe I have.
What is an Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad Anyway?
Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Just as you have pasta salads that use penne or long pasta like my cold angel hair pasta recipe, this recipe uses tortellini.
Similar to ravioli, tortellini is pasta filled with cheese or other ingredients like spinach or sausage. However unlike ravioli, tortellini is formed by wrapping the filled pasta around the finger and then pinching the ends together.
Here’s an image of some dried tortellini I have.
Pasta Salad Ingredients Needed
Let’s talk for a minute about the ingredients. The list is divided into two sections, one for the salad ingredients and another for the Italian dressing we mix it with. If you prefer to just jump right down to the actual recipe card, just scroll down or use the link below.Jump to Recipe
Here are notes on each of the ingredients you’ll need.
Dried or frozen tortellini
Serving size is generally ½ cup or 3 oz of uncooked tortellini creates 1 cup of cooked pasta. For 4 servings you’d want two cups or 12 ounces of dry tortellini.
Make sure you check the package for how long to boil tortellini. I recommend overcooking it just a tad so it is fully cooked when we run it under cold water.
Black or kalamata olives work fine. I prefer a mix of both, but if you don’t have both on hand then I’d recommend the kalamata olives, unless you are partial to black olives.
I do not use green olives in this recipe since they have such a distinct flavor.
Roasted red pepper
The good news is that you can buy jars of red pepper already roasted. We buy ours from Thrive market and they are delicious!
Buying a jar in my opinion is less expensive than buying whole peppers and taking the time to roast them just right.
I buy my jarred artichokes from Aldi. I don’t use the kind marinated in herbs and olive oil since we want to control the flavor ourselves. You’ll want 2 cups of chopped artichokes, or 16 ounces.
For this recipe, you’ll want about ½ cup of chopped pepperoncini. This adds just enough of a vinegar flavor without it going overboard. I use jarred pepperoncini slices and that makes it really easy to chop.
You’ll only need 1 or two garlic cloves depending how much garlic you like. You can add the garlic with the dressing, or add it to the salad directly.
Ingredients for the Italian Dressing
No tortellini pasta salad would be complete without the right type of Italian dressing. Instead of relying on unhealthy store-bought dressings, we use a simple olive oil dressing with Italian herbs we all most likely have at home.
Extra virgin olive oil
If you don’t use extra virgin olive oil you really need to start. Extra virgin is what you use especially in salads. A good quality organic extra virgin olive oil makes a huge difference in taste and flavor. We’ll be using a half cup of olive oil.
I prefer dried oregano for this recipe instead of fresh oregano. But either could work. If you want to use fresh oregano, then double the amount. We’re using 1 teaspoon of dried oregano.
Just like the oregano, we’re using 1 teaspoon of dried basil. Double the amount if using fresh basil.
How to Make Italian Tortellini Pasta salad
As you can see, this pasta salad includes Italian and Mediterranean ingredients that I’ve used in other salad variations, such as my cannellini bean salad.
Mix it all together and you’ve got a tortellini pasta salad waiting to be enjoyed by all. However, during my creation process I came across a few tips I’ll be sure to share with you along the way.Jump to Recipe
1. Start by bringing a pot of water to a boil and add the tortellini. Cook the tortellini according to the package instructions, however I have a tip for you right below.
PRO TIP: I found that it is best to slightly overcook the tortellini since it will not continue to cook as it normally would when mixed with hot pasta or spaghetti sauce. You want to make sure the pasta is fully cooked before you have to run it under the cold water. This is not an al-dente moment.
2. Meanwhile, take a garlic clove and slice it in half. Rub the open side of the garlic clove around the inside of the bowl. Then set the garlic clove aside because we’ll use it later for the dressing.
3. Start prepping your salad ingredients by chopping tomatoes, olives, red pepper, pepperoncini, artichokes, plus the remaining garlic. Place them in the mixing or large pasta bowl.
PRO TIP: Try to chop your ingredients to equal sizes.
4. In a small mason jar or liquid measuring cup, blend the olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, and basil. Mix well until everything is incorporated. Give it a final stir before adding to the tortellini salad.
5. When the tortellini is ready, drain and run under cold water until the tortellini and its filling is no longer hot. Add it to the mixing or serving bowl, along with the other salad ingredients.
