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Cheese tortellini makes the best quick dinner recipe! Serve it up in a creamy marinara sauce flavored with goat cheese and basil.

Cheese tortellini
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Some meatless recipes stand a head above the rest, and this is one of them. In fact, I think we’d be happy eating this genius quick dinner every day of the week. Try this cheese tortellini in creamy marinara sauce! In just 15 minutes, you’ve got a pasta skillet that’s a literal symphony of flavor. The fresh basil-infused marinara sauce is perfectly complimented with pillows of tangy goat cheese. (In fact, it’s our baked goat cheese dip made into a main dish, because we love it so much we needed a way to justify it as dinner.) This one is a huge hit in our house…and we hope it will be in yours too!

Best cheese tortellini to buy

Cheese tortellini often escapes our radar when it comes to pasta: usually we think of penne, spirals or macaroni. But there’s lots of high quality tortellini in grocery stores these days! Tortellini are traditional ring-shaped Italian filled pasta. In Italy you can get them freshly made at local shops. What to look for if you’re not in Italy?

  • Fresh tortelloni is sold refrigerated. Tortelloni is large-sized tortellini with a solid center (pictured). This is usually the best quality when it comes to tortellini recipes. It boils up in just 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Frozen tortellini can also work. We like frozen because it saves well and you can pull it out at moments notice.
  • Avoid dried tortellini. Tortellini isn’t traditionally a dried pasta: and all the brands we’ve tried dried just haven’t measured up.
  • Look for any type of cheese tortellini or tortelloni for this recipe. Use 3 cheese, spinach ricotta, Parmesan: any type of cheese flavor will work.
Cheese tortellini

Secrets to the best creamy marinara sauce

This tasty cheese tortellini recipe is engineered by us to be two things: mega quick and mega delicious! This one’s like a cross between our famous baked goat cheese and our goat cheese pasta. It capitalizes on the best flavor pairing: a great tomato sauce that’s made creamy using soft goat cheese. Here are a few tips for the very best creamy marinara:

  • Use canned fire roasted tomatoes. This special type of tomato is becoming easy to find. It’s charred over an open flame, which gives them a beautifully sweet flavor right out of the can. Can’t find them? Use the best quality tomatoes you can find.
  • Use fresh basil. It’s a splurge in winter, but it’s absolutely worth it for the peppery flavor it imparts.
  • Use soft goat cheese (chevre). You might think a creamy marinara is good with heavy cream. But it’s great with soft goat cheese! None of those hard crumbles with the texture of feta: this sauce deserves a good chevre.

Why it works

Here you’ll use soft goat cheese to crumble into the marinara, and it adds a tang and a creamy body that makes it taste like a best-in-class gourmet meal. Add those beautifully boiled cheese tortellini, and every bite is velvety, heavenly goodness. You can save out a few goat cheese crumbles as a topping, too.

We like to add a little spinach into the mix too! It adds nutrients but the way it melds into the skillet, you can barely tell that it’s there.

Tortellini in skillet

Is goat cheese healthy? How does it compare to cow’s cheese?

You may have heard that when it comes to cheese, goat cheese can be a healthier option that other cheeses. You’re right! There are a few advantages to choosing this cheese vs a mozzarella or a Parmesan. Goat cheese has the following going for it (source: Prevention):

  • More vitamins and minerals than cow’s cheese. Goat’s milk is richer in essential nutrients than cow’s milk. It has more vitamin A & B, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Slightly less calories than cow’s cheese. Goat cheese has just 75 calories per ounce—less than cow cheeses like mozzarella (85 calories), Swiss (108 calories), and cheddar (115 calories).
  • May be easier to digest. Goat cheese has less lactose than cow’s milk and a slightly different protein structure, so people who are lactose intolerant many times can digest goat cheese.

Can you make it gluten-free?

Yes! There are actually some good brands of gluten free tortellini on the market these days. We don’t eat exclusively gluten-free, so we don’t have a preferred brand. But there are lots of great options in both refrigerated and frozen varieties. Again, we recommend steering away from dried. Do you have a brand to recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

Tortellini recipes

What to serve with cheese tortellini!

This cheese tortellini recipe is an ideal quick dinner: it takes less than 20 minutes to whip up! Pair it with a simple side dish or two and you’re in business. It’s ideal for Meatless Mondays or impressing friends with a tasty vegetarian dinner. Or, you can serve it as a pasta side dish to pair with baked salmon or chicken.

Of course, it can be harder than you think to find side dishes that work with the flavors, compliments it nutritionally, and is easy enough to make while you tackle the main dish. Here are a few of our favorite sides to pair here:

This cheese tortellini recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free tortellini.

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Cheese tortellini

Cheese Tortellini in Creamy Marinara

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4.9 from 10 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


Cheese tortellini makes the best quick dinner recipe! Serve it up in a creamy marinara sauce flavored with goat cheese and basil. 


