This quick and easy caprese tortellini salad is perfect for summer! With mozzarella, tomatoes, pesto, and arugula for a simple pasta salad side dish. Vegetarian.
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Are you ready to be a summertime BBQ side dish superhero? Because summer and barbecue and super-ness are what this lickety-split pesto pasta salad is ALL. ABOUT.
We’re keeping things simple with just FIVE INGREDIENTS – but this recipe is ultra-flexible, so don’t be afraid to mix it up and add to it. There’s also NO MEAT in this tortellini salad (hip hooray for vegetarian side dishes!) though you can certainly add some if you like.
All you need to make this easy tortellini salad:
- Cheese tortellini (frozen or fresh both work!)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Mozzarella (we love using these mozzarella pearls, but you could also cut up some fresh mozzarella balls!)
- Your favorite pesto (we used a classic basil pesto here, but you could also use our favorite arugula pesto!)
- Fresh Arugula (or kale or mixed greens or spinach!)
Serve this side dish immediately or pop it in the fridge for a few hours for a cold tortellini salad. We love to serve it with burgers, grilled chicken or fish, roasted vegetables, or a light summer soup!
A few tips to make this pasta salad ahead of time:
- Wait to add the arugula until you’re ready to serve so it doesn’t wilt!
- If you’re making this cold pasta salad more than a day in advance, wait to add the tomatoes until you’re just about ready to eat! Tomatoes can dry out and lose some of their signature flavor in the fridge, so the less time they spend in there, the better.
- Bring your tortellini salad back to life after a few days in the fridge by adding a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice or a glug of olive oil to the salad just before serving.
Throw in some extra veggies (bell pepper! green beans! more tomatoes! kale! cucumber!) or your favorite protein (grilled chicken! prosciutto! diced salami!) to make this summer pasta salad even heartier. Other delicious additions include feta, goat cheese, basil, peas, broccoli, bacon, and asparagus (OH MY).Print
This quick and easy tortellini salad is perfect for summer! Vegetarian.
- 1 pound (16 ounces) cheese tortellini
- 1/2 cup basil pesto
- 2 heaping cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 16 ounces mozzarella pearls (we love these!)
- 2 heaping cups fresh arugula
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and let cool for 15-20 minutes.
- In a large bowl, toss together cooked tortellini, pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella pearls. Cover and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
- When you’re ready to serve, toss the chilled tortellini salad with the arugula. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.
What kind of tortellini should I use for this pasta salad? We used a 16-ounce bag of frozen tortellini for the salad in these photos, but you can also use fresh or dried tortellini if you like! Different brands package their tortellini in different amounts, so don’t worry if your packages aren’t the perfect size – just aim for 4-5 heaping cups of uncooked tortellini pasta.
The taste of this salad will vary depending on your pesto, so don’t forget to taste and season before serving! You may also want to add a drizzle of olive oil or a few squeezes of lemon juice if your pesto is too dry or needs an extra boost of flavor.
Substitutions. If you can’t find mozzarella pearls, dice up 16 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese into small cubes instead. We love using a traditional basil pesto here, but you could also use arugula pesto, cilantro pesto, or our easy spring pea pesto. Swap the arugula for spinach, kale, or mixed greens and use goat cheese or feta in place of the mozzarella if you like.
Additions. Add any veggies, cheeses, or proteins you like to this salad! It’s great with green beans, asparagus, corn, bell pepper, cucumber, or grilled zucchini. Add grilled chicken, salmon, prosciutto, or diced salami for extra protein. Finish salad with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, lemon juice, or good quality olive oil if you like.
Make-Ahead Tips. Store cooked tortellini tossed with pesto and mozzarella in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. If you’re making this pasta salad more than a day ahead of time, we recommend waiting to add the tomatoes until you’re ready to serve. Always toss the arugula into the salad just before serving to avoid wilting. If tortellini salad is dry after being in the fridge, toss in a splash of olive oil or lemon juice to bring it back to life. We do not recommend freezing cooked tortellini salad.
Strict vegetarians should look for mozzarella made without rennet and cheese tortellini labeled as vegetarian (made without cheeses that contain rennet).
Keywords: summer, vegetarian, caprese