Pesto Balsamic Chicken Tortellini Toss
This delicious pesto balsamic chicken tortellini toss is loaded with so many yummy ingredients and flavors, like roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, artichokes and more!
The flavor explosion in this tortellini toss salad is absolutely unreal.
Yes, there is a lot going on. And yes, we’re just going to lean into that, because it.is.so.worth.it.
This recipe starts by building lots of flavor with a balsamic marinaded chicken.
I prefer grilling the chicken. But you can cook it a variety of different ways: baking or broiling in the oven, in an air fryer, cut into cubes and cooked in a skillet.
Basically: just get that chicken cooked up nice and juicy.
Tortellini Toss Ingredients
The key to this recipe is maximizing time by prepping/cooking ingredients simultaneously. While the chicken cooks, work on prepping some of the other ingredients.
Speaking of ingredients, this salad is loaded with an inordinate amount of yummy things:
- tortellini (the fresh/refrigerated kind!)
- roasted red peppers
- canned artichoke hearts
- fresh mozzarella
- fresh herbs (basil is my fave in this salad)
- grilled chicken
Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus
The tomatoes get tossed on a sheet pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and thrown in the oven to roast until sizzling and bubbling.
About halfway through their metamorphosis, the asparagus is added to the sheet pan. And the two veggies continue roasting until the tomatoes are juicy and the asparagus is crisp tender.
The sweet, roasted tomatoes are one of my favorite parts of this pesto balsamic chicken tortellini toss!
Pesto Balsamic Dressing
Ah, the dressing that brings everything together into one cohesive jumble.
It’s simple! Just three ingredients:
- pesto (see notes in the recipe about what kind of pesto to use)
- balsamic vinegar
The mayo lends a creamy element to the dressing which helps offset the stronger flavors of the vinegar and pesto.
However, you can leave it out if you so desire for a more vinaigrette-style dressing (I haven’t tried subbing it with yogurt or sour cream).
A Really Beautiful Toss
The name of this recipe is apt as the ingredients are literally all tossed together into a colorful, jubilant salad.
Sometimes if there’s too much going on in a recipe, it can be distracting. But in this recipe, it ends up as beautiful, edible chaos.
These flavors just speak to me. The pesto. The balsamic. All the delicious veggies and fresh mozzarella and juicy chicken. YUM.
I could eat this every day and be the happiest woman on the planet.
A Few Notes
This tortellini toss would make a really delicious side dish, potluck offering, or vegetarian main dish (just leave out the chicken).
Also, a few other important notes:
- Do NOT over cook the tortellini. Fresh or refrigerated tortellini only needs 1-2 minutes of cooking time. Err on the side of al dente instead of falling apart mushiness. Trust me.
- If some of these ingredients aren’t available, play around with substitutions. Zucchini or broccoli for the asparagus. Parmesan for the fresh mozzarella. Salmon for the chicken. Etc, etc.
- The salad can be made and refrigerated for a few hours. It’s meant to be served chilled or at room temperature (not warm). If you need to make it farther in advance than a few hours, consider waiting to dress the salad right before serving, or reserve some of the dressing to stir in before serving in case the salad dries out a bit.
This tortellini toss is a bit of an investment of ingredients and time (and yes, a few pans). But I promise it’s worth it.
It’s a salad people will be talking about for years.
What to Serve With This:
- 1-Hour Breadsticks
- Fresh fruit
Pesto Balsamic Chicken Tortellini Toss
Chicken + Marinade:
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ pounds chicken breasts, tenders or thighs, trimmed
- 20 ounce packaged fresh/refrigerated cheese tortellini
- 1 to 1 ½ pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 3 to 4 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
- 16-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
- 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
- 1 to 2 cups fresh mozzarella balls, halved (or fresh mozzarella, cubed)
- Fresh chopped herbs of your choice, like basil, parsley, etc (optional but delicious)
- ¾ cup prepared basil pesto (see note)
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- Whisk together all the marinade ingredients until well combined. Pour over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. (See note for alternate cooking options.) Cook the chicken for 4-6 minutes per side, or until an instant-read thermometer register 165 degrees at the thickest part. Remove from the grill and set aside to cool a bit.
- SIDENOTE: Step #3 and Step #4 can be done simultaneously with a little planning, so read through the next few steps before starting so you can maximize time and cooking.Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the asparagus in an even layer on the pan. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil if needed. Cook the tomatoes and asparagus for 8-10 minutes until the tomatoes are bursting and sizzling and the asparagus is crisp-tender.
- Cook the tortellini according to package instructions. DO NOT OVERCOOK. If using refrigerated/fresh tortellini, it will only need 1-2 minutes of cooking time. You want it al dente rather than falling apart soft. Drain the tortellini, quickly rinse with cool water to prevent sticking, drain again, and transfer to a serving bowl. Let cool, tossing occasionally, while prepping the rest of the ingredients.
- Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces.
- For the dressing, whisk together the pesto, balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise. (The mayo can be left out for a less creamy dressing.)
