Who’s a big fan of the Costco tortellini pasta salad? If that’s you, you’ll love this copycat recipe that I’m calling Tortellini Caprese Salad. It’s easy to make and ideal for a picnic, potluck, or BBQ. The pesto tortellini in this summer pasta salad recipe adds a delicious flavor that will leave you wanting more.
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What’s a good tortellini salad recipe to try out this summer? This pesto tortellini salad is the perfect dish to share. The mozzarella and tomatoes make it tasty and creamy. Everyone will love this yummy dish.
So, if you’re looking for a new salad recipe, give it a try! Not only is it easy to make, but it’s ready in just 20 minutes.
Costco Tortellini Pasta Salad and Caprese Salad
Why go to Costco for their tortellini pasta salad when you can make this copycat recipe right at home? Not only does it cost less, but it is fresher than the store.
Plus, it’s the perfect summer salad with pasta, basil pesto, and mozzarella balls. With award winning taste, your family and friends will beg for this summer tortellini salad recipe!
What does Caprese mean?
“Caprese” is an Italian salad that has fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Also, the colors of the salad are red, white, and green. So, they match the colors of the Italian flag.
This salad mixes Caprese and tortellini for the ideal salad that is full of color and taste.
Ingredients for this Tortellini Pasta Salad recipe
FOR THE PESTO Sauce
- Toasted pine nuts – these are a key ingredient in pesto. You could use walnuts or leave them out entirely if you want.
- Garlic – this gives the pesto a delicious flavor. You can use fresh or jarred garlic.
- Lemon juice – helps to make pesto a bright green color and it also has an acidic taste.
- Fresh basil leaves – To make a great pesto, you need to use fresh basil. Make sure it is bright green and not wilted or brown.
- Parmesan cheese – this makes the pesto taste salty and nutty.
- Extra virgin olive oil – helps to thin the pesto into a sauce. Don’t skip this.
FOR THE CAPRESE TORTELLINI SALAD
- Tortellini – We are using cheese tortellini, but spinach tortellini or any type of tortellini would also be delicious!
- Fresh arugula – gives a fresh grassy flavor and peppery taste. You can use baby spinach or romaine instead of Arugula if you want.
- Tomatoes – I’m using cherry tomatoes in this pasta salad because they’re a good size and they hold together well.
- Small mozzarella balls (pearl mozzarella) – Adding mozzarella cheese to the pasta salad makes it even more creamy and flavorful. I love the texture and taste of fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil.
- Toasted pine nuts – these add some crunch and nutty flavor to the salad. You can also use walnuts if you prefer.
- Food processor – for the pesto sauce
- 6-quart stock pot or large sauce pan – for the pasta
- Large bowl – for mixing and serving
Making the Tortellini Caprese Salad
Make THE PESTO Sauce
Add the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are minced.
Then, add the basil leaves and parmesan cheese. Pulse until the basil is finely chopped.
With the food processor on low speed, slowly add the olive oil.
Pulse it until the pesto sauce is smooth and well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.
Then, set it aside until ready to use.
FOR THE SALAD
Cook the pasta. Then, drain the pasta and run it under cold water for about 30 seconds.
Next, add the arugula, tomatoes, mozzarella, and pine nuts. Then, stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can enjoy this pasta salad right away or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. I prefer to serve it at room temperature, but you can also serve it cold.
Garnish it with some fresh basil leaves before serving.
Recipe Variations for the Tortellini Caprese Salad
- Put this pesto tortellini salad in a mason jar and take it to go.
- If you want a heartier dish, add grilled chicken or shrimp.
- Add avocado for a richer salad.
- If you want to add a little sweetness to your dish, try using balsamic glaze or balsamic vinegar.
- If you want a creamier pesto sauce, then add some heavy cream or half and a half to the sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, you should not use dry basil for a Caprese salad. It won’t taste the same as fresh. Also, be sure to use bright green leaves that are not wilted or brown.
This tortellini pasta salad recipe can be served as a main dish or a side dish. We recommend serving it with our baked chicken tenders, turkey meatloaf, brined pork chops, or grilled shrimp. Also, a crusty french bread would be the perfect touch for this pasta salad.
No, you don’t need to cook the pesto before putting it in the pasta. Just add all of the ingredients for the pesto to a food processor and pulse until it is smooth. Then, add it to the cooked and cooled pasta.
Pesto sauce is a healthy sauce that is made with olive oil, garlic, and basil. However, it also contains parmesan cheese which is high in salt. If you are watching your sodium intake, you may want to use less or leave it out entirely.
Tortellini Caprese Salad
- food processor (for the pesto sauce)
- 6-quart stockpot or large saucepan (for the tortellini) (for the tortellini)
- large bowl
For the Pesto
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the Tortellini Salad
- 16 ounces cheese tortellini (or any type of tortellini)
- 1 ½ cups fresh arugula
- 1 pint (about 1 cup) cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup (8 ounces) small mozzarella balls (pearl mozzarella), drained
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- fresh basil for garnish
For the Pesto Sauce
- Add the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.
- Next add the basil leaves and parmesan cheese. Pulse until the basil is finely chopped.
- With the food processor on low speed, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Pulse until the besto is smooth and well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.
- Set aside until ready to use.
For the Tortellini Salad
- Cook the cheese pasta according to the package directions. Cooking times will vary.
- Drain the tortellini and run it under cold water until it is no longer warm to the touch – about 30 seconds.
- Add the pasta to a large bowl. Add the pesto and stir gently to coat the pasta with pesto.
- Add the arugula, tomatoes, mozzarella and pine nuts. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. I prefer to enjoy this pasta salad at room temperature but it can be enjoyed cold as well.
- You can swap out the pine nuts for walnuts, or leave them out if needed.
- Using freshly squeezed lemon juice is best.
- This recipe calls for cheese tortellini, but you can use any type of tortellini.
- I love the taste of arugula, but you can substitute baby spinach leaves or even romaine lettuce for the arugula.
- Fresh mozzarella balls are different from the mozzarella cheese you buy to shred. Look for pearl mozzarella or mozzarella balls in a plastic container with fluid inside to keep them moist.