Italian Bow Tie Pasta Salad [A La Carte Italian Pasta Salad]

Easy and delicious Italian bow tie pasta salad incorporates cheesy tortellini and bow tie pasta mixed with the big flavor of olive salad, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto and chopped walnuts. It’s the perfect summer side dish for family gatherings, a summer bbq or on its own as a light lunch or light meal.

Large serving bowl of bow tie pasta salad with serving spoons and two individual bowls of salad on the side.

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My husband and I both graduated from Delta State University – a small university right in the middle of the Mississippi Delta. There is a popular little lunch bistro in town called A La Carte Alley. I frequently stopped in for lunch after class on Friday before heading home for the weekend. My favorite thing to order was a roast beef and Swiss sandwich with a side of their Italian pasta salad.

Over ten years later, I don’t remember much about the roast beef sandwich. But I do remember that tortellini pasta salad. It was the star of the show, the reason I kept coming back. A few years after graduation, my mom presented me with their cookbook. Of course, A La Carte couldn’t publish a cookbook of their recipes without including that great recipe for their infamous tortellini pasta salad recipe. Over time, I have added my own touches, such as subbing white wine vinegar for the more expensive tarragon vinegar. However, I think fellow Delta State grads whose college memories include the delicious pasta salad from A La Carte will agree the flavor is spot on. After all this time, it still remains one of the best pasta salad recipes I’ve ever eaten.

Ingredients and tools you will need

Get out your pen and paper. Here’s a list of ingredients you will need to make the best Italian pasta salad ever:

  • 1 (16-ounce package) bow tie pasta – you also may see this packaged as farfalle pasta.
  • 1 (19-ounce package) frozen cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar – red wine vinegar can be substituted here.
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup olive salad – if you have trouble finding this in the grocery store, check out this recipe for homemade olive salad.
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Additional salt and black pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Large stock pot
  • Colander
  • Large serving bowl – this recipe makes ALOT.
Collage of ingredients needed to make Italian bow tie pasta salad.

How to make Italian bow tie pasta salad

  1. Bring a large pot of cold water to a rolling boil. I recommend adding one tablespoon of kosher salt to the pasta water to season the pasta. 
  2. Cook the pastas until al dente according to package directions. The bow ties will take longer to cook than the tortellini. I usually cook the bow ties first and add the tortellini during the last three minutes or the cooking process.
  3. While the pasta cooks, combine the olive oil, pesto sauce, and white wine vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk the sauce ingredients together until they are evenly combined.
  4. Drain the pasta. Do not rinse. Transfer the cooked pasta to a large bowl.
  5. While the pasta is still warm, add the sundried tomatoes, olive salad and walnuts. The great thing about this dish is you don’t have to stress about exact measurements. If you want to add a little more or a little less of an ingredients, go right ahead.
  6. Pour the tangy dressing over the top of the hot pasta. Gently stir until the pasta is completely coated with the dressing and all the other ingredients are well mixed. Do this carefully so you don’t break up the pasta. It’s important to do this when the pasta is still warm because it absorbs more of the sauce.
  7. The pasta salad with tortellini can be eaten now, but trust me, it’s best if allowed to sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to eight hours.
  8. Sprinkle the cold pasta salad with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Storage instructions

Leftover bow tie pasta salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator within two hours. It will last up to a week. As it sits, some of the ingredients may shift to the bottom of the bowl. It’s a good idea to give it a quick stir every time you take a serving.

Also, if your olive salad has black olives in it, you may notice your pasta taking on a grey or purple hue. It’s just the pasta absorbing some of the juice from the black olives. It’s perfectly safe to eat. This usually starts happening after a few days.

Frequently asked questions

Can this pasta salad recipe be made ahead of time?

Yes, in fact, I recommend it. However, it’s best if made no more than 24 hours in advance.

Do I need to rinse the pasta after cooking it?

No, do not rinse the pastas after cooking. The starch in the pasta helps the sauce stick.

Can I freeze pasta salad?

I don’t like to freeze pasta salad. I find it negatively affects the texture of the pasta.

Can I use a different type of pasta?

Yes. Any type of pasta with ridges would be an acceptable substitute. The ridges in the pasta help the sauce adhere. Examples would be penne, fusili, or shells. Even though the cheese tortellini is my favorite part of the salad, you could substitute them with a non-stuffed pasta variety.

Can I use a different type of nut?

Pecans would be my first choice. Pine nuts would work well in this dish too. If you don’t like nuts, you can leave them out.

Two individual serving bowls of bow tie pasta salad with a large serving bowl of salad on the side.

Serve Italian bowtie pasta salad with

More salad recipe ideas

Large serving bowl of bow tie pasta salad with serving spoons and two individual bowls of salad on the side.
Print Pin
4.50 from 2 votes

Italian Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Italian pasta salad recipe inspired by A la Carte Alley restaurant in Cleveland, MS. Cheesy tortellini and bow-tie pasta are mixed with sundried tomatoes, pesto, and olive oil. 
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 8 servings
Calories 378kcal
Author Lisa B.

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package bow tie pasta
  • 1 (19 ounce) package frozen cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup olive salad
  • 1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Season the water with one tablespoon of salt. Cook the pastas according to the package directions. Drain the pasta but do not rinse. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, pesto sauce, and white wine vinegar. Whisk the sauce ingredients together until they are evenly combined.
  • While the pasta is still warm, pour the dressing over the top.
  • Add the sundried tomatoes, olive salad and walnuts.
  • Gently stir until the pasta is completely coated with the dressing and all the other ingredients are well mixed. 
  • Cover the salad and refrigerate for at least two hours.
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Video

Notes

Storage instructions:
Leftover bow tie pasta salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator within two hours. It will last up to a week. As it sits, some of the ingredients may shift to the bottom of the bowl. It’s a good idea to give it a quick stir every time you take a serving.
Adapted from Absolutely A La Carte

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 378kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 8.7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 909mg | Potassium: 174mg | Fiber: 2.3g | Sugar: 1.4g

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9 Comments

  1. Hi Erin! Kroger used to sell olive salad under their Private Selections brand. But I was just there and I could not find it. If your store has a deli or an olive bar, check there.

  2. Wow, this recipe looks delicious, especially for summer! Quick question though: how many cups of olive oil and pesto sauce do you use? The recipe does not exactly say.

  3. Only problem, 2 of the measurements are missing, Olive oil and pesto sauce, just say cup, doesn’t say 1 cup, 1/2 cup or what amount. Please complete the recipe.

  4. Just digging through your older posts and my yell when I came across this salad almost woke the Munchkin. So excited!!!

  5. Good day I was fortunate to come cross your blog in digg
    your post is impressive
    I learn a lot in your blog really thank your very much
    btw the theme of you site is really exceptional
    where can find it

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