- To the bowl with the tortellini, add the chicken, roasted asparagus and tomatoes, artichokes, red peppers, mozzarella, and fresh herbs.
- Pour the pesto dressing over the top. Toss to combine. Serve or refrigerate until serving.
Recipe Source: adapted a fair amount from a recipe my mom gave me (someone served it to her and my dad on one of their recent travels)
28 Comments on “Pesto Balsamic Chicken Tortellini Toss”
This was killer good. Served to my family and parents. Everyone loved it
I made this last night and my family loved it! I added sautéed mushroom (big mushroom lover here) with red onion and a big handful of coarsely chopped fresh spinach. I also used plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo. I baked the chicken in the marinade and the drizzled the drippings over the salad. Delicious!
This was so so so so good! The flavors were so yummy. My hubby said it was one of his fav meals. Thanks Mel!
My whole family loved this recipe! My husband even said it was one of my best dinners. The list of ingredients seemed daunting at first, but I’m glad I got over it because it was actually fairly easy to make. I love that this can easily be made ahead of time. This is a recipe we’ll make over and over and not get sick of!
Thanks for your feedback, Cassidy! I’m glad you and your husband enjoyed it! I agree the list of ingredients is long…but it comes together pretty fast.
BTW this meal gets better over time – it was great at lunch but even better at dinner time and the next day!
Yes!! I agree!
Made this for work-from-home lunches for the hubby and I. It’s absolutely delicious and a beautiful salad (as promised). Love all the veggies in there and the heartiness of the chicken (which goes great with it) and the tortellini. The chicken by itself is heavy on flavor but I’m sure it’s by design – it goes great in here. It could use a little salt, but this is the perfect potluck meal. It was quick/easy to throw together, too – it didn’t take much away from my work day, esp since the hubby did the grilling. Thanks for this recipe!
Thanks for the comment and recipe review!
I knew that my family would love this, and I was right! One of our favorite meals is your balsamic chicken noodle bowl (which, when I first made that about 10 years ago, was the first time I had ever had balsamic vinegar OR feta!!), and this reminded us of that. My husband loved the roasted tomatoes and I loved the whole combination! I used broccoli as the veggie, because it’s my favorite. Thanks for another fabulous recipe!
Thanks for letting me know, Michelle! So happy you and your family liked this one.
I just made this and I’m in food heaven. It’s delectable!!!
Yay! So happy you made it and loved it. Thanks for letting me know, Kathryn!
Can I use frozen asparagus? Should I adjust time for longer? My college aged son is coming home next weekend and was excited when I showed him this recipe to serve when he’s home.
Yes, I think you could! Just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t over cook and turn mushy.
Wanted to report back. My son brought his girlfriend with him who had never had asparagus and I just couldn’t serve her frozen asparagus for her first taste ever!! Everyone LOVED this dish!! It was a few minutes of chopping – but a fun way to chat and split the list. Came together really easy after the prep work. The marinade for the chicken is beyond amazing and I’m already planning on making for next time we grill any meat!
Thanks for checking back in to let me know! So, so happy it was a hit!
I made this with only a little bit of chicken (not on purpose; it was all I had on hand) and didn’t bother to marinate it, and the salad was still amazing. I added a jar of sun-dried tomatoes and I roasted some sugar snap peas with the asparagus. Incredible. What I’m saying is: this recipe is super adaptable and is going into my regular dinner rotation.
Fantastic adaptations, Amy!
Could I use instead GF pasta instead of tortellini? gluten free is needed at our house.
Thanks for your wonderful recipes.
Yes, I’m sure you could!
This looks amazing!!! Do you think there is any way it would work with a cooked rotisserie chicken from Costco? Or if I was going to bake the chicken in the oven, how long would you bake it for?
Yes! You could totally use a rotisserie chicken. If it were me, I’d make 1/4 or 1/2 of the marinade and toss the cooked chicken in the marinade for flavor before using.
This looks delicious! Do you think roasting a red pepper in the oven with the other vegetables would be a good substitute for the jarred peppers?
So speaking of substitutions, I’m sure the tortellini is absolutely amazing in this, but how do you think it’d fare with a small pasta like shells or penne instead?
I think it would be fine. The tortellini obviously offers some depth to the pasta (I mean, hello, cheese filled!) but I think another kind of pasta would be fine!
Thanks for your input! You’re right — it worked. In fact, I’m afraid that I substituted nearly every ingredient and it still worked. So adaptable! The sauce was delicious and covered any lack from my ingredient changes. But for anyone out there that wonders if leftover sauteed green beans would sub for asparagus or switching to marinated artichoke hearts or grated mozzarella or rotisserie chicken or pretty much anything….the answer is yes. 🙂 Anything covered with a sauce from Mel’s Kitchen is golden.
I remember reading that to reduce food waste, you should make a pot of soup every week to clean out leftover odds and ends from the fridge. But the weather has been so hot, who can manage that? This pasta salad is the summer equivalent. It’s fantastic. Thanks Mel!