6. Top with the Italian dressing and use a spoon to mix thoroughly so everything is covered with the dressing.
7. Serve cold and enjoy!
Can this Italian tortellini salad be made in advance?
Yes, this pasta salad can be made ahead of time. In fact, I recommend making it the night before and keeping it in the refrigerator. Letting it marinate with the dressing will only enhance the overall flavor.
When you take it out, mix well since the marinade will have settled to the bottom.
Can you add other ingredients to the tortellini salad?
Yes, absolutely! Additional ingredients you can add are tomatoes, pepperoni, mozzarella balls, or other Mediterranean foods.
Can you freeze the tortellini salad?
I would not recommend freezing the tortellini salad because the texture and flavor will not be the same when thawed. If we were serving a hot tortellini dish I’d recommend freezing, but not for a cold pasta salad.
Can you use any type of pasta?
Technically yes, but it wouldn’t be a tortellini pasta salad anymore. Over the years I have found that you can’t always just substitute one pasta shape for another. I think it’s the same principal here. For example, I have a pasta salad with ravioli that although it too is a stuffed pasta, I use very different ingredients.
Storage and Refrigeration Tips
As mentioned before, you can easily create this salad in advance. Ideally overnight. However, it can last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, which is unlikely considering how good it is!
I’ve eaten it as leftovers for dinner and lunch and it tasted just as good if not better.
I do recommend letting it sit for about 15 minutes or until it gets to room temperature before serving. The pasta might be a little stiff coming right out of the fridge.
You can read more about how long pasta salad will last and how to keep it safe in the fridge.
Similar Pasta Salad Recipes
If you enjoy this recipe you may also enjoy the following pasta salad recipes.
Enjoy your pasta salad with tuna and sun dried tomatoes. It’s delicious!
Not a fan of tortellini at all? Try my angel hair pasta salad recipe here.
Ever wonder how to cook ravioli? Check out my article to learn!
What to Serve with Your Tortellini Italian Salad
Here are some ideas for what will go well with a tortellini salad.
If it’s summertime and you have fresh zucchini, make pan fried zucchini blossoms!
If you love Italian mozzarella, tomatoes and basil try serving them on skewers for parties and picnics. They are refreshing and a perfect side dish to your pasta salad.
Nothing says summer like a cold glass of lemonade. I’ll show you how to make fresh lemonade from real lemons and what zero calorie sweeter is the secret ingredient!
I hope you will enjoy this recipe for Italian tortellini salad. It’s quick and easy and is now one of our favorite pasta salads. If you try it, please let me know how you like it in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad
- 2 cups frozen or dried tortellini
- 1 cup sliced or chopped olives Use pitted. Kalamata or black will work.
- 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers Cut into 1/2" sizes. Use jarred peppers.
- 2 cups chopped artichoke hearts Use jarred artichoke hearts.
- 2 medium garlic cloves finely diced or minced
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the tortellini. Reduce heat to a low boil and gently boil the tortellini for at least 15 to 20 minutes or according to package instructions. See note below about cooking time.
- Slice a garlic clove in half and rub the open side of the garlic clove around the inside of the bowl. Then set the garlic clove aside because we’ll chop and add it with the other ingredients.
- Mix the pitted olives, red pepper, artichokes, pepperoncini and garlic in a large serving bowl.
- Create the tortellini Italian dressing by mixing the olive oil, minced garlic, oregano and basil in a jar or measuring cup. Mix well and let sit until ready to use.
- When the tortellini is finished cooking, drain and run under cold water until fully cooled down. Then add to the bowl.
- Pour the Italian dressing over the salad and mix well.
- Serve cold and enjoy!
- Estimate 1/2 cup dried tortellini per serving. The tortellini will double in size as it cooks.
- Don’t undercook the tortellini. Instead, I tend to slightly over cook it to make sure it is 100% soft for the cold salad.
- This makes great leftovers.
- I recommend getting your artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers from a jar. This saves time and is very convenient.
- Regarding the garlic, if you’re not crazy about the flavor of garlic you can reduce it to one medium size clove. Also, you can either add the garlic to the salad directly or add it in with the dressing; either way is fine.
- If using fresh herbs, double the quantity.
- Last, but not least, use a good quality extra virgin olive oil! This can make all the difference in the world!