This easy Creamy Pesto Tortellini is a perfect weeknight meal for any busy family. Hearty and filling cheese tortellini get a touch of decadent flavor with a homemade pesto cream sauce that only takes minutes to make. It’s a delicious 7 ingredient, one-pan dinner that can be made from start to finish in just 20 quick minutes.
Sometimes you just need a really simple, really satisfying dinner to put on the table. It always helps if it’s something that your kids actually want to eat.
Well, this simple, creamy pesto tortellini recipe is exactly that! It cooks all in one pan in just 20 minutes with basic, easy-to-find ingredients so you can whip it up whenever you need to.
Even though its super fast, it’s also SO delicious. The creamy pesto tortellini sauce is luscious, rich, and decadent and infused with the basil and nuttiness of pesto. One pot cooking not only makes it a meal that is easy to prep and clean up, but also means the pasta simmers right in the sauce for maximum flavor.
It’s the kind of dinner that could easily stand alone as a main dish and leave the whole family satisfied, or it can be paired with proteins and sides to make dinner for a bigger crowd.
Why I LOVE this recipe!
- So Fast! – Every busy family needs a recipe like this in their dinner rotation. 20 minutes from fridge to fork!
- One Pan – This is truly a one pan meal. You don’t need to pre-boil the pasta in a separate pot, so clean up is super easy.
- Filling – This is a vegetarian meal that will still keep everyone satisfied. Cheese tortellini and a hearty cream sauce are filling and delicious.
- Easy Ingredients – Everything you need to make this is available at any grocery store.
- Family Friendly – Pasta is an easy win for kids and adults alike. This is one dinner recipe that no one will complain about.
What is Creamy Pesto Tortellini?
Tortellini is a form of filled pasta, much like ravioli, but with a folded knot-like shape. They can be stuffed with meat, herbs, mushrooms, or cheese, like we’re using for this recipe.
It can be tossed with many sauces, but we’re using one made by blending classic cream sauce with pesto. Pesto is a green, herbaceous Italian sauce traditionally made with basil, garlic, and pine nuts that pairs wonderfully with the creamy, cheesy flavors in this recipe.
This creamy pesto pasta recipe is as simple as promised! Just a one pan and 20 minutes for a family friendly meal.
In this section I am going to go through a few tips and tricks I use for how to make cheese tortellini with pesto to get the absolute best and most delicious results.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for the FULL recipe card.
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Chicken Broth – Chicken stock can also be used. To keep it vegetarian, swap it for vegetable broth.
- Heavy Cream – Half and half can be swapped in, but it will result in a less rich sauce, and can curdle more easily.
- Pesto – You can use homemade pesto or a jar of prepared pesto. I prefer the refrigerated jars of basil pesto from the grocery store because it has a fresher flavor, but you can use any type your family likes.
- Parmesan Cheese – I’d recommend using a wedge of parmesan and grating it yourself. The pre-shredded types often have a coating that makes it more difficult to melt.
- Cheese Tortellini – Make sure you are using the frozen or refrigerated type of tortellini. They’re usually available in the freezer or deli sections of your grocery store. A dry package, like you would find near the other dried pastas, will not cook correctly with the instructions below.
Make sure to see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full quantities and ingredients list.
If you love this recipe as much as we do and want some quick ways to change it up for variety, these little tips will do the trick!
- Pesto Chicken Tortellini– Make the recipe as written but include 2 cups of chicken in your ingredients. This can be sliced baked chicken breasts or leftover chicken. When the tortellini has finished simmering, fold the chicken into the pesto cream sauce and simmer until warm, then serve.
- Creamy Spinach Tortellini– Gather the ingredients for this recipe but swap the pesto for 3 cups of fresh baby spinach or a package of thawed frozen spinach that has been well-drained. Make the recipe as written but once the tortellini has simmered for 4 minutes, stir in the spinach until wilted and well incorporated.
- Creamy Shrimp Tortellini– Make the recipe as directed up through the final step. When adding the tortellini, also add one pound of peeled, deveined raw shrimp. Allow them to simmer with the tortellini for 4-5 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and the shrimp is pink and translucent.
Recipe Step by Step
I am going to highlight a few key steps in the recipe here, but make sure to jump down to the recipe card for comprehensive instructions on how to make creamy pesto tortellini.
- Step 1– Melt the butter in a large pan until foamy, then whisk in the flour for 30-60 seconds.
- Step 2– Whisk the broth into flour until smooth and simmering, then slowly whisk in the cream and return to a simmer.
- Step 3– Stir in the pesto and parmesan cheese until smooth then add in the tortellini and cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Step 4– If desired, garnish with fresh chopped basil and serve hot.
- Use a large pan – To cook all the sauce and pasta in one pan you’ll need to use the largest, high-sided skillet or Dutch oven you have. That will help keep everything contained while cooking, instead of making a mess on your stove.
- Whisk it – Using a whisk when adding in the flour, broth, and cream is essential. It will help break up any lumps in the flour to make a smooth roux, and it will also help you get the broth and cream mixed in more easily so you have a luscious cream sauce at the end.
