Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tortellini Pasta Salad with a Creamy Italian Base

Let me start this off by saying, I hate pasta salad.  Or at least, typical pasta salad.  It always tastes odd to me. But, I started thinking earlier today about things I do like, and other types of "salads" that I find delicious.  I was looking around my fridge, remember a recipe I had made before, and soon enough I had myself a WINNER.  This pasta salad starts with Greek yogurt, instead of your typical mayo base that other creamy salads have.  The ingredients may sound a little odd when you first read them, but trust me, they blend beautifully.

-1 6oz or similar size container of plain Greek yogurt
-3 TB pesto (I use Buitoni, I don't have a food processor to make my own...yet)
-1/2 C or so of mozzarella cheese
-1/4 C diced tomatoes or cut cherry tomatoes (I used slice cherry tomatoes)
-Dash of salt, pepper, and garlic
-1/4 C Craisins (aka I used a grab of them haha)
-Sprinkling of Real Hormel Bacon Bits (not that Bac-O junk)
-Optional addition of chopped fresh spinach leaves and whatever else your heart desires
-Tortellini or pasta, about 1-2 cups depending on size of noodles and how heavily sauced you are looking for, details to follow

I cooked my tortellini, probably the equivalent of 1.5-2 cups of it.  I divide the big packs from SAMs into some smaller bags and I really don't know how much are in the bags right off the top of my head.  But it is pretty close to the serving size.  Mix all the remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Drain your pasta when it is done and then run in under cold water so it is not burning hot on your dressing.  Toss it with desired amount of dressing, I had probably about 1/3 of mine leftover.  Taste and adjust salt and similar as needed.

This made about 2 servings of pasta salad for me.  It made one big meal portion and I have enough leftover I could easily snack on it or use it as a side.  You can add more pesto if you want a stronger flavor, I did not because my pasta is herbed as well.  I understand that the craisins sound like an odd addition, but I would highly recommend not tossing them out.  Chicken salad has grapes in it.  This pasta salad has craisins.  It all makes sense.

This flavor profile started a year ago when I made an Italian cheeseball, crusted in pistachios, on a whim.  I don't really recall what got the idea in my head, but it was phenomenal. I did not have the craisins on that cheeseball that time, but I did spread the cheeseball on little bits of toast and topped it with craisins.  I was sold.  If I had to do it again, I would probably put the craisins mixed with pistachios around the side of a cheeseball.

I also, for that cheeseball, had roasted my cherry tomatoes instead of just directly putting them in.  I usually do this by drizzling a little oil over them, topping with a sprinkle of basil, garlic, pepper, and salt and baking at 350 for 30 minutes or so.  That would also be an option for this pasta salad. 

I am always looking for new things I can take with me to lunch because I don't like to eat on campus everyday.  This pasta salad gives me another option, and I will be using the leftover "dressing" in wontons.  I may add a half of a block of reduced fat cream cheese and a little more pesto to make it go further as a filling, but it will most certainly not go to waste.  You can also use the remaining dressing as a spread on a tortilla shell and top it with ham.  Delicious.

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