Southwest Tortellini Pasta Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing


Tortellini Pasta Salad infused with fiesta flavors, pepper jack cheese, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon and Pepper Jack AKA  Oh my YUM!


This Tortellini Pasta Salad is about to become your new favorite way to devour tortellini.  or pasta. or salad.  or pasta salad.  It’s a flavor and texture dream and makes a fabulous side for any occasion!

Make ahead, favorite potluck Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Salad = cheesy pillows of tortellini, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon, Pepper Jack, sunflower seeds. Oh my YUM! #tortellini #pastasalad #southwest #salad

Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe

As I share Carlsbad Cravings creations, I share what I love and I share what I crave – I’m kind of selfish that way but it keeps cooking and posting 3X + a week fun.  Sometimes I know when a recipe will be a “hit” AKA go crazy on pinterest, but most of the time, I have no idea – I am just hoping you, my kindred foodie buddies, will love it all.  And I know you will love this Southwest Tortellini Pasta Salad.

This Tortellini Pasta Salad was inspired by my Southwest Pepper Jack Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing.  I CANNOT believe how it took off on pinterest!  As of today, it has over 1 MILLION repins and is continually one of my top viewed recipes every day.  I am not sure if it is the Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing – because that is completely unique – or its the fact that everyone loves a good Southwest Salad – probably a combination of the two, but still, it boggles my mind.

So in honor of that salad, the raving reviews, your good taste, and so you can have the best pasta salad to bring to your summer gatherings, I bring you her sister – Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Pasta Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing!

Make ahead, favorite potluck Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Salad = cheesy pillows of tortellini, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon, Pepper Jack, sunflower seeds. Oh my YUM! #tortellini #pastasalad #southwest #salad

Why Tortellini in Tortellini Pasta Salad?

I am normally not a pasta salad kind of girl but when it’s a tortellini pasta salad bursting with sweet corn, black beans, crunchy red bell peppers and creamy avocados – you can count me in – and way in once you toss the chilled salad with crispy bacon, salted creamy pepper jack cheese – and diving in once you douse the salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing.  Update:  Since this post, I have posted three more epic MUST MAKE  Italian Pasta Salad with Tortellin Po Boy Shrimp Pasta Salad and Cubano Tortellini Salad with Mojo Dressing

Tortellini is a fabulous choice in pasta salads when the salad goes well with cheese.  Pasta salads without cheese like my Strawberry Avocado Pasta Salad – not so much.  But in this Southwest Pasta Tortellini Salad it adds the dimension of tender pillows of cheesy tortellini which I seek after in every. single. bite.  If you haven’t tried a tortellini pasta salad recipe yet – now is your chance – do it!

Make ahead, favorite potluck Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Salad = cheesy pillows of tortellini, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon, Pepper Jack, sunflower seeds. Oh my YUM! #tortellini #pastasalad #southwest #salad

Helpful Tips and Tricks How to Make Tortellini Pasta Salad

  • TORTELLINI: I use fresh refrigerated tortellini for this tortellini pasta salad.  You can use any type of cheese tortellini and even think sausage tortellini would be yummy.
  • DON’T OVERCOOK TORTELLINI. Tortellini is one of the starts of this tortellini pasta salad so it is extremely important to not overcook your tortellini otherwise it will fall apart when tossed.  It is better to check a piece and see if it is done and continue cooking then to cook them too long.
  • STOP TORTELLINI FROM COOKING. To stop your tortellini from cooking after it’s removed from the heat, rinse and drain it in cold water.
  • TOMATOES: Don’t substitute the cherry tomatoes for Roma or another variety because they will fall apart in the salad.
  • BELL PEPPER: You can substitute the red bell pepper for whatever you have on hand but my fav for this tortellini pasta salad is red because it is the sweetest.
  • THICK CUT BACON.  It is essential to use thick-cut bacon in this tortellini pasta salad recipe so it retains its meaty texture when covered in the creamy dressing.
  • FRESHLY GRATED CHEESE.  I am a huge proponent of freshly grated cheese vs. the pre-packaged stuff because freshly grated will ALWAYS taste better because it doesn’t have the extra chemicals added to it – and it’s fresh!
  • SUBSTITUTE CHEESE.  You can substitute the pepper Jack cheese for Monterrey jack cheese just be aware it won’t have the same kick so you may want to spice up the dressing with hot sauce.
  • PREP AHEAD DRESSING. You can make the dressing for the tortellini salad up to 24 hours in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  I think the dressing is far superior when made in advance because the flavors have time to develop.
  • USE MEDIUM SALSA FOR A KICK.  If you know you prefer spicier foods use medium salsa in the dressing.  If you aren’t sure how spicy you would like it then use mild and you can add in some of the jalapeno seeds to taste or hot sauce to taste.

