Tortellini with Avocado Pesto

Let your blender do most of the work to make this tortellini with avocado pesto! Tender cheese-stuffed spinach tortellini are tossed with homemade avocado, spring pea and basil pesto. It’s a delicious vegetarian dish with loads of fresh flavors.

A white bowl filled with spinach tortellini tossed with avocado pesto.

How to make tortellini with avocado pesto

Ingredients

  • Avocado: This fruit comes in tons of shapes and colors that range from green to black, but the most popular type of avocado is the Hass avocado. And not only do avocados have a creamy interior that lends them to pair with virtually any flavor, they also really add body to sauces. So, it’s perfect in this pesto! Also, avocados are loaded with vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin E. So, what isn’t there to love in an avocado?
  • Spring Peas: These little nuggets of fresh spring flavor are what’s known as “shelling peas.” And the spring pea is one of the sweetest pea varieties around, so they’re amazing in any dish they touch. Also, they’re loaded with vitamins, protein and antioxidants, which means they’re not only sweet and delicious – you’re doing yourself a healthy little favor when you sit down and devour a bowl of them.
  • Parsley: Normally when we think of pesto we just think of basil. But, parsley brings a special zing of freshness to the sauce, that can’t be replicated.
  • Nuts: Pine nuts are traditional in pesto, but other types of nuts bring their own special gifts to the sauce. So, the bottom line is, grab the can of nuts that make you happy, and they’ll be spectacular in this pesto!
  • Parmesan: You always want to buy the best parmesan that you can find. I’m sure the canned stuff has its place in recipes, but try to use the good wedge parmesan in this spring recipe. Canned parmesan tastes dry and dusty, and that’s the opposite of the fresh flavors we’ve got going on here.
  • Watercress: This lively little green doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion. It’s peppery and can be served raw or cooked. If you have a bunch of watercress in the refrigerator, you have the base for a salad, or the perfect greens in a stir fry. So, watercress is one of those ingredients I always try to have on hand because of its versatility
  • Blistered Tomatoes: The trick to blistered tomatoes is to get them in a ripping hot pan and don’t move them. That way they’ll get the perfect char, adding a whole new layer of flavor!

Equipment

  • A cutting board and chef’s knife.
  • Measuring cups and spoons.
  • A large pot of water for cooking the tortellini.
  • A colander for draining the tortellini.
  • A blender (or food processor) for making the pesto.
  • A spatula.
  • A large bowl to toss the tortellini with the pesto.
  • Serving bowls and forks.
A mason jar filled with avocado pesto.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Get your mise en place ready. That means measuring out your ingredients, getting your equipment situated and then prepping your ingredients. This includes peeling and pitting the avocado, thawing the peas if needed, peeling the garlic clove(s) and measuring the rest of your ingredients (or you can just eyeball it).
  • Then, cook the tortellini. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add some salt to it (optional, but a good idea). Add the tortellini and cook it according to the package directions. Drain it and rinse the tortellini with cold water.
  • Next, make the pesto. Place the avocado, peas (I use frozen spring peas that have been thawed), basil, parsley, garlic, nuts, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, salt and black pepper in the blender pitcher (or food processor bowl). Process the mixture while drizzling in the olive oil until a creamy rich pesto is formed. Scrape the sides of the pitcher with a spatula as needed.
  • In a large bowl, toss together the tortellini and pesto. Place a lid on top and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (I like serving this cold, but you could serve it hot!)
  • Scoop into bowls and top with watercress, if you wish, and more freshly grated Parmesan. Serve!
A birds eye view of a mason jar filled with avocado pesto.

Substitutions and Alternatives

Dietary Alternatives:

  • To make it gluten free: Choose a gluten free pasta or tortellini if you can find it.
  • To make it dairy free: Skip the Parmesan and try it with nutritional yeast instead.
  • To make it nut free: Skip the nuts altogether! The pesto will be fine without them.
  • To make it vegan: Skip the Parmesan and try it with nutritional yeast and choose a pasta that is not cheese filled.

Spice Things Up:

  • Instead of tortellini, try any shape of pasta, like orecchiete, cavatappi, penne or bowtie (farfalle).
  • Blistered tomatoes are wonderful as a side dish (see my recipe for blistered tomatoes below), but blistered scallions would make a fabulous pairing too!
  • Lemon thyme would make a fabulous addition to the pesto.
  • You could go all in with the parsley and make this into a parsley lemon pesto.
  • Skip the garlic clove, embrace the scape! Depending on where you live in the United States or Canada, in the late spring and early summer you can find garlic scapes. The young tender greens would puree perfectly in this pesto!

Chef’s Tip

Make this into a higher protein meal by serving it with grilled salmon or chicken. Brush the fish or chicken with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper and grill to your liking. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top and voila! A fabulously balanced meal.

A white bowl filled with spinach tortellini tossed with avocado pesto.

Delish Recipes with Avocado:

Print

Tortellini with Avocado Pesto

Avocado, pea and basil pesto tossed with cheese-stuffed spinach tortellini.

  • Author: Julie Andrews
  • Prep Time: 10-15 mins
  • Cook Time: 10-15 mins
  • Total Time: 20-30 mins
  • Yield: Serves 8 1x
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Stove-Top, No-Cook
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 9-ounce packages spinach cheese tortellini
  • 1 medium avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup spring peas
  • ¼ cup fresh basil
  • ¼ cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 23 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, almonds or walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons freshly shaved Parmesan cheese + more for serving
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup watercress (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and place in a bowl.
  2. Combine avocado, peas, basil, parsley, garlic, nuts, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. While pulsing, drizzle in the olive oil, scraping sides regularly with a spatula, until pesto reaches desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Set aside.
  3. Stir together the pesto and tortellini until coated. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Serve cold and garnish with more Parmesan cheese and watercress (if using).

Notes

Storage Tip: Keep tortellini in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Pairing Tip: Serve the tortellini with blistered tomatoes! Here’s how to make them: Heat a cast iron pan to medium-high. Drizzle a quart of cherry or grape tomatoes with a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt. Place tomatoes in the hot pan and cook 1-3 minutes, until tomatoes are blistered.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/8 of recipe
  • Calories: 457
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Sodium: 433mg
  • Fat: 28g
  • Saturated Fat: 5g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 23g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 43g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Protein: 12g
  • Cholesterol: 43mg

Keywords: easy, healthy, best, homemade, simple, quick, weeknight dinner

Did you make this recipe?

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Oh, and did I mention that you can totally eat this warm OR cold?  It’s just the cherry tomato on top of the tortellini, folks.

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