Pesto tortellini is an easy, 15-minute meal that's perfect for busy weeknights. Cheese tortellini is tossed with fresh spinach and basil pesto, then topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese. Creamy, flavorful, and filling!
When you're short on time, but still yearn for a hot meal at home, pesto tortellini is the answer. This pasta dish comes together in about 15 minutes and is easy to customize with your favorite veggies.
Hearty cheese tortellini and baby spinach are tossed in a flavorful basil pesto and parmesan cheese. Pesto is a sauce made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan, and has a vibrant, fresh flavor. Pesto can be homemade or store bought.
Serve pesto tortellini as a quick weeknight meal with some freezer garlic bread. Or, refrigerate and enjoy cold as a quick lunch!
Ingredients and substitutions
Tortellini - Any fresh, refrigerated tortellini or ravioli will work in this recipe. I used Buitoni three cheese tortellini. Be sure to follow your pasta's package directions for proper cooking times, as times will vary for different shapes and brands.
Spinach - Fresh baby spinach works best, because it wilts quickly and adds a mild flavor. Baby kale and arugula are great substitutes. If using a heartier leafy green, like regular kale, it will need more time to cook - about 3 to 5 minutes. Spinach can also be substituted with cooked, chopped veggies, like steamed broccoli. If using a cooked vegetable, add it when tossing your pasta with the pesto.
Pesto - Homemade or store bought pesto works here. I used store bought basil pesto, but I recommend using any brand or type that you enjoy.
Parmesan cheese - Grate your parmesan cheese fresh from a block - it melts easily and adds superior flavor. Pre-grated cheeses are often coated in anti-clumping powders that prevent even melting and add a grainy texture to your dish.
Salt and pepper - Season and enhance the flavors of your dish. Substitute black pepper with red pepper flakes for more heat.
Can I use pesto from a jar?
Yes, pesto from a jar, refrigerated store-bought pesto, or homemade pesto will work in this recipe. I like to grab the refrigerated pesto (usually found near the refrigerated tortellini) for a little fresher flavor, but jarred pesto will work just as well.
How much pesto do I need?
You'll need about ¾ cup of pesto to coat your pasta, which is about 6 to 7 ounces. Any jar or container of pesto in this range will work.
As written, this recipe is simple and quick, with only four ingredients needed (plus salt and pepper). However, that doesn't mean you can't add in an extra ingredient or two to stretch this dish even further! Here are a few ideas:
- Shredded rotisserie chicken
- Can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans
- Sautéed diced zucchini and squash
- Steamed broccoli
- Halved cherry tomatoes
- Frozen peas (add during the last minute of pasta boiling)
What to serve with pesto tortellini
While written as a main course, this dish can be served as a side dish and stretched to feed six (or more!). Here are a few great sides and mains to serve with pesto tortellini:
- Freezer garlic bread
- Pizza stuffed chicken
- Garlic bread cheese balls
- Chopped kale avocado salad
- Sautéed zucchini and onions
- Roasted garlic parmesan brussels sprouts
- Honey garlic baked salmon
- 20 ounces refrigerated cheese tortellini
- 4 ounces baby spinach
- ¾ cup basil pesto
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 ounce parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- In a large stock pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions for al dente pasta. During the last 30 seconds, add spinach to boiling pasta water, stirring until incorporated and wilted.
- Remove from heat and strain pasta and spinach into a colander. Return pasta and spinach to the stock pot. Add pesto, tossing pasta until evenly coated. Do a taste test, then add salt and pepper to taste (the type of pesto used may be salty enough on its own).
- Portion tortellini into serving bowls, top with parmesan cheese, and serve warm.
- Tortellini can be substituted with any flavor of refrigerated or frozen tortellini or ravioli.
- ¾ cup of pesto = about 6 to 7 ounces
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese is best. Pre-grated cheeses are coated in anti-clumping powders that prevent even melting and add a grainy texture.
- Leftovers will keep for 3 or more days in a sealed container in the refrigerator and reheat well. Leftovers can also be served cold.