Nana’s Tortellini Salad

I am a pasta nut. I love to make pasta. Fresh, frozen, filled, extruded, hand made, dumplings, I love to make them all. I spent a large portion of my career, learning the joys and frustrations of serving a ton of handmade pasta, and I can say without hesitation, it is one of the most interesting and deceptively difficult things to make.

Filled pasta, is especially frustrating. They are delicate, easy to mess up, and it takes a very long time to make a large amount. This is doubly true with the smaller varieties, like tortellini. I have made a ton of tortellini over the years, and though they are one of my favorite shapes to make, they are not feasible for a weeknight dinner. It is far too much work, and the scrap pasta that accumulates from cutting perfect circles of pasta dough is just too much for me at home. When I’m craving filled pasta I usually grab a bag of fresh tortellini from the refrigerated section of my local supermarket. The discontinuation of fresh filled pasta at Lidl nearly made me re-evaluate my choice of go-to grocery store. Luckily, I discovered Aldi still regularly stocks delicious cheese tortellini and all is right with the world.

When it comes to working as a Chef, I would never buy tortellini rather than make it. It is just not something I’m comfortable with. When I find myself in a situation where I am representing myself professionally, I am always going to take the long way home. I am always going to make products by hand because I know I can achieve a far superior product. When it comes to making meals in my kitchen at home, I am far more likely to turn to a convenience product for the sake of expediency. I have a ton going on at home at any given moment, with a toddler running around, two dogs, and both myself and my wife working full time. In that midst of that chaos, pulling out the old pasta roller is not a feasible use of what little spare time I have.

The nice thing about fresh tortellini, even store-bought, is how quickly they cook. It takes less than 5 minutes to cook the pasta, and with an easy Pomodoro sauce, you can have dinner ready in less than 30 minutes. I never thought I would be the type of person to glorify the “5-minute meal” ethos, but then we added a toddler to our lives and found out how little time we actually had. It may seem obvious, but it astounds me how little patience kids have, especially when they are hungry. Then again it astounds my wife how little patience I have when I am hungry, so I guess it is fair. Despite my arguments to the contrary, you cannot expect a little person to survive on cheerios and goldfish, though they will try. Thanks to fresh pasta and chicken nuggets, I can at least sleep soundly knowing the munchkin ate something sort of nutritionally

One of my favorite uses for fresh, filled pasta like tortellini is in cold pasta salads. As a child my father’s mom, my Nana, had an incredible recipe for a cold pasta salad made from cheese tortellini with bacon and feta that seemed to be the star of every cookout spread. It went fast, and you had to be ready to fill up your plate or a wayward Uncle might abscond with the lion’s share. To this day, this pasta salad is one of my favorite additions to a cookout or barbecue, it’s always surpised people just how good cold, cooked tortellini are, and I am forever sending friends home with the recipe. So I decided to post it here so I can avoid writign it out every few months.

Give this tortellini a salad a try, and see just how good cold, filled pasta salads can be!

Nana’s Tortellini Salad

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Recipe by Paul Kostandin Course: Lunch, Sides, Snacks, DinnerCuisine: American, Mediterranean


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This cold, cheese tortellini salad with bacon, feta and caramelized onions will become the star of your next cookout or barbecue spread. Filled pasta are the perfect palate for this pasta salad with just a touch of lemon, and rich salty bacon it will keep you coming back for more!


  • 1, 2# package of cheese tortellini

  • 4 oz feta cheese

  • 1 package bacon, diced

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons chopped capers

  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon


  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it reaches the desired texture. Strain and cool with cold water.
  • In a separate pan, begin to render the bacon. Continue cooking the bacon until it is completely crispy.
  • Remove bacon from the pan leaving the bacon fat. Begin to sauté your diced onion in the bacon fat until the onions are tender and fragrant.
  • In a large bowl, combine the chilled tortellini, the bacon, onions, and bacon fat, as well as the olive oil, lemon juice/zest, and capers.
  • Mix well, taste for seasoning, adjust with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Top with the feta cheese and serve.

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