Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad with homemade red wine vinaigrette and fresh veggies is the perfect summer potluck dish, and it’s best when made a day (or even two!) in advance so the flavors get a chance to really join forces. Toss in shredded rotisserie chicken and you’ll have a guaranteed dinner winner!
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If big, bold salads centered around cheesy carbs are your thing, then allow me to introduce you to your new BFF: Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad. This deli-inspired dish is perfect for warm summer days, barbecues or picnics, and is incredibly easy to make.
This crowd-pleasing recipe combines the flavors of tangy feta cheese, juicy cherry tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers and briny kalamata olives. The homemade red wine vinaigrette ties all of the ingredients together and adds a zesty kick to every bite. The best part about this recipe is that it can be made a day ahead of time and stashed in the fridge to allow the flavors to combine and intensify, resulting in a more flavorful dish.
Continue reading to discover optional add-ins, ingredient substitutions and how to transform this dish from a basic side to a satisfying main meal!
Why You’ll Love It
- Fast, 30-minute recipe.
- Can be made in advance.
- Perfect for potlucks and gatherings.
- Customizable. Switch up the flavor profile to suit your taste preferences or with whatever veggies are in season (or stashed in your fridge!).
- Can be served warm, room temp or chilled.
- Refrigerated tortellini: Any variety works! If you can’t find tortellini, you could use any other pasta shape, such as bowtie, rotini or penne.
- Cherry tomatoes: Their small size and firm texture make cherry tomatoes the perfect addition to pasta salad. Avoid large “slicing” tomatoes as they can become mushy or watery.
- Red onion: If you don’t like red onion, you could use sliced green onions or diced shallots instead.
- Cucumber: They’re crisp, refreshing, and add the perfect crunch.
- Green bell pepper: They add crunch and color to the pasta salad. If you don’t like green bell pepper, you could use diced yellow or red bell pepper instead.
- Kalamata olives: Add briny flavor. If you don’t like kalamata olives, you could use sliced black olives or capers instead.
- Feta cheese: This tangy, salty cheese adds creamy texture.
The possibilities for substitutions are endless! The key is to use fresh ingredients that you enjoy and to experiment with different flavors and textures.
- Veggies: When choosing vegetables for pasta salad, it’s best to opt for those with a firm texture. Brussels sprouts, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and diced zucchini are all delicious options.
- Olives: You can use any type of olives that you like, such as Kalamata olives, green olives, black olives or a mix.
- Cheese: Instead of feta cheese, try using goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, or Parmesan cheese.
- Herbs and spices: You can add any herbs and spices that you like, such as fresh basil, parsle or oregano, or thyme. You can also add red pepper flakes or black pepper for extra flavor.
- Protein: Grilled or rotisserie chicken, shrimp, tofu and pepperoni would all be delicious additions.
- Prep the vegetables. Wash and dry all of the veggies. Halve the cherry tomatoes and dice the red onion, cucumber and green pepper. Slice the Kalamata olives.
- Cook the tortellini. Start by boiling a pot of salted water and cooking the tortellini according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse the tortellini with cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent it from becoming mushy. Transfer to a large bowl and add all of the veggies, olives and cheese. Toss to combine.
- Make the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, minced garlic, sugar and dried oregano. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil.
- Toss everything together. Add the dressing to the pasta salad and toss to combine.
The Best Dressing for Pasta Salad
A simple combination of red wine vinegar, minced garlic, sugar, dried oregano and extra-virgin olive oil makes the ultimate tangy, slightly sweet dressing that perfectly complements the other flavors in the salad. Plus, it’s versatile enough to use in other salads and dishes, making it a great recipe to keep on hand.
Kelly’s Note: Often, for a little added zing, I’ll add two teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (like I do in this BLT Pasta Salad).
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Pasta Salad (And What to Do Instead)
- Overcooking the pasta. Tortellini is the star of the show so it’s important not to overcook it. It should be al dente, meaning it has a slight firmness when bitten into. Drain and rinse the tortellini with cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent it from becoming mushy.
- Not seasoning enough. Fun fact: Our taste buds react differently to different temperatures. Therefore, it’s easier to notice a lack of flavor when food is cold or chilled. Bottom line: Be sure to season your pasta salad more generously than you would a hot pasta dish. Start with salted water when cooking the pasta and salt as you go – don’t wait until the end.
- Failing to dress the pasta salad while it’s still warm. Warm pasta readily absorbs the dressing, resulting in a more flavorful dish.
- Making it too far in advance. This tastes great for up to a couple of days but beyond that, the pasta may become too soft and the flavors may become muted or even blend together too much, resulting in a less appetizing dish.
- Not seasoning again just before serving. Seasoning pasta salad again before serving is important because the flavors can become muted with refrigeration. Tasting and adjusting the seasoning before serving can ensure that the salad is well-seasoned and flavorful.
Store the pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’ll last up to two days, any longer and you risk the pasta becoming soggy. Before serving it again, give the salad a good stir to evenly distribute the dressing and coat all of the ingredients. This step will ensure that every bite is as delicious as the first.
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For the pasta salad:
- 1 (20-oz. package) refrigerated tortellini (any variety)
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 2/3 cup diced cucumbers
- 2/3 cup diced green peppers
- 1/3 cup sliced kalamata olives
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Make the pasta salad:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
- Add the remaining salad ingredients and toss to combine.
Make the dressing:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, minced garlic, sugar and dried oregano. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil.
- Add the dressing to the pasta salad and toss to combine.
- Tortellini is the star of the show so it’s important not to overcook it. It should be al dente, meaning it has a slight firmness when bitten into. Drain and rinse the tortellini with cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent it from becoming mushy.
- Dress the pasta salad while it's still warm. Warm pasta readily absorbs the dressing, resulting in a more flavorful dish.
- Store the pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’ll last up to two days, any longer and you risk the pasta becoming soggy. Before serving it again, give the salad a good stir to evenly distribute the dressing and coat all of the ingredients. This step will ensure that every bite is as delicious as the first.
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Recipe by Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste. Please do not reprint this recipe without my permission. If you'd like to feature this recipe on your site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link to this post as the original source.