There used to be a little local restaurant here in Las Vegas called “Three Tomatoes & a Mozzarella” that was a jammin’ spot when it first opened. They were eventually damned by the economy and couldn't keep up with the Big Chain-names and Strip restaurants. Such is life in Vegas. Once they started offering lunch specials at SUPER reasonable rates, it was kind of the tell-tale sign that they were bowing out slowly. But, before all that, they had THE BEST salads. One particular salad that blew my mind when I first tried it, by recommendation from Momma Theresa, was a tortellini salad on a bed of romaine lettuce, accompanied with a balsamic dressing. We would ALWAYS switch out the dressing with their house-made Caesar that, to this day, is still my benchmark at other restaurants, to which no one comes close. Oh how I wish I knew their recipe!
When I saw brilliantly bright peppers at the market, they really had nothing to do with that old favorite. But, they were THREE different colors and somehow a light went on upstairs... three tomatoes…three peppers… I‘d remembered that Tortellini salad, one of which I hadn't thought of in a looong time. Besides, who puts tortellini in their salad?! LUDICROUS! Well, it all worked out and the only ludicrous thing about it is….it’s so good and even quick to make! I guess we’ll call it The Big “O” (Tortellini Pasta Salad). You know...because they are shaped like "O's"...
The Big “O” Tortellini & Peppers Pasta Salad
1 ½ Package Cheese Tortellini (20 oz.)
1 Each Red, Orange & Yellow Bell Pepper
1 Tomato, large dice
1 Can Small Pitted Olives
¼ Cup Red Onion
½ Cup Fennel Bulb, minced
4 TBSP Fennel Fronds, chopped
2 ½ TBSP Pimento
3 TBSP “Olive Garden” Italian Dressing
1 TBSP Olive Oil
Bring a big pot of water to boiling and drop the tortellini in. They only need a few minutes; keep an eye on them, once they rise to the occasion…top, I mean, TOP, they are ready. Rinse under cool water and chill in fridge while you prep the other veggies.
Set out a large bowl to catch all these veggies as you go.
Clean the tomato and slice into ½ in. thick slices. Run under water and rub seeds and gooey pulp out, so you’re left with just the firmer flesh. All those seeds will make the salad too wet…Yeah, sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into me today…Moving along; cut them into pieces about the same size as the small olives and add to the bowl.
Clean the peppers; remove the seeds. Chop them into pieces about 1 in. by 1 in. Sort of large dice, or about the same size as the tortellini. Add these to the bowl.
Slice half of a small red onion into thin, thin slices (or use a mandolin, if available). Add to bowl.
Measure out pimentos, add to the bowl.
Drain olives; rinse. Add to the bowl.
|Use your favorite kind of olives here, or replace with artichokes, marinated asparagus,...whatever YOU enjoy|
Mince ½ cup fennel bulb and chop 4 TBSP fennel fronds.
|Chopped fennel bulb adds a GREAT sweetness to the salad|
|Fennel Frond chopped up, with a bit of the stem included..chop fine|
Add to the mix and Give all a stir to get the flavors going.
Add cooked and chilled tortellini and Olive Garden Italian dressing (other Italian dressing will work here, also, but OG is the Original Gangsta!) Add to bowl with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper for good measure.
“Stir it Up, little darling, Stir it up.” ~ Bob Marley
Serve chilled and you have a wonderfully fresh and light twist on pasta salad that seems kind of genius but only realy takes about 20 minutes to make. Take to the office potluck, the neighbors BBQ, etc… you’ll definitely have some new friends.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, until next time…Happy Cooking!!