Here’s a Pasta Salad that’s fantastic for a party or gathering anytime of year. This isn’t any plain ol’ boring Pasta Salad, though. This one has it all! Lots of stuff. Lots of cheese. Lots of flavor and the best dressing you’ve ever tasted.
Make a lot of this Tortellini Antipasto Salad. You know how people will always take a little pasta salad, taste it and then push it to the side of their plate? One taste of this and they’ll go back for seconds. You’re going to be giving this recipe out for days after a party.
There are just a few things to know to make a great pasta salad:
- Use a fresh tortellini, if possible. It won’t be quite as firm as starting from a dried and you won’t have to worry it will be tough and chalky.
- Use a scratch dressing, and “amp” it up with extra herbs. I’ll give you two options, a Greek & Italian. If you use a bottled dressing, well “amp” it up, too.
- Watch the seasons! In the summer you can easily add seasonal veggies – in the winter they just won’t be as good and will cost you dearly.
- Use lots of stuff, but flavorful stuff. Think of the pasta as the filler and then fill it up with whatever else you like. A recipe is just a guideline.
You might be thinking, the more stuff I put in this salad, the more expensive it’s gonna be. I get that, but the pasta’s cheap and if you’re watching your budget, think “bang for your buck.” It doesn’t take a lot of any ingredients to load this salad up, so choose the ingredients with tons of flavor.
Choose Feta over Mozzarella. Romano (it’s stronger, less expensive and you can use less) over Parmesan. Red onion over green or white. Roasted red peppers or these Slow Roasted Tomatoes over fresh veggies, especially in the winter. Roasting will transform any lackluster winter tomatoes or peppers. (And you’ll save a lot if you roast your own, btw.)
Have the deli cut you some good salami or pepperoni in just the amount you want rather than buying a whole package of something sub-par. Pick just a few, good olives from the olive bar or salad bar if they’re cheaper there. You get the idea. Quality over Quantity. Follow these tips, add anything else you want or substitute anything you’d like and you’re going to have a salad people clamor for!
Antipasto Tortellini Salad
Note: the key to this salad is the very strong dressings, modified for this recipe – you won’t want to dress a plain old salad with these. Choose Greek or Italian, below, or add a tablespoon of Italian seasoning to 3/4 cup of a store bought dressing. If possible, give the dressing as much “sit” time as possible. It will be good same day, but if you plan ahead, make the night before or even better, earlier in the week.
For the pasta:
- 1 (16 ounce) package refrigerated cheese tortellini cooked to al dente according to package or dried, cooked to al dente according to package
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, home-made or store-bought
For the antipasto:
- 8 ounces good pepperoni or salami, in bite sized pieces
- 1/2 small red onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, preferably roasted, and diced
- 1 cup Slow Roasted or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- about 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup “Amped” Italian, Greek or store-bought dressing
- 1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 6 – 8 ounces Feta, preferably not “crumbles”, cubed
- salt & pepper if desired
Drain tortellini well, rinsing with cold water. Toss with olive oil and Italian seasoning. Add to a large bowl.
Add onion, bell peppers, tomatoes and olives. Toss with dressing. Use as much as or little as desired. A suggestion is to toss with 1/2 cup then drizzle on a little more before serving. Chill for an hour or two.
Just before serving, add the cheeses and toss. If you’ve reserved a little dressing, add it now. aste and adjust seasonings. Place in a pretty bowl or dish and serve.
Italian dressing option:
- 3 tablespoons Italian seasoning, home-made or store-bought
- 1/4 cup red wine (or white or balsamic) vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- pinch of sugar or a small drizzle of honey
Place all ingredients in a jar and shake until well blended. Improves as it sits.
Greek dressing option:
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Greek seasoning, preferably home-made Greek Seasoning
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- a pinch of pepper.
Place in a tightly covered jar and shake to combine. The dressing will turn a light color with a creamy texture as the oil and vinegar combine.
Put your own Spin on it:
There are so many ways to vary this salad. Make it your own and use what you like. Try adding artichoke hearts or a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, vary the olives. Add pepperonci or other hot peppers, use green or white onion instead of red. Maybe you’ll like sun-dried or fresh tomatoes, fresh or roasted zucchini or eggplant. Maybe a little cucumber is your thing. Try this with mozzarella or pepper jack or other favorite cheese or cheeses.
I’ll be taking this recipe to Fiesta Friday number 204, hosted this week by Sandhya @ Indfused.com. If you’ve never stopped by Sandhya’s blog, full of Indian and Indian American fusion, do so! You’re in for a treat. And be sure to stop by Fiesta Friday and see all the New Year’s posts! Party food galore. Happy New Year’s, ya’all!