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  • Writer's picturedeborahreinhardt

Pesto Tortellini and Shrimp Salad Recipe

Add this quick and delicious pasta salad to your summer meal line up.

pesto sauce, cheese tortellini, shrimp, lemon for salad
Easy Pesto Tortellini and Shrimp Salad

Are you trying to squeeze in all the summer activities you can this month? I know there are six weeks of summer remaining, and goodness knows the hot and humid weather in St. Louis isn’t going anywhere soon, but psychologically I feel the season is winding down. The final outdoor theater and concert performances are here. In two weeks, my neighborhood and public pools close on weekdays because the kids are back in school. Baseball is marching toward the playoffs (fingers crossed for the Cardinals). All of this plus several projects I’m juggling make for a surprisingly busy life! Who has time to cook?

This recipe for easy Pesto Tortellini and Shrimp Salad is perfect for now. Ready to eat in about 20 minutes (you’d be in line at the drive-through lane longer), this salad has tender shrimp, herbaceous goodness from basil and fresh spinach, sweet tomato, cheesy pillows of tortellini, and that perfectly salty bite from Parmesan cheese curls. It’s summertime on a fork!

To make Pesto Tortellini and Shrimp Salad, which makes six servings, you’ll need these ingredients:

  • 1 pound frozen (large 31-40 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach

  • ½ cup fresh basil

  • 2 tablespoons almonds

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 cup sliced grape tomatoes

  • 1 (1-pound) bag frozen cheese tortellini

  • Salt and pepper

pesto in food processor
Savory pesto can be used thicker to toss with warm pasta or thinned out with water to use as a dressing.

Here's how you can make Pesto Tortellini and Shrimp Salad.

Frozen shrimp is a must-have ingredient for busy cooks. Whether making a scampi, salad or quick appetizer, they are ready to use in no time. Plan ahead and lay the bag of frozen shrimp on a paper towel-lined plate and place in your refrigerator overnight. But if you’re pressed for time, empty the shrimp into a large bowl of cold water. Stir occasionally to separate any frozen clumps, and in 10 to 15 minutes, the shrimp will be ready to remove and strain. Place them on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to absorb extra water.

While the shrimp dries, make the pesto. A food processor works best here, but you could use a blender. Coarsely chop the washed spinach and basil. I used the lemon basil I’m growing this summer which helped add brightness to this sauce and balanced the garlic.

Crush the garlic and chop almonds. You could substitute walnuts or the traditional pine nuts but I’m too cheap to buy the latter and I didn’t have the former. Drizzle a few tablespoons of oil to get it going and give the mixture an initial blitz.

Turn off the machine, scrape down the sides. Then, as the processor is turned on again, slowly stream in the remaining oil. When it’s at the consistency you want (add a touch of water if it’s too thick), empty the pesto into a bowl. I like to mix in the grated cheese by hand. Stir in the lemon and you’re ready to go.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Cook the tortellini as directed. Drain the pasta.

Slice the grape tomatoes.

Because I like the shrimp to be a little warm to serve this salad, I sauté them just before finishing the salad. Pat the shrimp dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the shrimp until they just start to turn pink (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat.

You’ll need a large serving bowl into which you’ll add the pasta, tomatoes, and shrimp. Toss with the pesto and serve immediately.

I can’t eat shellfish. What other protein can I use?

Chicken would work beautifully in this recipe. Marinate about eight chicken tenders in Italian-style dressing for at least two hours. If you have a grill pan, this is a plus; otherwise just cook the chicken in a skillet and allow the tenders to cool before cutting into 1-inch pieces.

Make this a vegetarian dish by using jarred or canned cannellini beans instead of shrimp or chicken. Versatility is one of the great things about this recipe. I hope you'll try it soon!


Other hearty salads perfect for a quick summer meal include my mom's Deli Rotelle Pasta Salad and Doritos Taco Salad. Grab these recipes to power you through a busy August.

About the blog

Three Women in the Kitchen is an award-winning food blog offering today’s home cooks comforting, hearty recipes with a personal touch. The website also pays tribute to Deborah’s mother, Katie Reinhardt, and paternal grandmother, Dorothy Reinhardt (the “three women” in the kitchen). Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, you’ll find inspiration here to feed your families and warm your heart. Subscribe today so you won’t miss a single delicious detail.

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