 

Make ahead, favorite potluck Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Salad = cheesy pillows of tortellini, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon, Pepper Jack, sunflower seeds. Oh my YUM! #tortellini #pastasalad #southwest #salad

HOW TO MAKE TORTELLINI PASTA SALAD AHEAD OF TIME

  • You can make the Creamy Salsa Dressing up to 24 hours in advance of the tortellini salad and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you choose to make it this far in advance, you might want to add a little more lime before tossing as the citrus will mellow over time – just taste first and then make the call.
  • You can prep all of the Tortellini Pasta Salad ingredients in advance making this a fabulous make ahead dinner or side. Add the tortellini and all of the ingredients to a large bowl EXCEPT the avocado and toss with half of the dressing.   Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  When ready to serve, chop and add the avocado and the remaining dressing and gently toss until evenly combined.

Make ahead, favorite potluck Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Salad = cheesy pillows of tortellini, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon, Pepper Jack, sunflower seeds. Oh my YUM! #tortellini #pastasalad #southwest #salad

The Best Dressing for Tortellini Pasta Salad

This dressing makes this Tortellini Pasta Salad, just like it makes my Southwest Pepper Jack Salad.  It is basically the same dressing – just doubled and the avocados are in the salad instead of the dressing so the dressing doesn’t brown while chilling.  And like I said when I shared that salad – don’t be intimidated by the long list of dressing ingredients – many of them are spices and you simply toss them in your blender and have luscious Creamy Salsa Dressing in 5 minutes.

Southwest Tortellini Pasta Salad.  A mouthful of velvety, cheesy tortellini pillows and southwest crunch in every bite.

Looking or more Pasta Salad Recipes?

Make ahead, favorite potluck Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Salad = cheesy pillows of tortellini, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon, Pepper Jack, sunflower seeds. Oh my YUM! #tortellini #pastasalad #southwest #salad

Want to try this Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe?

Pin it to your SALAD, PASTA, POTLUCK, SIDE or MEXICAN Board to SAVE for later!

Find me on Pinterest for more great recipes!  I am always pinning :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Southwest Tortellini Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing

Make ahead, favorite potluck Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Pasta Salad = cheesy pillows of tortellini, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon, Pepper Jack, sunflower seeds. Oh my YUM!
Servings: 10 -12
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

Tortellini Salad

  • 23 oz. refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • fresh corn kernels from 1 ear of sweet corn
  • 1 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 of a small red onion, chopped
  • 1 large Avocado, chopped
  • 6 slices thick cut bacon, crumbled (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pepper Jack cheese or more to taste

Creamy Salsa Dressing

  • 3/4 cup salsa (medium for more of a kick)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (may sub.plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • juice from 1 lime (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 jalapeno seeded, deveined and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro
  • ½ tsp EACH salt, ground cumin, sugar**
  • 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, smoked paprika
  • Milk as needed
  • Hot sauce to taste

Instructions

  • Add all of the Creamy Salsa Dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor and "chop" then puree until smooth, scraping sides down as needed. Add milk, a tablespoon at a time, to reach desired consistency.
  • Cook Tortellini in generously salted water just until al dente according to package directions (do NOT overcook - we don't want soggy tortellini). Rinse tortellini in cool water and add to a large serving bowl. Add. corn, bell pepper, tomatoes, black beans, red onion and half of the dressing. Gently toss. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  • When ready to serve, add avocado, bacon, cheese and the desired amount of dressing to the salad (you may not use all it) and gently toss to combine. Add additional dressing if needed so its nice and creamy. Taste and season with salt and pepper and hot sauce if desired.

Notes

**May want to increase sugar if using Greek yogurt
***The picture shows pepita seeds but I decided I preferred the salad without the seeds.

