This cold tortellini pasta salad is the perfect no-fuss summertime side dish to serve at your next family gathering. Cheese-filled tortellini is tossed with summer veggies, mozzarella, and salami then finished off with a drizzle of Italian dressing for a delicious summer tortellini salad your entire family will love.
Note: that links to products you find in this post are Amazon affiliate links which means I do make a small amount of money when you click and make purchases.
Looking to change up your classic Italian pasta salad recipe? This cold tortellini pasta salad recipe is the perfect solution!
Cheese-filled tortellini pairs perfectly with the fresh flavors of crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, crunchy peppers, and salty olives. Add a bit of mozzarella, salami, and a drizzle of your favorite Italian seasoning and you have a perfect summer side dish that is bursting with all your favorite Italian flavors.
It is the perfect complement to classic warm-weather favorites but is also hearty enough to be eaten as a meal itself!
Ingredients for Cheese Tortellini Pasta Salad
Ready to make this delicious cold pasta salad with tortellini? You will need:
- Frozen tortellini: This is the base of the recipe, so make sure you get a reputable, quality brand. I like to get standard tortellini with a classic cheese filling.
- Prepared Italian Dressing: This is the star of the flavoring for the tortellini salad, so make sure you are choosing an Italian dressing that you LOVE! You can use store-bought bottled Italian dressing OR make your own!
- Cucumber: Gives the salad a crisp, clean crunch. I like to quarter my cucumber before slicing it to get the perfect bite-sized pieces.
- Cherry tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes add a juicy, sweet flavor. I like to slice mine in half before adding them to the salad so that they are similar to the cucumber in size.
- Black olives: You can use olives from a can or a jar. I prefer to slice them in half. I think they look extra pretty on the salad this way but you can keep them whole if preferred.
- Bell pepper: I like to use yellow for a crisp, clean crunch and a pop of vibrant color.
- Salami: Adds a salty element to the salad and makes it extra filling
- Mozzarella balls: I prefer pearl-sized for this salad so it doesn't overpower the tortellini.
- Fresh Basil: This is optional but highly recommended! Fresh basil adds a sweet, herbaceous flavor to the salad and tastes like summertime!
See the recipe card for the quantities of each ingredient.
This pasta salad with cheese tortellini has been tested and perfected many times over the past year, but if you need to make a substitution, the following changes can be made:
- Frozen tortellini: You can use refrigerated tortellini or homemade tortellini if preferred.
- Prepared Italian dressing: If you don't care for Italian dressing you can simply toss this salad in some extra virgin olive oil and season with some salt and pepper.
- Cherry tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes are ideal for this recipe due to their size. In a pinch, any other tomato variety can be used. Grape or sliced campari tomatoes make an ideal replacement.
- Black olives: Black olives are ideal for this salad but green can be used instead OR you can omit them entirely.
- Yellow bell pepper: I like to use yellow, but you can use red, green, or orange if you prefer!
- Salami: Prosciutto or summer sausage can be sliced and used in place of salami.
- Mozzarella balls: Mozzarella balls are perfect when paired with tortellini but in a pinch, shredded mozzarella works too.
- Fresh Basil: I love fresh herbs as a finishing touch to this salad. If you aren't a fan of basil, classic parsley would be a delicious substitution.
Looking to switch things up? Try these variations:
- Tortellini: This recipe calls for cheese tortellini but if you are looking for a change, try spinach, chicken, or other tortellini variations for a fun flavor twist.
- Gluten-Free: This recipe is tried and true with gluten-free noodles! Just make sure to double-check your salad dressing as sometimes dressings have hidden gluten!
- Make it spicy: Use spicy salami and add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the dressing to make a spicy tortellini salad recipe.
- Make it creamy: Use a creamy Italian dressing for an ultra-rich touch.
One of the reasons I love making this recipe is that there is minimal cleanup in the kitchen! All you need to make this recipe is:
- A pot to boil water and make the tortellini.
- A cutting board and knives to prepare the vegetables.
- A large mixing bowl to mix things up.
- Measuring cups and spoons to make sure you have the ideal amounts of each ingredient.
