I am getting excited for Pasta Salad season, are you? Take a look at this platter. Isn’t it an upgrade over your regular pasta salad? Isn’t it looking too pretty to actually disturb, you just want to ogle it all day? You won’t when I tell you what’s in it… Cheesy, soft tortellini along with heirloom cherry tomatoes bursting in all colors. Throw in some creamy, buttery, melt in your mouth mini mozzarella balls, sweet red bell pepper and briney kalamata olives.
If that’s not enough, how about some fresh herbs, roasted garlic and prosciutto (stuff that makes it a real upgrade). Pretty much all my favorite things tossed in with some easy homemade Italian vinaigrette… yum… Bellísimo!!
We all know July 2020 is different than our regular summer days. With all of this craziness in the world, I can’t see many of our potlucks, BBQ’s and pool parties happening. But hey, so what? You know that picnic with the family is always possible. That laying under your favourite tree in the park with your loved ones. All POSSIBLE. All you need is some nice chilled drinks, some fresh berries or fruits, a piece of good bread and a giant bowl of my tortellini salad.
You will make this a lot this summer… reasons?
- Everything comes together real fast. It’s a breeze! I like quick & easy.
- You can make it ahead of time. In fact, make a humongous bowl of this so you’ll have lunches or light dinners its in your refrigerator for days. (It’s so good you are going to munch a little at breakfast too).
- Those cheesy tortellini makes it very hearty and comforting and you have that “full” sated feeling even after munching on a salad.
- It has great Mediterranean flavors everyone will love.
- It’s refrigerator friendly, meaning you can swap and add anything that’s present in your refrigerator.
- It easily feeds large crowds… yeah… sending all positive energies for potlucks and pool parties for this summer.
Here are my today’s contenders for this pasta salad
- Tortellini – We used fresh refrigerated cheese tortellini. But you can use any type of tortellini like frozen or even dried tortellini. Cook it according to the package instructions.
- Cherry tomatoes – We love colorful heirloom varieties with different shapes and sizes. You can use grape tomatoes, but anything else can be too watery and make the salad soggy over time.
- Olives – Kalamata olives here, but regular black olives work too. You can keep them whole or cut them in half like us.
- Bell peppers – We like red bell pepper for the sweetness. Feel free to use any other color, or mix and match.
- Fresh Mozzarella – We absolutely love these mini mozzarella balls in our salads. They are normally in the specialty cheese section in your grocery store. These are the plain variety, but if you happen to get your hands on some seasoned ones they go great too. In a pinch you can substitute with a regular sized fresh mozzarella ball cut into bite size pieces.
- Roasted Garlic – This is a treat to have in antipasto type salads. You can skip it on some busy days.
- Prosciutto – This Italian classic dry-cured, thinly sliced, ham is what takes this regular pasta salad to the next level. Don’t skip it, treat yourself! And see how you can make it into gorgeous flowers? That’s when ordinary pasta salad start looking like a center piece on the food spread. Imagine how much people will be drawn to it at those parties and get togethers I am hoping we all get to enjoy. 🙂
Now you can very easily douse all this in some store brand Italian dressing, but nothing beats the freshness that comes from real fresh herbs and real homemade dressing. You need very few things and just minutes to whip this up.
- Olive oil
- Red wine vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Garlic, minced
- Fresh basil and oregano, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
Once you have your ingredients sorted out, the rest is easy
First, get your garlic roasting. Preheat the oven (or, if you have one, a toaster oven) to 400°F. Peel the outermost layers of skin from a whole head (or two!) of garlic and cut about 1/2 inch from the top of the head. Drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap with foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes. After cooking, you will want to allow it to cool enough to handle, then peel each clove. But while that’s baking, get the rest of the salad going…
Whip up your own Italian dressing by mixing all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Many times we use a mason jar and just shake shake shake…
Cook the tortellini. Good news, they cook very fast. Boil water in a large cooking pot (you can add little salt ) over high heat. Add tortellini, reduce heat to medium, and cook until tortellini floats to the top of the water. It’s best to follow the directions on the package, but general cooking times are as follows:
2-3 minutes for refrigerated tortellini
3-5 minutes for frozen
10-11 minutes for dried
It is important to not overcook them, you want it al dente so it’s pillowy structure is maintained and they don’t fall apart when tossing. When they are ready, drain them in a colander and run a little cold water over them to stop them from cooking further. Once you drain your tortellini, toss them with a little of your salad dressing so they don’t stick together, and all those zesty flavors seep into them nicely.
