Lemony Arugula Pesto Tortellini Salad

The title is a mouthful, isn’t it? And this easy pasta salad was too, a mouthful of lemony, garlicky, summery flavors, perfect for a late Sunday dinner at sea.

Making food for boating is tricky. It needs to be something that will keep fairly well and that will fit in the small fridge or in our cooler bag. And it has to be enough for a five or six hour trip, usually for four people.  One of the things I learned early on as a little boater was that eating is imperative. It’s actually when you don’t eat that you get more sick. So packing substantial food is key, and being creative is always important to me.

So important that Saturday night I could not sleep because I didn’t know what to make for a dinner outing with friends. We had cheese and crackers, pretzel thins, cookies, and salami, but we needed more. At around 4 am, I finally figured out all of the ingredients for this Lemony Arugula Pesto Tortellini Salad.

Lemony Arugula Pesto Tortellini Salad

While a container of Trader Joe’s spinach tortellini and a half a bag of orrechiette boiled, I whipped up a simple pesto made with several cups of arugula, a cup of baby spinach, garlic, juice of a well-juiced lemon, olive oil, sea salt, and parmesan cheese.


arugula pesto

The pesto was just so bright, due to the lemon, and slightly creamy from the parmesan and olive oil. It was bursting with flavor, and my warm pasta drank it in.

arugula pesto pasta salad

To the pasta I added a can of artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped.


And two cups of sweet grape tomatoes, chopped in half.

grape tomatoes

Three chicken breasts were chopped, tossed in the pesto, and baked until done. Them using my vegetable scissors, I shredded the meat to top the pasta salad.

arugula pesto chicken

lemony arugula pesto tortellini salad

Once chilled, the salad was the perfect light summer dinner, packed with protein and flavor, keeping us full as we bobbed along the waves and watched the sun go down over Boston. I am definitely going to be brainstorming more creative pasta salad ideas for the summer, just hopefully not at 4 am.

Do you have any pasta salad combos you love? Like me, do you do some of your best thinking in the middle of the night?

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Tags: arugula, chicken, Food, pesto, recipe, salad, summer

  1. Emily @ A Cambridge Story’s avatar

    4am inspiration paid off, it seems! This looks perfect for a summer dinner. I love the artichokes, arugula and lemon!


  2. MelissaNibbles’s avatar

    Sounds tasty. I’m really digging your picnic ready recipes!


  3. Daisy’s avatar

    this is so perfect for dinner on the boat! I have been making an antipasto salad with bow ties or rottini with fresh mozzarella, salami, black olives, green peppers, halved cherry tomatoes and a balsamic and olive oil dressing. it hits the spot for summer parties!


  4. Elizabeth’s avatar

    That’s a delicious sounding pasta salad


  5. Megan’s avatar

    I love throwing just about anything in pasta. I’m eating some summer veggies and pasta right now, actually. This looks delicious and sounds like the perfect thing to bring boating.


  6. Michelle Collins’s avatar

    I adore arugula pesto and tortellini, so this salad looks right up my alley! I love pasta salad with red grapes, sunflower seeds and feta.


  7. Michelle’s avatar

    Yum! What a fun pasta salad for the boat. If you ask me, everything tastes better on a boat!


  8. Alaina’s avatar

    This looks absolutely delicious and refreshing!

    Last summer I made a walnut and feta whole wheat pasta salad. It was so light and refreshing! Perfect for the warm weather. :-)


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