Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Warm tortellini salad

This is a recipe for keeping the house cool during summertime cooking--fast cooking fresh tortellini tossed with a few rich ingredients that don't need to go on the stove. I don't want to call it a pasta salad because that sounds like a side you'd order under duress at a sandwich place ("umm, you can choose between potato chips, or coleslaw or pasta salad"). It's more like a room-temperature pasta dish, and it will gladly travel with you to potluck BBQ parties or to the office for lunch for the rest of the summer.Fresh tortellini are best because they'll cook in 5 minutes or less and their flavor is usually better. Sicilians say the shape of a tortellina is meant to evoke the navel of Venus, but sicilians say a lot of things. They are really pretty though. Get 1/2 cup of frozen fresh green peas or butter beans because they'll cook up at the same rate as the tortellini. Bring a big pot of well salted water to a boil and add the beans and tortellini on in there together. Friends taking a bath together.It should only take 5 minutes before the pasta is ready to drain. Then you can turn off your stove and never speak of it again. After you drain the pasta and beans, and while they're still hot, dress them with a good few tablespoons of olive oil. This will prevent stickiness and makes the pasta more flavorful.You can easily omit this part for a vegetarian version, but I like to add about 1/4 cup of salami, cut into thin matchsticks.Components: 1/2 cup ricotta salata or queso fresco, the afore-mentioned (and omittable) 1/4 cup salami, 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes, 4 leaves basil, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, and the juice from 1 lemon. Add the salami and the sundried tomatoes to the tortellini while still hot--the heat from the pasta is needed to best bring out the flavors for these dried ingredients.After it cools down a little bit, add in all the rest of your ingredients, crumbling up the cheese as you go. Toss it all together and see if it needs more salt (all this stuff is pretty salty so I think you should season to taste to make sure no one strokes out after eating dinner). Add some fresh ground black pepper right before serving.It will probably taste even better the next day, after flavors have melded a bit. This is a great make-ahead dish or for lunch the next day...if you can keep people from eating it all right away out of the serving bowl.

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