Enjoying Tri-color Tortellini Salad dates all the way back to my youth. At the time, I didn’t particularly care for the onion…or the bell pepper…or the black olive, really. It was simply the ring-shaped, cheese-filled pasta marinated in Italian dressing spices that my fork would dig around for, then mouth devour. Nowadays what I most appreciate is the colorful splendor that those onion, bell pepper and black olive bring to the dish. And, the tortellini? Well, it still finds its way onto my fork in combination with the other crisp vegetable flavors.
This recipe falls dangerously close, or well within, a recipe box that semi-homemade guru Sandra Lee may have. It takes a few “store-bought ingredients,” combined with “fresh foods” to create a guaranteed crowd-pleasing dish. The tri-color aspect of the salad refers to the bell peppers, but may also be attained with use of multi-colored tortellini. My preference is to stick with standard white pasta. It provides a blank palate on which the other colors may build. If tortellini is not readily available or preferred, any pasta works – rotini or farfalle would be particularly fun.
Consider the salad an easy make-ahead recipe for a picnics or a casual dining menu. I’ve also found it to be a terrific go-to side dish to inexpensively feed a large crowd. After a few simple steps to prep, ingredients are tossed together to sit overnight in the refrigerator. Leftovers keep well for days, too. Note that the recipe can still be made day of, but the longer it is left to marinate in the Italian dressing, the more flavorful the dish will become.
*Special thanks to my dear friend Cady, photographer and designer of Dapper Ink, for taking and sharing these photos!
Tri-Color Tortellini Salad
1 package frozen or fresh cheese tortellini
3 bell peppers, chopped (Chose your favorites and a variety of color!)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 can pitted black olives, whole or sliced
1 small bottle of Italian dressing (about 8 oz)
1. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Drain. *Hint: Adding 1-2 T of olive oil to the boiling water will help prevent them from sticking
2. In a large bowl combine cooked tortellini with vegetables. Add the Italian salad dressing and stir well until ingredients are evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight or until chilled through. *Salad may be served warm, but flavors are enhanced with time.