Helpful Tips and Tricks for Tortellini Pasta Salad

  • TORTELLINI: I use fresh refrigerated tortellini for this tortellini pasta salad.  You can use any type of cheese tortellini and even think sausage tortellini would be yummy.
  • DON’T OVERCOOK TORTELLINI. Tortellini is one of the starts of this tortellini pasta salad so it is extremely important to not overcook your tortellini otherwise it will fall apart when tossed.  It is better to check a piece and see if it is done and continue cooking then to cook them too long.
  • STOP TORTELLINI FROM COOKING. To stop your tortellini from cooking after it’s removed from the heat, rinse and drain it in cold water.
  • TOMATOES: Don’t substitute the cherry tomatoes for Roma or another variety because they will fall apart in the salad.
  • BELL PEPPER: You can substitute the red bell pepper for whatever you have on hand but my fav for this tortellini pasta salad is red because it is the sweetest.
  • THICK CUT BACON.  It is essential to use thick-cut bacon in this tortellini pasta salad recipe so it retains its meaty texture when covered in the creamy dressing.
  • FRESHLY GRATED CHEESE.  I am a huge proponent of freshly grated cheese vs. the pre-packaged stuff because freshly grated will ALWAYS taste better because it doesn't have the extra chemicals added to it - and it's fresh!
  • SUBSTITUTE CHEESE.  You can substitute the pepper Jack cheese for Monterrey jack cheese just be aware it won't have the same kick so you may want to spice up the dressing with hot sauce.
  • PREP AHEAD DRESSING. You can make the dressing for the tortellini salad up to 24 hours in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  I think the dressing is far superior when made in advance because the flavors have time to develop.
  • USE MEDIUM SALSA FOR A KICK.  If you know you prefer spicier foods use medium salsa in the dressing.  If you aren't sure how spicy you would like it then use mild and you can add in some of the jalapeno seeds to taste or hot sauce to taste.

HOW TO MAKE TORTELLINI PASTA SALAD AHEAD OF TIME

  • You can make the Creamy Salsa Dressing up to 24 hours in advance of the tortellini salad and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you choose to make it this far in advance, you might want to add a little more lime before tossing as the citrus will mellow over time – just taste first and then make the call.
  • You can prep all of the Tortellini Pasta Salad ingredients in advance making this a fabulous make ahead dinner or side. Add the tortellini and all of the ingredients to a large bowl EXCEPT the avocado and toss with half of the dressing.   Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  When ready to serve, chop and add the avocado and the remaining dressing and gently toss until evenly combined.

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 Make ahead, favorite potluck Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini Salad = cheesy pillows of tortellini, sweet corn, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, etc. bathed in Creamy Salsa Dressing and garnished with bacon, Pepper Jack, sunflower seeds. Oh my YUM!
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10 Comments

  1. Spencer says

    This looks delicious!

    • Jen says

      Thank you Spencer! I wish I could make it for you! Next time your in San Diego – but I’ll probably be making you Raspberry Lemon Little Debbies instead 🙂

  2. Sheila says

    It is us that should be thankful for all the hard work you do and in your sharing your cooking skill with us through providing delicious recipes. It’s a win win situation.

    • Jen says

      Oh Sheila, you are so sweet! Thank you! I am so happy its a win-win! :)!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Megan says

    I’m not normally a pasta salad person either, but this looks too good to pass up! Quick question, I already made your Avocado Tomatillo Ranch dressing (which is absolutely delicious!). Do you think I could just use that dressing for this pasta salad instead of the Creamy Salsa Dressing you have listed?

    • Jen says

      Hi Megan! Yes, that dressing would be delicious! I am not sure how much that dressing will cover, so I would suggest not starting with all the tortellini and then adding more in until its nice and coated. Enjoy!

      • Megan says

        Thanks for your quick reply! I made this for dinner tonight, and it’s just divine with the Avocado Tomatillo Ranch. I should have figured! Also, I just saw your reply to a comment I made on the ranch recipe. You said that you were at Discovery Lake yesterday. It is a small world! My kids go to Discovery Elementary. We live right above Cal State San Marcos. Anyway, I’m loving your blog and loving getting to try a bunch of your recipes!

        • Jen says

          Thank you Megan! So happy you loved the salad and thank you for trying so many of my recipes! 🙂

  4. Nancy says

    Made your delicious Southwest Pepper Jack Tortellini salad today to take to a birthday dinner party for one of my dearest friends and everyone loved it. The only change I made was to use roasted pepitas vs. the sunflower seeds. Will definitely make this delicious salad again this summer. Nancy : )

    • Jen says

      Hi Nancy, I love hearing that this was a birthday dinner hit, yay, thank you so much! And I love your substitution of roasted pepitas, yum!