While your water is heating up, you can chop your bell peppers and olives.
Once your tortellini and roasted garlic are ready, throw them in a bowl with your veggies and mozzarella balls and drizzle the dressing according to your desired amount (we recommend 3/4 to 1 cup).
Taste and adjust. Roll the prosciutto into flowers and arrange around your salad. You can serve it right in the bowl or assemble it on a platter like us.
This salad can be served at room temperature or chilled for at least 30 minutes. Allowing it to rest before serving gives time for all the flavors to mingle in your salad.
Optional add-ins and variations for another day…
- You can try sausage tortellini instead of cheese, or any other variety of tortellini for that matter!
- Try playing with the protein, like different types of salami, Italian sausage, grilled or rotisserie chicken, and even canned tuna.
- Add in different veggies like cucumber, spinach, sweet corn, sun dried tomatoes or pepperoncini
- Different cheeses will give you new flavors. Try feta, burrata or goat cheese.
- Now the best one… swap this Italian dressing for our 5-minute pesto sauce. Tortellini with pesto! Absolutely finger licking!
Can I make this salad in advance?
Pasta salads are the ultimate make-ahead meals all summer. They are excellent the next day or after a few hours. This is great meal prep. It’s a great side dish for so many things, like our Bruschetta Chicken or Pork Pinwheels, but it also makes a great light meal option in itself. Every time you dig into your salad, just give it one more toss to gently mix everything together.
Leftovers and storage
You can cover your salad bowl with cling wrap or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’s great for the next 2-3 days. This is one of those things that tastes even better the next day.
Well, my friends, I hope all of you are doing good and hanging in there!! I hope we all go back to our normal ordinary yet beautiful lives. I hope those parties and get togethers and potlucks come back soon and bring cheer and laughter into our lives, where we share our happiness, smiles and our food!! In the meantime, give this gorgeous and tasty tortellini pasta salad a try in your home with your loved ones, and be in it together!! Take care…
Tortellini Pasta Salad with Prosciutto, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 20 oz Cheese tortellini
- 1 pint of Heirloom cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup kalamata olives
- 1 large Red bell pepper
- 8 oz Mozzarella pearls
- 1 -2 heads of garlic
- 8 oz Prosciutto
- 8-10 Fresh basil leaves
Italian Basil Vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup Olive oil
- 1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp Lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp fresh Basil leaves, chopped (or 1 Tbsp dried basil)
- 2 Tbsp fresh Oregano leaves, chopped (or 1 Tbsp dried oregano)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel the outermost layers of skin from a whole head of garlic and cut about 1/2 inch from the top of the head. Drizzle with little olive oil, wrap with foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes. After cooking, allow to cool, then peel each clove.
- Cook tortellini in salted water according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer it to your salad bowl and pour a quarter of the salad dressing tortellini and toss
- Chop red bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes (I keep some tomatoes whole and halve the others).
- Mix in all salad ingredients, except prosciutto, and toss gently.
- Pour in the remaining vinaigrette and toss.
- Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate at least 30 mints before serving.
- When you are ready to serve, roll the prosciutto into flowers and tuck them all over the salad. Enjoy !!
This salad just gets tastier as it marinates in the fridge up to 3 days. Great make ahead option!
Nutrition InformationYield 10 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 432Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 58mgSodium 1100mgCarbohydrates 33gFiber 3gSugar 2gProtein 20g
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