- Beyond that, a serving spoon would be helpful!
How to Make Tortellini Pasta Salad
Once you have all your ingredients gathered, it's time to make your summer pasta salad!
Start by gathering and prepping all the vegetables. The size of the vegetables is up to you. I like to make sure they are prepared and sliced to be slightly smaller than the tortellini noodles.
There isn't really a right or a wrong size. Just imagine yourself enjoying the salad and prepare the vegetables to your liking.
Next, prepare the tortellini. You will want to follow the directions on the packaging for ideal doneness. I prefer to boil the noodles just until al dente texture is reached. No one likes overcooked pasta!
When the pasta is cooked, drain them and give them a nice rinse in cold water.
PRO TIP: Rinsing the pasta in cold water will stop the cooking process and prevent them from overcooking.
Finally place the tortellini into the mixing bowl and add the prepared vegetables, salami, olives, and mozzarella.
I like to mix these ingredients together first THEN drizzle on the dressing and toss to combine again.
PRO TIP: If you are making it ahead of time, be sure to reserve a small amount of the dressing and pour just a touch over the top before serving.
The finishing touch is ADDING fresh basil or herbs if you are using them. They tend to fall towards the bottom when mixed, so placing them on the top of the salad helps keep them up front and center!
As you can see, this tortellini salad recipe is SO EASY! Remember that you can adapt the quantities of these ingredients to your liking and create the perfect cold pasta salad for YOU!
This tortellini salad is a meal-preppers dream!
It keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days. Make sure to store it in an airtight container in the fridge for optimal flavor and freshness.
These ingredients don't stand up well to freezing.
I love to serve this pasta salad with tortellini with a little extra dressing poured over the top and fresh herbs as a garnish.
You can serve this dish as a side dish for meals or serve it as a light lunch or meal prep!
PRO TIP: When serving outdoors, be sure to keep the salad extra cool. Remember, it has meat and cheeses in it which need to be kept cold.
Expert Tips and FAQS
I can't wait for you to try this Italian tortellini pasta salad recipe! When you do make it, remember these tips:
- Do not overcook the pasta. Cook the tortellini to al dente doneness.
- Rinse the pasta in cold water after cooking to prevent overcooking.
- Cut vegetables into even, bite-sized pieces.
- Toss the pasta with the vegetables, cheese, and meat FIRST then add the dressing and toss again. This allows the dressing to get on EVERYTHING without overmixing.
- Place herbs on top before serving, so they don't fall to the bottom.
YES! Tortellini is delicious served both hot and cold. We love this cold tortellini pasta salad because it is extra cooling and refreshing in the summertime.
The only time you should rinse pasta after cooking it is when you are serving it cold. This pasta salad is served cold, so rinsing in water will not only prevent the pasta from overcooking but also remove excess starches.
Yes! For the best flavor, I recommend preparing this recipe the morning it is going to be served, or the night before. You can enjoy it for up to three days, but the flavor is best on that first day.
I like to cook it just until it's done or to al dente with a slight bite to it. The noodles will firm up a bit in the fridge making them ideal for a cold pasta salad.
More Summer Side Dish Recipes
Did you try this recipe? Please leave a star rating in the recipe card right below! You can also write a review in the comment section further down the page I always appreciate your feedback. And don’t forget to tag me @freshcoasteats in your photos on social media, I'd love to see your results!
Tortellini Pasta Salad
- 20 oz package frozen tortellini 1 lb
- 1 cup prepared Italian Dressing
- 1 cup cucumber quartered and sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 6 ounce can black olives sliced in half
- 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
- 1 cup salami chopped
- 8 ounces pearl sized mozzarella balls
- Optional: Fresh Basil
- Prepare tortellini according to package directions for al dente texture. Typically, this means boiling pasta for about 5 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water.
- In a large bowl, combine the tortellini and ½ cup of the italian dressing. Stir until evenly coated.
- Add the remaining ingredients and stir until evenly distributed.
- Chill for at least one hour, then top with remaining ½ cup Italian dressing and fresh basil and serve.