This amazing Tortellini pasta salad loaded with salami, capicola ham, pepperoni, fresh mozzarella cheese, simple homemade Italian dressing and much more. You can easy make it ahead of time or right before the party. It really is a perfect pasta salad to take with your on a picnic.
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After years and years of making this and many other tortellini salads, this Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad is STILL our family favorite. It’s almost like taking an Italian Sub and turning it into a pasta salad. But not just any pasta salad, a tortellini pasta salad.
Making a pasta salad with cheese tortellini instead adds an incredible layer of flavor and texture. It takes you pasta salad game to a whole new level! Just make sure to use cheese tortellini flavor like “four cheese” or “three cheese” and not something like a spinach and mushroom. You don’t want competing flavors in your pasta salad.
The rest is all the favorites you’d find in an Italian sub, including hard salami, pepperoni, capicola ham, mozzarella cheese, banana peppers, tomatoes, and of course, Italian dressing. Feel free to add other toppings like thinly slied red onion or olives if you wish.
Tortellini – It’s best to get tortellini from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. It’s fast and easy to cook, but make sure to cool it down to room temperature before adding other ingredients. For this tortellini salad, choose four cheese tortellini when possible.
Meats – for best result, choose better quality meats from the deli section of your grocery store and ask to slice it fresh. You can also control the slice thickness that way. (Note: if you can’t find capicola, you can use any of your favorite ham.)
Mozzarella – get the mini fresh mozzarella cheese balls so you don’t have to worry about cutting it.
Dressing – You can use your favorite store-bought Italian dressing or make my homemade Italian dressing. Below, I give you a simple version of Italian dressing featuring fresh lemon juice, garlic, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar. If you can’t find white balsamic vinegar, you can use regular balsamic vinegar.
See recipe card for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
How To Make This Tortellini Pasta Salad
Tortellini salad is very simple to make and can easily be made ahead of time too. The most effort will go into cooking tortellini and cutting meats and vegetables. Although, I should mention that not eating it all before it gets to the table won’t be easy either.
First step is, of course, to cook tortellini (1) and let it cool to room temperature. (This step can actually be done ahead of time.)
While tortellini is cooking, cut the meats, cheese, tomatoes, banana peppers, and dice fresh herbs.
Combine ingredients for the dressing in a jar and close the lid well. Shake the jar vigorously for a few seconds to combine the ingredients well (2).
Use a large mixing bowl to combine cooled tortellini, meats, cheese, tomatoes, banana peppers, and fresh herbs (3). Mix the ingredients to combine. Pour in the dressing over the ingredients (4) and continue to mix until everything is evenly combined (5).
Make Ahead Instructions
There are two ways to make this Italian tortellini salad ahead of time. You can cook tortellini the day before and then make the rest or the salad when ready. Or, take it a step further and prepare everything except for the dressing ahead of time.
Prepare Just Tortellini: If making tortellini ahead of time, cook and cool tortellini. Mix cooled tortellini with a little bit of Italian dressing or olive oil so it doesn’t stick together too much. Store cooked tortellini in a food storage container with a lid, in the refrigerator, until ready to use.
Prepare most of the pasta salad: You can also prepare the salad completely without the dressing and tomatoes. I find it’s best when tomatoes are cut and added to the salad right before serving. If dressing is added the night before to any pasta salad, pasta tends to soak in all the liquid and the salad will be dry.
So prepare pasta, meats, cheese, banana peppers, and herbs and mix it all together. Transfer everything into a food storage container with a lid. Store the salad mixture in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Add dressing and cut tomatoes when ready to serve.
To store leftover tortellini salad, transfer it into a food storage container with a lid and keep it refrigerated. Tortellini salad will last for 3-5 days refrigerated. You may need to add a little more dressing after it’s been in the fridge for a while because pasta tends to soak up all the dressing liquids.
This salad is great cold or room temperature! Personally, I prefer it at room temperature because some ingredients in the dressing and tortellini filling do solidity. It is a personal preference though.
Steaks are great, whether it’s a grilled steak or pan fried steak.
You can also serve it with grilled chicken like Marinated Chicken or Jerk Chicken.
Try it with seafood like simple grilled salmon or cedar plank shrimp.
Of course, you can’t beat the classic cheeseburgers or chicken burgers any day.
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Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe
- 20 oz three cheese tortellini
- 10 oz cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 2/3 cup banana peppers chopped
- 1/4 lb capicola ham chopped
- 1/4 lb pepperoni chopped
- 1/3 lb hard salami chipped
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese chopped
- 2 Tbsp minced Italian parsley
- 6-8 basil leaves minced
- 1/2 cup virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar white wine vinegar can be substituted
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 garlic cloves pressed
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes Use more or less according to personal taste
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- Cook tortellini according to the package, drain well and transfer into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil so it won’t stick together and let it cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- Chop meats, tomatoes, banana peppers and cheese. Add it to the cooled tortellini in the bowl.
- Mince herbs and add it to the mixing bowl as well. Add some salt and mix well.
- In a jar with a lid, combine ingredients for the dressing. Close the jar and shake well.
- Pour dressing into the bowl with tortellini mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
- Cover and refrigerate salad before serving.
Originally published on Will Cook For Smiles on May 27th, 2015.