- Add cream slowly – Don’t dump that heavy cream all in one go! The fat content in heavy cream makes it less likely to curdle, or get lumpy, but it’s not a guarantee. To help make sure your creamy tortellini sauce stays smooth, just slowly stream it in while whisking. That will also help the pan maintain its temperature, which means faster cooking for you!
- Don’t pre-cook – Do not pre-cook the pasta before adding it to the pan. As long as you’re using refrigerated or frozen tortellini, there’s no need to prep it. Just dump it straight into the sauce (even from frozen), and let it cook in the pan. Pre-cooking it can lead to mushy pasta.
Recipe Short Cuts
If you need to make this recipe, but are extra short on time, here are a few ideas that can help make this recipe even faster!
- Make the sauce ahead – You can make the recipe all the way up through step 3 then stop. Let the sauce cool then transfer it to a sealed container in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook, simply pour the sauce back into the pan over medium heat. You may need to use a splash or two of broth to loosen it up. Once hot, add in the tortellini and simmer as directed.
- Use prepared alfredo – Instead of making a homemade pesto tortellini sauce, you can combine a jarred alfredo sauce with prepared pesto in your pan. Heat until simmering then add the pasta and cook until tender.
- Buy pre-shredded cheese – Not shredding cheese is a time-saver for sure! Pre-shredded parmesan is available at pretty much any grocery store, so feel free to use that. However since most pre-shredded cheeses have a coating that prevent easy melting, I’d recommend looking for a finely shredded option, rather than thick pieces.
- Measure ahead – Nothing makes a quick cooking recipe go faster than preparation. Take a moment before you start cooking to make sure you have all the ingredients at hand and measured out. Then it’s as easy as adding them at the right time!
What to Serve with Creamy Pesto Tortellini
Since this dinner has the delicious flavors of cheese tortellini and pesto cream sauce, it will pair well with many of your favorite traditional or Italian side dishes.
Choose one or several of these side dishes to create a wholesome, well-rounded dinner. There are both classic options and some healthy options to keep it light.
Side Dish Ideas
- Italian House Salad – This classic restaurant salad is easy to make at home and the perfect light side for decadent pasta.
- Pesto Garlic Bread – Spread a little extra pesto on a loaf of French bread for a warm, delicious side everyone will love.
- Cheesy Garlic Bread – Garlic bread and pasta are a perfect match, plus this easy recipe is foolproof!
- No Knead Rolls – Whip up some homemade rolls without any rise time needed.
- Sautéed Mushrooms with Garlic Butter – These tender mushrooms are delicious as a side, but I won’t tell if you add them right on top of your pasta!
- Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower – Add a healthy veggie to the table with this simple roasted side dish.
- Pesto Roasted Veggies – Use a little more of that jar of pesto to make a healthy, fresh vegetable side to go with dinner.
- Antipasto Salad – This make-ahead salad is like charcuterie in a bowl!
- Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad – Try this light and healthy salad for a refreshing side perfect to serve next to cheese tortellini with pesto.
Creamy Pesto Tortellini Leftovers
If you have leftovers after making this recipe, then it is your lucky day! They save and reheat well, and can make the start of another delicious dish.
To save leftovers, separate into meal sized portions and then place in an airtight container and store:
- in the refrigerator for 3-4 days
- Unfortunately this recipe is not freezer friendly. I do not recommend freezing Creamy Pesto Tortellini.
Pesto cream sauce is made of a pesto sauce and cream sauce. Ingredients like butter, flour, heavy cream, pesto, and parmesan are common.
You can thicken a creamy pesto sauce by first making roux with melted butter and flour. Heavy cream and shredded cheese are also common and flavorful thickening ingredients.
A pesto cream sauce will have a rich, creamy texture with the small bits of crunch from the nuts in the pesto. Garlic, fresh herbs, and pine nuts are the most common flavors in a pesto, and they pair nicely with cream and parmesan in pasta sauces.
I’d recommend trying to eat any leftovers of your creamy pesto tortellini within 3-4 days.
More EASY Pasta Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe, I really hope you will take a moment to grab a few more easy recipes for another busy night!
You can check out all of my easy dinner recipes here, or see a few of our readers favorite recipes below.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1.5 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken broth, or vegetable broth
- 1/3 cup pesto , prepared
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 38 ounces cheese tortellini, frozen or refrigerated (about 2 bags)
- chopped fresh basil
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once ist starts to foam, whisk in the flour and cook for 30-60 seconds.
- Slowly whisk in the broth mixing until smooth. Bring to a simmer, then begin to whisk in the heavy cream slowly until it is fully combined. Bring to a simmer again and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes.Whisk in the pesto and grated parmesan cheese until smooth.
- Add the frozen tortellini (without cooking) straight to the pesto cream sauce, mix, and simmer for 4-5 minutes or until the tortellini is heated and tender.
- Garnish with freshly chopped basil and serve immediately.
- Heavy Cream – Use equal parts half and half.
- Chicken Broth – Use chicken stock or vegetable broth
- Parmesan Cheese – Romano or Grana Padano are good alternatives.
- Cheese Tortellini – Any flavor of tortellini can be used instead as long as it pairs well with pesto and is either refrigerated or frozen.