Your new favorite spring-summer salad has arrived! The comfort of pasta with all the freshness of spring veggies and summer herbs, your taste buds will rejoice! Served warm, at room temperature, or chilled, this salad is an ultimate crowd pleaser and ready in no time! This is a great recipe to make for cookouts, summer parties, quick evening dinners, or any reason in between!
It’s the short week after a holiday weekend – everyone is confused. The girls have just a bit of school left (3 full days, 3 half days) before our schedule shifts again. My work moved towards manageable while Mark’s ramped up and we’ve seen very little of him this week. I had to make a decision about requesting off the Monday before the 4th of July (creating a 4 day weekend), and I was like, “YEP. Do it, Nicole.” If the 4th of July isn’t a great excuse for an extended weekend, certainly turning 38 is!
Next weekend, I’ll be in Madison, Wisconsin for a friend’s 40th birthday and I’ll get lots of time to see my mom that weekend – I’m most definitely looking forward to that! My last travel before we settle in for our Michigan summer — the best time of year to be a Michigander and to play vacationer every weekend where we live.
ROLL CALL FOR THIS RECIPE
- Pasta: Who doesn’t love an easy, delicious pasta salad?! This tortellini pesto pasta salad is perfect as a main dish, serving about 6 adults, or can be used as a great side dish to serve 12-15.
- Weeknight Warriors: I made this meal in under 25 minutes, making it ideal for weeknight dinners. Better yet, it is absolutely delicious as leftovers the next day and for several days following. It is easily one of my top spring-summer easy meals and makes for a healthy lunch, too!
- Vegetarian Delight: This is a perfect dish to offer up to your vegetarian friends and family, or simply a great way to increase your consumption of fresh vegies. This is not your ordinary vegetarian pasta salad as it is chock-full of all of my favorite things from spring cuisine!
KEY INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Tortellini: This recipe calls for store-bought tortellini from the refrigerated section of the store. These fresh tortellini cook quickly, ensuring this salad is ready in no time! Cheese tortellini were used for a vegetarian option, but feel free to use whatever tortellini variety you prefer. Just make sure you cook only until al dente!
- Pesto: If you want to keep things simple, you can buy store-bought pesto that sold in jars near the pasta sauces. There are several varieties beyond a traditional basil pesto, such as arugula pesto or sun-dried tomato pesto. I prefer to make my own and would recommend Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts, Sunflower Seeds and Lemon (the lemon juice adds such a pop of flavor!) or Arugula-Basil Pesto. It’s fun to use a variety of nuts or seeds to lower the cost on making your own pesto – pine nuts are pricy! If you own a food processor and/or grow fresh basil, homemade pesto is well worth the time and effort! It freezes beautifully for enjoyment year-round. You can use whatever variety of pesto you prefer and depending on your preference, you can add a little more pesto…or less, if you prefer!
- Asparagus: The season for asparagus peaks around April in the US, but good asparagus can be found through June. Fresh is best in this recipe and blanching the asparagus before plunging it into cold water and been the most consistent way I’ve found to cook asparagus WELL.
- Arugula and Spinach: I love the pre-washed mixes that comes with both tender spinach and peppery arugula that gently wilt with warm tortellini mixed in. It’s the perfect combination and one fun way to get in veggies! That said, you can certainly omit or use other greens, as you prefer!
- Artichoke Hearts: Canned artichokes in water are an under-used recipe ingredient! They are perfect for spring and require zero effort! Drain and throw them on in! That said, if you don’t like or can’t access canned artichoke hearts, you can certainly omit them.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: I opted for a dried version that is NOT packed in oil. Pesto is olive oil-based and the sun-dried tomatoes will soften as they combine with the other ingredients and pesto.
- Parmesan Cheese: If you don’t go with a high quality Parmesan, Parmigiana-Reggiano would be delicious, as would mozzarella pearls or another variety of fresh mozzarella cheese.
- Kalamata Olives: I’ll be honest, if there’s an ingredient that can be left out in this recipe, it’s the olives. While I LOVE olives, there is so much flavor from the fresh pesto and other ingredients that they aren’t needed – I just had them on hand. If you prefer an alternate olive, or more kalamata olives, feel free to adjust as you see fit!
- This tortellini pasta salad recipe is high-fiber, offering more than 5 grams of fiber per serving.
- Spinach is packed with lutein, an antioxidant known to protect against various eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. It is rich in Vitamin K, iron, and potassium, as well. It is often touted as a superfood!
- Asparagus is rich in potassium and an antioxidant called glutathione, helpful for riding of free radicals and oxidative stress in the body (cancer-fighting properties).
- Pesto is high in calories due to its high fat content. The fat is primary unsaturated and from olive oil and nuts. A little bit goes a long way with this fragrant, delicious sauce.
VARIATIONS, STORAGE, AND TIPS
- There’s no shortage of ways to tweak this recipe to your liking: adding fresh vegetables (beyond the greens) such as cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, bell peppers (sweet peppers, like yellow, orange, or red peppers), onion, zucchini, etc.
- This salad should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days (though it probably won’t last that long!).
- As is, you’ve found the perfect summer side dish. However, omnivore friends might appreciate diced chicken breast or cooked shrimp for a bit of additional protein or to make into more of a “meal”. Totally unnecessary, I say…but an option, if you prefer to have meat or seafood.
- 20 oz refrigerated cheese tortellini
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 3-inch pieces
- 1 cup prepared pesto
- 1 (14 oz) can quartered artichoke hearts (in water), drained
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
- 1/3 cup halved kalamata olives (about 12 olives)
- 5 oz fresh arugula or baby spinach
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup (2 oz) shaved Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
- Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil. Fill a medium bowl halfway with ice and top with water to create an ice bath.
- Add tortellini to the gently boiling water and cook until al dente, according to package directions (about 3 minutes on most varieties). Remove the tortellini to a large bowl using a large, slotted spoon.
- To the pot of water, add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes, depending on thickness and preference. Remove the asparagus with the slotted spoon and submerge in the ice bath for 2-3 minutes.
- Place the pesto on the tortellini and toss to coat.
- Remove the asparagus from the ice bath using the slotted spoon, picking out any ice cubes that remain, and transfer to the bowl with the tortellini.
- Add the artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and arugula/spinach; gently toss to coat. The slightly warm tortellini with slightly soften and wilt the arugula/spinach.
- Serve topped with pine nuts, shaved Parmesan, and fresh basil.
Recipe slightly adapted from Dishing Out Health
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1/6 recipe (about 2 cups)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 539Total Fat: 30.8gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 958mgCarbohydrates: 48.7gFiber: 5.0gSugar: 5.1gProtein: 19.0g
LOVE pesto? I’m obsessed. I love it on ALL. THE. THINGS.
- Green Goddess Pesto-Squash Pizza
- Seared Scallop Pesto Pasta with Slow Roasted Tomatoes
- Grilled Pesto Chicken Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Arugula, and Pine Nuts
- Pesto Turkey Meatballs
- Creamy White Bean Lemon Pesto Orzo Soup
- Pesto Steak and Chicken Kebabs
- Creamy Salmon Pesto Pasta
- Pea and Pesto Risotto
- Pesto Caprese Panini
- Balsamic Chicken with Pesto Caprese Pasta
- Cheese Tortellini Greek Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato-Feta Pesto