One of my favorite pasta dishes from Olive Garden is their Tortellini Al Forno. Cheese wrapped in pasta, swimming in creamy bacon sauce . . .
Before packaged tortellini was available from the store, recipes like this were untouchable for a weeknight meal. I could make them at home, but I’d have to spend hours making dough and filling. Having tortellini available for purchase means that this easy to prep meal can be made anytime to the delight of your family!
So, are you ready to put that commercially pre-made tortellini to good use? Then say hello to my Copycat Olive Garden Tortellini Al Forno!
Well, the main thing I love about Tortellini Al Forno is eating it, of course! But if you want more specifics:
- An affordable dish that tastes even better than the expensive restaurant version.
- Quick prep, quick making, quick cleanup.
- The taste is totally worth the calories.
- Brings the whole fam to the table smiling!
Italian recipe purists know that al forno translates to of the oven. But thanks to development over time, many al forno dishes now go straight from your stovetop to your belly! While that is an indication of Tortellini Al Forno’s adaptability, there are some guidelines you should follow to make sure your dish turns out perfect.
Boiling basics. Boiling water may seem like the simplest kitchen task, but believe it or not, when using it to cook pasta, there is a way to do it right! Adding salt to your water while your pasta cooking is a must. As Giada says, “it’s supposed to taste like the Pacific ocean.” That said how much should you use? I generally use about 2 tablespoons.
Lean vs. fatty bacon – We’ve all got a favorite brand of bacon. Some like it fatty while others prefer the leaner cuts. I’ve found that those leaner cuts work best in this tortellini al forno recipe. Buying a fatty cut of bacon will mean that more of the product will burn off. You only need a couple of tablespoons of drippings for the recipe, so it’s better to opt for the leaner, crisper cuts.
Try that tortellini! There are so many types of tortellini at the grocery now! Mushroom tortellini. Cheese. Sausage. Tomato. Don’t limit yourself — go for whichever flavor most speaks to you!
Keep those clumps out. This recipe essentially has you make bacon gravy, and as any home chef knows, gravy can quickly devolve into a lumpy mess. To avoid chunks of flour in what should be a smooth, velvety sauce, try adding your flour gradually via a sifter or a spoon.
The sifter’s holes will allow for an even distribution of flour as you stir it into the bacon grease. You can use a tablespoon to add the flour, whisking as you go. Don’t add the milk until your flour is fully incorporated into your drippings.
A note on cheese – If you can manage it, I strongly recommend you use fresh cheese. Many times, manufacturers will add fillers to the pre-packaged cheese, and this can impact the texture and the quality of your al forno sauce.
You can choose from a variety of brands. I don’t recommend low-fat cheese for two reasons. First, they’ll change the consistency of your sauce. Second, they’re often packed with salt, and the flavor of your dish will change.
Let’s pretend for a second that you won’t eat all of this Tortellini Al Forno in one sitting.
Ha. Yeah. That sounds crazy to me, too. But humor me, would you?
Can You Freeze This?
You can! Like all pasta dishes, freezing tortellini can weaken the noodles’ structure, so be warned that the dish you dethaw won’t be *quite* as firm as it was at first bite. Honestly, though, I just don’t like this once frozen.
Make Ahead Tips
If you’re hoping to meal prep, you can always make the bacon ahead of time — but be sure to save the drippings for other recipes like my Southern Style Green Beans!
The rest of the recipe does best when made fresh, and it comes together so quickly that even the most time-pinched evenings will have room.
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
Tortellini Al Forno can hang out in your fridge for up to four days. The pasta will absorb the sauce the longer it sits, though, so be warned that your noodle structure is ticking down the moment you make it.
With all the different types of tortellini available now, of course, we have ways to change up this recipe!
Is This Different From Tortellini Alla Panna?
Tortellini Alla Panna (translated: tortellini with cream) and Tortellini Al Forno (as I said above: tortellini in the oven) are very similar, with the main difference being the additions we put in the al forno version. For this recipe, that would be the bacon and the fact that we use whole milk instead of heavy cream.
Can I Bake This Recipe?
You can! Tortellini is structurally sound enough to stand up to the oven temps. Pour your finished tortellini al forno into an oven-safe dish, top with a sprinkle of parmesan, and bake at 375 until the cheese starts to bubble. You’ll have that ooey-gooey baked tortellini goodness!
Can I Change The Sauce?
Go for it! Tortellini pairs wonderfully with just about every Italian sauce. Two sauce types that are closely related to this al forno recipe are tortellini alfredo (which boasts an even creamier sauce) and tortellini carbonara (which cuts the creamy sauce in favor of more focus on the meat, which switches from bacon to pancetta).
How Can I Make This Creamier and Cheesier?
Using cheese tortellini is an instant way to up the cheesy factor, but if you’re really looking to take this over-the-top creamy, try turning this into creamy tortellini soup. It just begs for crusty dipping bread!
Can I Add Chicken?
Again I say: always! Chicken and Italian dishes go together like spaghetti and meatballs (chicken meatballs . . . mmmm). Chicken tortellini can be found in the grocery among the varieties of tortellini, but if you want yummy chunks of chicken, try chicken tortellini soup for a protein punch!
Tortellini Al Forno
- 1 package cheese filled tortellini
- 6 slices bacon chopped
- 1 large clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ cups whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ½ cup Mozzarella shredded
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- Prepare tortellini according to package instructions. Drain and rinse.
- Meanwhile, cook chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
- Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings from skillet. Add garlic and cook in remaining dripping on low for about 1 minute. Sprinkle flour in the skillet and whisk until combined with drippings. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil. Add salt, black pepper, and dried Italian seasoning, lower the heat and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add mozzarella and Parmesan and heat until melted. Toss cooked tortellini and bacon in sauce, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.
I’ll admit; I’ve officially gone tortellini crazy! And what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t entice you into my obsession too? Check out these tortellini dishes!
What was once a restaurant-only extravagance is now an easy homemade dish — Tortellini Al Forno comes to your kitchen! With bacon mixed into a cheesy, creamy sauce, you’ll wonder why you don’t eat this every night.
Maybe you can. Maybe you should. Because of pasta and bacon, amiright?
What type of tortellini did you choose? Comment below!
Olive Garden’s Tortellini Al Forno gets an affordable, easy home makeover, bringing rich sauce and pillowy pasta straight to your kitchen!