This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

This pesto tortellini recipe makes a quick weeknight meal or side dish! Drape the tender pasta in this creamy, herby sauce.

Pesto Tortellini
Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!

We’re all about simple recipes these days, and if we can get simple with elevated flavors? Even better. Here’s a recipe that works as a quick main dish or easy side: try this Pesto Tortellini! The herby, creamy sauce is perfect for coating tender tortellini (or tortelloni…more on that below!). Sometimes we eat it as a main with a few veggie sides, or it’s perfect alongside chicken or fish. Here’s what you need to know!

Ingredients in pesto tortellini

This recipe is quick and simple, and you only need a few ingredients to pull it together. As with many simple recipes though: quality of ingredients is key. Here’s what you’ll need for the recipe:

  • Refrigerated cheese tortelloni, aka large tortellini
  • Homemade basil pesto (or purchased; see notes below)
  • Heavy cream
  • 2% milk
  • Kosher salt 
Pesto Tortellini

Tortelloni vs tortellini

So we know: this recipe is called pesto tortellini and it calls for tortelloni. But much of what you think is tortellini is actually the larger version of this filled pasta. We prefer tortelloni here (which is shown), since it’s larger, more tender, and more satisfying flavor-wise. Here’s the difference:

  • Tortelloni is a pasta shape that is larger than tortellini with a filled center. Tortellini is smaller and ring shaped, with a hole in the middle. In traditional Italian cooking, tortelloni filling is vegetarian whereas tortellini often has meat. Tortellini is also often served in broth, whereas tortelloni is served with creamy sauces.
  • Where to find it? Tortelloni is easy to find the refrigerated section at your local grocery. It’s usually not available dried or frozen (though you can find tortellini dried and frozen).
  • How to tell the difference quickly? Tortellini has a hole in the middle, tortelloni has a solid center that encloses the filling.

Of course, you can make this recipe with refrigerated tortellini too (if you can find it!). Just don’t substitute dried tortellini here because the weights are different.

For the pesto: homemade vs storebought

This pesto tortellini tastes best with homemade basil pesto made with fresh basil! Of course, we know that’s not always possible. But keep in mind when using jarred pesto: purchased pesto varies greatly between brands. Many jarred brands taste intensely acidic or have an odd aftertaste. Here’s what to know:

  • Homemade pesto has the best flavor! Basil Pesto is best homemade. You can also try Arugula Pesto or Kale Pesto.
  • Purchased pesto brands vary greatly in flavor: some are very acidic. Brands all have a different salt and acid level. Some we have stopped using because of the bitter and acidic notes can overwhelm the dish.
  • Some brands of refrigerated fresh pesto are now on the market (in the produce section). This type of pesto tends to have better flavor than pesto in jars. Experiment to find one you love!
Pesto Tortellini

Ways to serve pesto tortellini

Once you’ve got your ingredients, this pesto tortellini recipe is a breeze to put together. Simply simmer the pesto with heavy cream and milk until it thickens, then add the pasta. Because it doesn’t have a ton of protein on its own, we’d recommend adding some to make it a true main dish. Or, pair it with some filling vegetable sides. Here are a few serving suggestions:

How do you plan to serve this pesto tortellini? Let us know in the comments below!

More recipes with pesto

Got pesto on the brain? Here are a few more tasty ways to use pesto in your cooking:

This pesto tortellini recipe is…

Vegetarian. For vegan, use vegan pesto and non-dairy milk.

Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Pesto Tortellini

Pesto Tortellini

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
Save Recipe


This pesto tortellini recipe makes a quick weeknight meal or side dish! Drape the tender pasta in this creamy, herby sauce.


  • 18 ounces refrigerated cheese tortelloni (or refrigerated tortellini)*
  • ¾ cup homemade basil pesto or purchased**
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup 2% milk
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 


  1. Start a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Boil the pasta until al dente according to the package instructions (usually around 2 minutes).
  2. Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the sauce just starts to thicken, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the tortellini into the sauce and serve. If desired, top with grated Parmesan cheese.


*Tortelloni is large tortellini that you can find in the refrigerated section. Do not substitute dried tortellini.

**The flavor is best with homemade pesto. But if basil is not in season, look for fresh pesto that’s refrigerated in the produce section for better flavor than jarred. Or, use a jarred pesto you love!

  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Pasta
  • 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.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

1 Comment

  1. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!