When it comes to quick and easy weeknight dinners, pasta is pretty hard to beat. Noodles cook in a handful of minutes, there’s a million-and-one flavor combinations to try, and perhaps best of all: everyone loves pasta. On especially rushed nights, it might be tempting to combine that half-opened box of noodles with the jar of tomato sauce hidden in the depths of your cupboard...but trust us when we tell you that you can make something much more exciting. And better yet: this pumped-up pasta dinner won’t take longer to make.
This dish starts with tortellini, because if there’s one thing that makes pasta even better, it’s stuffing the noodles with cheese. The tortellini is then drizzled with pesto sauce, and tossed with a handful of simple veggies and flavorful add-ins like sundried tomatoes, artichokes and feta cheese. The combination is delicious and totally unfussy. There’s minimal cooking involved, which means that while the water boils, all you need to do is get everything ready to toss into a bowl. Tortellini keeps better than regular pasta noodles, so if you manage to save leftovers for lunch, then you’re in for a treat! And since this dish can be served hot or cold, it’s a hit at potlucks and picnics. In short, this dish won’t let you down, we promise.
At home, we affectionately call this our “pantry pasta”. Why? Because almost all the delicious flavors come from a handful of humble pantry ingredients. A simple at-home hack is to keep jars of sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, and pesto on hand. They do wonders for packing a punch of flavor with very little effort. These jars last almost indefinitely in your pantry, and once opened, still have a long way to go in your fridge. So you can always whip up something delicious, even when your fridge is far from stuffed with fresh veggies and herbs.
As you can imagine, this recipe quite flexible. We use our favorite cheese tortellini - and always have a bag of it stored in the freezer - but feel free to go with the tortellini you like best. It’s hard to beat fresh pesto, so we usually have some stored in the fridge or freezer. If you’ve frozen some, simply let it defrost in the fridge overnight. But if you’re in a pinch, the jarred variety will do just fine! As for the other mix-ins, feel free to adapt it to what you have on hand. Out of spinach? Try kale or arugula. Don’t like olives? Leave them out. Need to use up that zucchini in the bottom of your fridge? Roast it in the oven or give it a quick saute, then toss it in. Whatever you do, just be sure to try this recipe because it’s bound to be a keeper. Pasta, pesto and a whole lot of flavor...what’s not to love?!
Tortellini Pesto Salad
- 14 oz cheese tortellini (1 package)
- ½ cup pesto
- 2 cups packed baby spinach
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 1 (6 oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
- ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped (from a jar, packed in oil)
- 1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Red pepper flakes (to taste)
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Cook tortellini: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook tortellini according to the package instructions. Drain well, then transfer tortellini to a large bowl.
- Mix: Pour pesto over the hot tortellini, gently toss to coat. Add spinach, tomatoes, red onion, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, and capers. Stir to mix. Season with salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Sprinkle with feta and parsley. Give the tortellini one more stir to combine.
- Marinated artichokes: A small (6 oz / 170 g) jar should yield approximately ½ cup of artichokes after draining.
- Storage tips: Refrigerate extra tortellini in an airtight container. This dish can be reheated in the microwave or stovetop - but it's also delicious eaten cold!