After searching through the pantry, trying to meal plan around 102ºF+ heat (PLUS high humidity!), I was really craving a filling, but at least semi-light, pasta salad. The mere thought of adding even MORE heat and humidity to the house by boiling a pot of water on the stovetop almost made me change my mind, though – – until I remembered one of my most popular salads that I hadn’t made in AGES. So many times I had thought of making it, as it’s one of my FAVORITES, but somehow, it always got pushed to the back burner for one reason or another. It was way past time that I made it and shared it! It was my most requested pasta salad back when I used to cater, and there wasn’t much worry over the cooking part, as the cheesy pasta only takes 3 -4 minutes to cook! That was it! My Cheese Tortellini Pesto Pasta Salad was finally going to be added to my blog! And it was about time!!
This is super easy to make, and really doesn’t take hardly any time at all, too. You simply slice and cut all of your veggies and olives first. Then just add the pesto, olive oil, salt, parmesan cheese and garlic to taste and you’re almost done.
Cheese-filled tortellini, no matter if it’s the fresh kind or frozen, only usually takes 3 – 4 minutes to cook is all. I do this in my 3-quart saucepan, and keep the lid on the already hot water from the tap to give it a head start, until it’s boiling. Then just remove the lid, add some salt, stir to dissolve, add the tortellini, stir, and gently boil until al dente. Which as I mentioned, just takes a few minutes!
Then dump the pasta into a colander and run cold water over it to cool it down quickly. You never want mushy, overcooked pasta in your salad. ESPECIALLY this one. Gross.
Then just fold it into the party and you’re pretty much DONE.
Taste, and adjust, until you can’t take it anymore and just want a whole plateful!! (*I usually add more salt, parmesan cheese and olive oil, but the amounts given are a good start. You can then take it further to your own personal preference. Don’t be shy with them, though!! This salad is best with lots of salt, slightly oily, and a very healthy amount of parmesan cheese!!)
*If making this the day before an event, you’ll want to refresh this salad by adding a whole second 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup oil, and lots more parmesan cheese. The pasta will drink up a lot of it initially, and refreshing and reasoning is very important. After you do this once, then you’re usually good until it’s gone, though. Always fold up from the bottom several times to redistribute the oil each time you re-serve).
I love, love, love this stuff, and personally, just enjoy it as a meatless main dish, that’s very suitable for those who do the whole “Meatless Mondays” thing. My hubby usually likes a little extra protein on the side, though, so you can add a grilled chicken breast, steak, burger or chop next to it if you’d like it to be more of a side dish rather than the main entree. (Grilled chicken breasts coarsely chopped into chunks are also a nice addition for a heartier, all-in-one meal, too!)
I so hope that you enjoy! I’ve been making this salad for more than 20 years, and every time I make it, I always ask myself…”Why did I wait so long to make it again?” It’s my most favorite pasta salad that I know will become one of your favorites, too! Enjoy!!
- 1 (14 oz.) can whole artichoke hearts, drained, quartered lengthwise then halved crossways
- 2 rounded cups or 1 (10 oz.) cont. grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- 1 (6 oz.) can medium black olives, drained, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 green bell pepper, cleaned out and thinly julienned into 1 inch long pcs.
- ⅓ cup olive oil to start, then add more to loosen
- ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan cheese, canned ok to sub so long as it's 100% *real* parmesan (the green can kind not recommended for this), *add more when refreshing salad
- 1 (8 oz.) jar basil pesto
- ½ tsp. salt to start, then add more to taste (*see blog)
- 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
- 10- 12 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
- 1 (20 oz.) package fresh or frozen cheese-filled tortellini, cooked al dente, cold rinsed and drained well
- In large bowl, add all ingredients except the tortellini, folding gently until well mixed. Cover with a plate and set aside.
- Cook tortellini in gently boiling salted water in a large saucepan or small pot according to package directions, (should only take about 3-4 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water immediately to cool and stop cooking process.
- When cool and well drained, gently fold into pesto-veggie mixture until nicely combined.
- Adjust seasoning to taste, meaning, *add more salt, parmesan, and olive oil, until it's to your taste.
- *Salad should be on the salty side, a little oily, and very cheesy.*
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate.
- After refrigerating, or the next day, you'll need to "refresh" this. Just add a bit more olive oil, salt and parmesan before serving.
- This salad is best served room temp, or even slightly warm.
**This is also really good served as a side dish with grilled chicken breasts, burgers or steaks!
***If your can of artichoke hearts are already quartered, just slice them in half crossways.