Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce
This easy tortellini with creamy tomato sauce delivers a delicious, real food dinner in just 15 minutes. The tortellini cook right in the sauce for a true one pan wonder with rich flavor.
There’s not much more cozy and comforting than a bowl of tender filled pasta swimming in creamy sauce. This recipe has very classic flavors, with a creamy tomato sauce infused with subtle Italian seasonings. Even my choosy son gobbled it up and asked for it in his lunch the next day — a win if ever there were one!
Better yet, this recipe is extremely quick and simple. The tortellini simmer right in the sauce, which means no need to boil or drain water, and only one pot to wash. This technique also lets the sauce gently flavor the pasta, while the pasta’s starch naturally thickens the sauce.
Try our much-loved creamy tomato tortellini soup for these flavors in a comforting bowl of soup — irresistible with slices of garlic bread or Texas toast!
Ingredients & Common Substitutions
Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this one-pan tomato tortellini, as well as possible substitutions.
- Refrigerated tortellini: Be sure to use the fresh kind sold in the refrigerated section. Dried tortellini will not cook as quickly in the sauce. Any type of filling is fine–our favorites are cheese or spinach.
- Canned tomato sauce and tomato paste: Tomato sauce is the base of a perfectly smooth, creamy sauce, while tomato paste intensifies the flavor and thickens it slightly.
- Cream or half and half: I have tested this with both; either, or a combination, works well.
- Chicken or vegetable broth: This adds just enough liquid to produce a sauce in which the tortellini can cook. You could use extra cream or milk, instead, but I prefer the consistency with a bit of broth, not to mention the saving of calories and fat.
- Minced garlic: Swap in 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, adding more to taste, in a pinch. If using powder, add it along with the Italian seasoning.
- Dried Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.
You’ll also need a smidge of butter in which to sauté the garlic, and salt and pepper to add to taste.
Fresh basil is an optional garnish but definitely adds a nice pop of color. Grated or shredded Parmesan cheese is always a nice touch, as well.
How To Make a Tomato Sauce for Tortellini
Don’t even bother to get out a big pasta pot or colander for this recipe — it’s not needed.
You will need a skillet with a well-fitting lid, however. Covering the pan as the tortellini simmers in the sauce is crucial to ensuring the right amount of moisture stays in.
Your first step is simply to melt the butter, then briefly sauté the garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes in it. This mellows the garlic and enhances the paste and pepper.
Pour in the tomato sauce, broth, and Italian seasoning. Whisk well at this stage to ensure the tomato paste fully dissolves, then stir in the cream or half and half. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add in the tortellini and stir well.
Cover the pan and cook for five minutes. You’ll want to use medium-low or at most medium heat at this stage.
I find my tortellini is usually done at this point, but if I cooked it from frozen or the heat was quite low, it may take an extra minute or two. It’s best to simply test and move on when the tortellini is fully tender and easy to pierce with a table fork.
A sprinkling of fresh basil or Parmesan, if desired, is all that’s needed to round out the dish. Spoon into bowls and dig in!
Can you cook tortellini straight from frozen?
Yes, tortellini are a terrific freezer staple, because they can be cooked straight from frozen, either in a sauce such as this one or simply in rapidly boiling water. Just add 2-3 minutes to the stated cooking time. This is why tortellini recipes are a go-to meal here when we’ve otherwise failed to plan for dinner!
Can you cook tortellini in sauce instead of water?
Yes! Tortellini cook quickly and well in even a relatively small amount of liquid, so they are well-suited to cooking directly in a sauce for a true one-pan meal.
What To Serve With Tortellini
Tortellini are generally very filling, and can accompany a light salad or vegetable and still have a substantial meal. I love an easy spinach or Italian-style salad with this, or steamed broccoli or green beans.
Can I add veggies to this sauce?
For an even simpler one-pan meal, add veggies straight to this tomato sauce. Shredded carrots or frozen peas are my favorites: carrots can be added along with the garlic, so they become a little bit tender, while peas can be added at the same time as the tortellini. Chopped yellow onion or shallot can be tossed in with the garlic, as well, for another subtle dimension of flavor.
Storage & Reheating
Tortellini with tomato cream sauce keeps and reheats very well. This is a great meal to enjoy for dinner, then pack as a lunch the next day. Bring on the leftovers!
- Store individual portions or a larger amount tightly-covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- Reheat on full power in the microwave until warmed through. If warming on the stovetop, add an extra splash of broth or water to re-thin the sauce.
- Freezing, unfortunately, is not recommended. Creamy sauces do not generally freeze well, as they tend to separate when defrosted and reheated.
More Easy Tortellini Recipes
We always have tortellini on hand for a quick dinner. Try these favorites next: chicken tortellini soup, tortellini with mushrooms, creamy Tuscan tortellini, or creamy tortellini Alfredo. All fast, easy, and utterly delicious!
If you try this recipe for Tortellini with Tomato Sauce, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 3/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
- kosher salt & black pepper
- 18 ounces refrigerated tortellini any kind
- fresh grated Parmesan and basil optional for serving
- Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. (Be sure to use a skillet with a lid.) Add garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 30-60 seconds, just until fragrant.
- Add the tomato sauce, broth, and Italian seasoning, then stir well until the tomato paste is dissolved. Stir in cream or half and half, then sample and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in tortellini, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes. Test a tortellini; if it is tender, remove from the heat and serve, but if it needs a few more minutes, return the lid and continue cooking as needed, checking every minute or so.
- Serve right away with grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh basil or parsley. Enjoy!
- This makes a generous four helpings; if serving as a side dish or to kids, it will probably stretch to 5-6 servings.
- If the sauce becomes too thick while the tortellini are cooking, or while reheating, stir in another 1-2 tablespoons of broth or water as needed.