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Pesto tortellini pasta salad with roasted grape tomatoes on the vine and crispy pancetta

Oftentimes a good pasta salad (but really any good salad, for that matter) takes a lot of chopping and hands-on effort, but not this one. My tortellini pasta salad gets all the points for big flavours and yummy textures with minimal effort thanks to simple, awesome ingredients. The first key to success is finding a great quality store-bought mini cheese tortellini pasta. The second is to make your own basil pesto – using my recipe included below, of course. The third is to use the best grape tomatoes you can find – on the vine if possible because their flavour is most tomato-y. Especially during the summer, make this for backyard hangs and BBQ potlucks, but I also love having this in the fridge so Alex and I can grab a scoop or two anytime the hanger strikes. 



Nut-free basil pesto:

  • 1 clove garlic (a bigger one)
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 3 cups basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 4 turns freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Tortellini pasta salad:

  • 450 grams mini cheese tortellini
  • 200 grams grape tomatoes on the vine
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 200 grams sliced pancetta, sweet


Nut-free basil pesto:

  1. Add garlic and hemp hearts to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10-15 seconds. Add basil leaves salt, and pepper.
  2. With the processor running, pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until smooth. Pause and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed. Add the Parmesan and lemon juice, pulse to incorporate. Store any pesto not used for the tortellini salad by covering in the fridge for up to a week – a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil on top helps to keep things fresh. Or, omit the Parmesan and freeze the pesto in ice cube trays – once the pesto is thawed you can simply stir in the cheese. 

Tortellini pasta salad:

  1. Preheat oven to 365°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Meanwhile, arrange grape tomatoes on baking sheet with vines intact. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Bake in preheated oven 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and their skins have split. Transfer to a holding dish and discard the vines.
  3. Increase oven temp to 425°F. Line the baking sheet with a fresh piece of parchment and arrange pancetta in a single layer. Bake until crisp, about ten minutes, then transfer to a dish lined with paper towel. Once cool enough to handle, crumble pancetta into bits.
  4. Heat a large saucepan of water on high so it comes to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat so that the boil is gentler and cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool down a bit.
  5. Assembly: In a large bowl gently stir together the cooked tortellini, crispy pancetta, and enough pesto to coat it all – roughly 1/3 cup. Gently fold in the roasted tomatoes, transfer to a serving dish, and enjoy cold or at room temp. Store leftovers covered in fridge up to two days. 

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