I’m going to come right out and say it: salad and I have had our issues. I mean, I love salad. We have a relationship. But… it’s complicated.
You ask some people what they’re having for lunch (or even for dinner–heresy!), and they’ll say, “A salad.” Like… that’s it. Salad. I’m not one of those people. For me, a salad isn’t a meal. Salad and a sandwich? Sure. Salad and garlic bread? Yup. But just a salad? Incredibly unsatisfying, no matter how many sunflower seeds and garbanzo beans I plop on top. I think there’s just something in my DNA requiring that a meal involve some carbs.
Which leads to the issue of ingredients. I like diversity in a salad. Salad bars are my gold standard for this–I can add a couple kinds of greens, lots of raw veggies, maybe some berries, various beans and seeds and cheeses, and top it off with some croutons. But I can’t recreate that experience at home; I’d constantly have a half-eaten can of moldy kidney beans in my fridge, or an almost-empty bag of slimy spinach. And when I did make a salad, I’d be prepping ingredients for half an hour.
And then there’s the issue of the dressing. Can we all just agree that store-bought salad dressings are, in general, pretty awful? I get a salad at a restaurant and love it, but when I recreate the same salad at home with a store-bought dressing, it’s just yucky. About 95% of salad dressings I’ve ever bought taste like nothing but salt and preservatives. (Rob and I have found our guilty-pleasure dressing with this Nebraska-based salad dressing. You can’t get it in Tennessee–except via Amazon–so we ask my parents to bring home a couple of bottles every time they go to Nebraska to visit family.)
So those are the problems. But here’s the part where I launch into apostrophe.
Ah, Tortellini Spinach Salad, you have redeemed the salad experience for me. I can have you for dinner and feel neither gluttonously overfull nor piteously underfed. Your perfect mix of spinach (healthy!), tomatoes (healthy!), onions (healthy!), and processed carbs (delicious!) delights my tastebuds. I salute your limited ingredient list, your simple preparation, your sharply flavorful homemade dressing! Tortellini Spinach Salad, from these glorious beginnings I foresee a long and delectable love affair.
Time Commitment: About twenty minutes. There are literally three steps to this recipe. This salad is weeknight dinner gold.
Mess: Minimal–cutting board, sauce pan, and a pretty salad bowl for serving
For Kids: This dressing isn’t incredibly kid-friendly, so I always reserve some tortellini, cherry tomatoes, cheese, and spinach for #1 to eat, dressing-free.
Tortellini Spinach Salad
Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 4-6 as a side salad
Adapted from Three Boys Unprocessed
- 2 cups frozen tortellini
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- Up to 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese
- 3 tbsp mayo
- salt and black pepper (to taste)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain, return to pot, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and place in refrigerator or freezer to chill while you make the salad dressing.
- Place all salad dressing ingredients into a prep bowl and whisk vigorously. Adjust levels of salt, pepper, and other spices to taste.
- Toss dressing with chilled tortellini and other salad ingredients in a large bowl.