Tomato Basil Tortellini Salad
Pasta salad is an essential summer staple. Highlight freshly picked summer produce with this easy Tomato Basil Tortellini Salad, full of fresh summer tomatoes and corn.
Summer is in full swing over here, and you know what summer means. Grilling! Potlucks! Picnics! Backyard BBQs!
What’s the best part of all these events? The food (duh).
And what’s the best category of food at these events? The side dishes. (I’ll accept desserts as another correct answer.)
Look, I love to grill
as much as more than the next person. But can we all agree that it’s the sides that really make or break these events? Burgers or chicken or flank steak pinwheels are delicious, but I judge picnics on the quality of the salads.
I’ve shared some of my favorite picnic or BBQ-worthy sides before. Sweet potato black bean salad. Extra crunchy broccoli salad. Horseradish dill coleslaw. Perfectly charred grilled mustard mayo potatoes.
Today, I’m sharing probably the most popular of picnic sides: pasta salad. We basically never eat pasta at home the rest of the year, but in the summer, somehow pasta salads just happen to find their way onto our table every few weeks.
There are a million varieties of pasta salad, but this tomato basil tortellini salad is one of my favorites. (My other favorite? This classic Italian pasta salad.)
I love that the tomato basil tortellini salad highlights both fresh summer tomatoes and sweet corn, abundant in this part of the country.
Super Easy Tortellini Salad
One of the best things about pasta salad? They’re so darn easy!
Boil pasta. Make a quick sauce. Chop some fresh produce. Done!
This tomato basil tortellini salad is easier than easy. The ingredients are all easy to find, and mainly staples you may already have around. Stop at the farmer’s market for some cherry tomatoes, two ears of corn, and fresh basil (or pick it from your herb garden).
If I’m already grilling something else, I love to grill the cobs of corn and use the grilled corn in the salad. Those little slightly charred bits? So delicious! Otherwise, I like to keep the corn uncooked for a little extra crunch.
I always seem to get questions about this – YES, you can keep the corn totally raw in this salad! It’s safe to eat raw corn, but in this salad, we have a little extra help to prevent it from being too crunchy. What’s going on here? It’s time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry!
While raw corn is completely safe to eat, sometimes it’s a little too tough. In the case of this salad, however, the acid from the lemon juice in the dressing not only adds a bright flavor but also helps to tenderize the raw corn. It breaks down the cell walls and softens the raw kernels.
The dressing is a simple mixture of the aforementioned lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese (because pasta salads require cheese, right?). Top with a generous handful of freshly picked basil, and you have a perfect summer tortellini salad.
What to Serve with Tortellini Salad
I feel like 80% of my food-related Google searches are “what to serve with grilled chicken” or “what to serve with meatloaf.” If you’re like me, let me help you out a little in this department.
The tomato basil tortellini salad is delicious as both a side or as the main star of dinner. I’m perfectly happy with just a big bowl of this and calling it a night. If you’re not opposed to double carb-ing, it would be lovely with a slice of fresh bread.
We usually eat it as a side dish, however – it’s perfect with just about any grilled meat, like chicken, sausage, or steak. These Italian flank steak pinwheels, sweet & spicy chicken skewers, or grilled tahini chicken are perfect ideas!
Recommended Tools to Make Tortellini Salad
- Pasta Pot: I love this pasta pot set with this strainer insert – boil your pasta right in the strainer and pull it out when the pasta is done. The water drains back into the pot and there’s no need to pour boiling hot water into a colander.
- Food Processor: The dressing comes together in a snap in this food processor.
- Serrated Knife: A sharp serrated knife is a must-have for cutting tomatoes, and this is the must-have knife you should use. This little under $10 knife works better than my knives that cost more than 10x more (I have four to make sure I always have one on hand!)
- Balsamic Vinegar: Since we’re using simple ingredients, we want to make sure they’re all high-quality. Use a good balsamic vinegar, like this one.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Tomato Basil Tortellini Salad
- Salt your water well — add 4 teaspoons of Morton’s kosher salt (or 2 tablespoons of Diamond kosher salt) per gallon of water for boiling the tortellini.
- Undercook the tortellini a little. Just a little – we want to make sure it’s cooked through, but the tortellini will soften as they sit. Starting with al dente tortellini prevents leftovers from getting soggy!
- Use homegrown or farmer’s market tomatoes, if at all possible. (Fun fact: generic grocery store tomatoes are missing nearly 5,000 genes from generations of breeding — which makes them taste so much blander.)
- To keep your basil fresh longer, store it in a jar of water with a plastic bag over the jar. Yes, it looks funny — but the plastic bag will help keep your cut basil fresh for up to a week! Store at room temperature, as refrigeration can bruise basil leaves.
- Make this tortellini salad ahead of time! I find it’s even better when made the night before – the basil flavor is more pronounced and the corn kernels soften a little more after sitting in the dressing.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days (perfect to pack for lunch for the rest of the week!)
More Summer Sides:
- Classic Italian Pasta Salad
- Spiral Vegetable Tart
- Italian Herb Tomato Bread
- Corn Tomato Crab Salad
- All Side Dish Recipes »
- 20 oz. refrigerated cheese or spinach-filled tortellini
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- juice from 1 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups halved cherry tomatoes, grape, or small heirloom tomatoes
- 2 ears of corn, grilled or raw, kernels removed
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
- Prepare refrigerated tortellini according to package directions.
- While tortellini cooks, combine olive oil, half of Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and salt in a blender or food processor, processing until smooth. Toss the olive oil mixture with the hot, drained tortellini. Stir in the tomatoes, corn, and basil. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Serve warm or cold.
Recipe adapted from Southern Living
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 533Total Fat: 27.7gCarbohydrates: 56.3gProtein: 17g
This post was originally published in June 2017 and updated in July 2019.