  • 12 to 16 ounces frozen or refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 28 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes (or best quality crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves, tightly packed (or chopped spinach)
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 4 ounce goat cheese log


  1. Boil the tortellini according to the package instructions (fresh usually takes 2 to 3 minutes and frozen takes 2 to 5 minutes to boil). Then drain it. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, place the crushed tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, kosher salt, spinach, and whole basil leaves. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer while the pasta cooks or at least 10 minutes.
  3. When the pasta is done and drained, add it to the skillet. Crumble in the goat cheese into the sauce and stir until a creamy sauce forms (if you’d like, save out a few crumbles for topping). Serve immediately.
  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Dinner
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Shellie Pylant says:

    I stumbled across this recipe about a month ago and have made it three times now for my sister and myself and it’s delicious! Sautéed some mushrooms first with a little garlic. Thanks for posting!

  2. Liz C says:

    I’ve loved all the recipes I’ve tried from your site, but this one was super acidic for us. I don’t think it was the recipe’s fault, I think it was the brand of tomatoes I used (Great Value San Marzano Style Organic with Basil – that was the best option available at the time, but I think it just wasn’t a good selection for this recipe). I am planning to try this again with a different brand of tomatoes, because had it not been for the acidic taste, this would’ve been delicious.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Shoot! Yes, we usually use Muir Glen. You could try adding a teaspoon of sugar if this happens again.

      1. Liz C says:

        Thanks for that tip! I have some leftovers, I’ll try your suggestion on them!

  3. Hilary Sperley says:

    This looks yummy, if you can’t do goat cheese, what would be a good alernative?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Cream cheese would work.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It was very good, just a bit to tangy for some, will just cut back on cheese next time, sure a time saver

  5. Kisha M. says:

    Tonight is my second time making this dish and I had to double the amount because everyone was asking for more when i made it the first time. Even my middle son, the pickiest one of everyone in my house ate it with goat cheese, spinach and all!!! I have 3 young kids so its hard to find something that everyone enjoys so im so glad i stumbled upon this recipe. I used frozen tortellini and i also used dried basil. Delicious!!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Love this! Thanks for making it.

  6. Nicole says:

    This looks delicious. Was looking for something different, quick and simple to whip up for my husband this weekend.

  7. Kathy says:

    Towards the end once the whole dish is put together, could it put into the oven to bubble and for all that cheese to melt?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Yes! Or just broil for a minute.

  8. Terry says:

    Hello, I will be making this tonight. One question can I substitute the goat cheese for cream cheese?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:


  9. Sam says:

    Instructions start from 4.? …?

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      We’re not sure we understand the question: could you clarify?

  10. Anonymous says:

    This was very delicious! I didn’t know what to make for dinner and found this recipe googling dinner ideas in the grocery store parking lot. Fast, easy and delicious.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Thanks for making!

  11. Adriana says:

    The only thing I’d think to add to this are obviously onions and garlic, REAL garlic. I did that and a pinch of red pepper flakes to enhance the marinara flavor (it’s not spicy) and the whole thing was great

  12. R Puri says:

    Holy delish! This is so easy and tastes amazing! I added a spoon of sugar to cut the acidity but otherwise was awesome. Thank you!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      You’re welcome!

    2. S. Knapp says:

      Use chicken broth, not sugar to cut acidity. That’s the Sicilian way. 1/4-1/2 cup of broth will do. I hate sugar in my sauce, it ruins it.

      1. mary j martinez says:

        Exactly. Sugar ruins the flavor of savory dishes IMO

  13. Courtney Peet says:

    Loved this! The whole family loved it. We are making again this week. It was requested by my family because it was that great. Thanks!!!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      So glad you enjoyed!

  14. Denise says:

    I’m a little confused. Do you boil the tortellini then drain it then cook it again for another 10 min? I don’t understand the direction.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Hi! You cook the tortellini to package instructions and meanwhile simmer the sauce for 10 minutes. Toss and serve.

  15. Angie Paris says:

    Loved this recipe! Quick, easy and yummy!

  16. V. Shipp says:

    I wish you had included the sodium content in your nutritional breakdown. I am on a low sodium cardiac diet and do not dare make any dish that doesn’t give me a sodium count. I am only allowed 1 gram of sodium per day. My life is on the line so I must be very careful. I make my own seasonings and plant based milks. There is sodium in nearly everything that is edible. Since I got serious about restricting my sodium, I have not had a heart failure episode. It is worth the life style change to stay alive.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Thank you for your comment! Unfortunately when using frozen or canned goods sodium content can vary widely. We don’t include the sodium content so that the nutritional info isn’t misleading.

  17. Lori Hamilton says:

    This is an awesome meal, not to mention so delicious. I’ve never had goat cheese before but I’m sold on it now. My husband commented that this meal was like something we would order from a menu. He thought garlic toast would have been over the top. I did use fire roasted crushed tomatoes and it does make a difference. I thought 8 basil leaves was going to be a lot but I was wrong. I also used frozen tortellini for the first time and is sold. Thank you both for such a useful website that is consistent, easy to follow recipes . Thank you from the Space Coast..

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      We love to hear this! Thanks for making it :)

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