Tortellini Broccoli Salad

Tortellini Broccoli Salad - Weeknight DinnersThis salad makes a great summer weeknight dinner.  It’s quick to prep, hearty and filling, and (depending on ingredient choices) relatively healthy!

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 package of bacon
  • 1 200 g package cheese tortellini
  • 200 g shredded cheese
  • coleslaw dressing
  • salt and pepper
  • sunflower and/or poppy seeds (optional)

Directions

Cook, drain, cool and chop bacon. Chop broccoli and onion. Cook pasta and drain thoroughly. Rinse with cold water, drain. Mix together the first five ingredients. Add coleslaw dressing, salt and pepper to taste. Top with seeds, if desired.
Refrigerate 1 hour or up to 24 before serving.

This recipe is a slightly altered version of 033a family favourite – the cheese and broccoli salad. While the original recipe I received from a family member called for Miracle whip and sugar, I prefer the taste of a tangy coleslaw dressing, which is also less sweet. I also like to add seeds to the top for a bit of crunch (and the pretty factor, when serving to a crowd!) now and then. The addition of cheese tortellini turns this side dish classic into a main dish that is wonderful on summer weeknights because of the quick prep.

You’ll notice that in the main photo I have pre-cut broccoli instead of a head. This isn’t a labor saver – you still have to chop the broccoli into smaller, bite-sized pieces, but this week my supermarket didn’t have a very appetizing selection of full broccoli heads.

To kick this recipe up a notch, use Tex-Mex or Habanero shredded cheese. Alternately, you can toss in a teaspoon or so of crushed red peppers; just be sure to distribute them well into the mixture, and taste often. If you refrigerate this for a long time after adding the red pepper, the spicy flavour will intensify!

A tip on cooking the bacon: if you read many of my cooking posts, you know how much I hate the smell of cooking bacon. So how do I manage with recipes of this nature? Well, you have the option of pre-cooked bacon, but nothing really beats the real stuff. So I bake it, instead of frying it.  This also lets you make your bacon ahead during the coolest part of the day (if you’re making this in the summertime) to avoid heating up your house just before supper.

030Lay out your bacon on a foil-lined cookie sheet and tuck it into a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how you like your bacon cooked. Check it often to prevent over-cooking.

When you remove your bacon from the oven, immediately transfer it to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Let the pan cool, and the bacon fat will harden onto the foil.  Peel the foil and you have super-easy clean up!

You’ll notice that I “rumple” the bacon a bit.  I lay it flat for BLTs and it cooks perfectly flat, but I’ve found that it breaks into pieces for recipes like this a bit better if you “rumple” the pieces up a bit.

This recipe makes four hearty main-dish servings, or enough sides to feed your family and guests at a BBQ!

What did you think?