Tortellini Salad - The Perfect Packed Lunch for School or Work

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Tortellini Salad - The Perfect Packed Lunch for School or Work

A light pasta salad, packed with greens tossed in a tangy dressing, is a perfect year-round back pocket recipe for when you want to make a big batch of something to enjoy all week long.

Add cheese and meat and it's hearty enough to be a simple but satisfying summer meal for a crowd.

Plus, leftovers make the best school or desk snack, so make some extra!

This salad swaps plain pasta for full-fat cheese and spinach-stuffed tortellini.

Cucumbers and bell peppers add crunch and artichokes, kalamata olives, fresh basil, feta and summer sausage add great flavor and texture.

This recipe is enough to bring to a dinner party and is quick and easy enough for when summer temperatures are too hot to cook: you need to boil the pasta.

Plus, it makes a great make-ahead pasta salad, as it only tastes better when it's fresh, bright, and tangy!

What kind of tortellini to buy?

I use fresh store-bought tortellini, but you can absolutely make the batter from scratch if inspiration strikes.

You will find fresh tortellini in the refrigerated section of your supermarket.

The dry ones are in the boxed pasta aisle and the frozen tortellini are in the frozen section.

You can use any variety, but I prefer fresh tortellini because they cook so quickly, about 3 minutes, compared to 10 minutes or so for dry ones.

As for the filling, you can never go wrong with your favorite! I opted for spinach and cheese, but three cheese or pesto would also be delicious.

Two Tips for Perfectly Cooked Tortellini

Generously salt the pasta cooking water before adding the tortellini. It's your only chance to season the dough from the inside out.

Cook the tortellini until al dente, following the package directions.

Drain and rinse immediately under cold running water to cool to room temperature.

This prevents the pasta from further cooking (it will become mushy if you don't chill it immediately) and prevents the salad greens from softening and the cheese from melting.

Do it your way

Whatever type of vegetables, cheese, and meat you decide to use, cut them the same size as the tortellini so it's easy to fit a bit of everything into each bite. Here are some ideas:

Swap the summer sausage for pepperoni, salami, or grilled chicken.

Make it meatless by substituting a can of canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained, for the sausage.

Try mini mozzarella balls or shredded Italian cheese instead of feta.

Add cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, or carrots.


For the bandage

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

for the salad

  • 2 (10-ounce) packages tortellini (any type)
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
  • 1 (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces turkey summer sausage, quartered lengthwise and sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves


Boiled water:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, make the sauce:

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt, and black pepper.

Add the red onion. Put it aside.

Cook the tortellini:

When the water boils, cook the tortellini until al dente, following the package directions.

Drain in a colander placed in the sink.

Rinse under cold running water until the mass cools to room temperature. Dry well.

Assemble the salad:

Add chilled tortellini, bell pepper, cucumber, kalamata olive, artichoke, sausage, feta, and basil to the sauce.

Mix well to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Chill before serving:

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to chill and allow the flavors to meld. Mix once more before serving.

Leftovers can be refrigerated tightly covered for 3 to 5 days. Be sure to stir before serving to redistribute the sauce.

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