Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recipe: Tortellini Pasta Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

I'm not even going to make up excuses to explain my absence, nor say I'm back permanently (I will try though). Thank you for all your kind emails. Thank you for continuing to sign up for the newsletter. No, the subscriber service is not broken, it's the newsletter writer- she took a hiatus- a long one. But, I have so much more to say, still. There are about a dozen unfinished posts in the edit posts section, hopefully I'll get to most of them soon. Be on the lookout for my grandmother's home-made tortellini, it's one of the unfinished posts and my very favorite. I just need a little motivation. A new camera would help- until then, we have Arthur and his camera. Recently, my friend A said to me, "Your blog should not be about food!" She said this in reference to all the shenanigans that go on in my life, maybe I'll incorporate both- it will certainly be much more amusing around here. It's a good thing I have the ability to laugh at myself! For now though, lets focus on food...

Living in south Louisiana with the temperature rising over 110 degrees makes staying cool while cooking a challenge. I moved to a new house not too long ago and my beast of a range does not have an adequate hood system. (Yes, I moved the range with me... we're attached to one another- mostly me). Turning the oven on is not so ideal right now, when it reaches 350- so does the kitchen. Since food is constantly on my mind, being both my livelihood and my hobby, I am constantly thinking up new concoctions. At present, it's any type of salad, cold soup or pretty much anything which does not require turning the oven on. This may not be one of my most creative meals, but it's great hot or cold, I find it is easy to make and the ingredients are typically at hand. When fresh tortellini is not available, dry pappardelle is a great substitute.

Even in this unbearable heat, my garden is bustling with basil. I can't seem to use it fast enough, soon it will be as tall as me (that, not being much of a challenge). I found a great high quality fresh pre-made tortellini at Whole Foods, the brand is RP Pastas. Mostly I like it because it just simply tastes good; when comparing it with other pre-made fresh pastas I think it is exceptional because the individual raviolis or tortellini are well sealed and don't fill up with cooking water while they boil. (it's a pet peeve of mine when the filling leaks out or water gets in, which makes for squishy ricotta inside and dilutes all the flavors).

I like to shave the parmesan cheese with a vegetable peeler as opposed to grating it so it remains in larger pieces (have I mentioned how much I love cheese?). When sauteing the garlic and pine nuts, make sure to keep heat moderate so as to not burn either- don't get distracted--I've burnt many a pine nut this way. Sometimes I saute half the basil in with the pine nuts- it fries up and turns crunchy which gives the dish added texture. Adding Boiled shrimp or shredded rotisserie chicken would be an easy way to make the salad a little more substantial.
From start to finish, you can prepare the dish in about 20 minutes or less. Serves 4 side servings or 2 entrees.

Tortellini Pasta Salad with Heirloom tomatoes and Basil
1 large ripe Creole or heirloom tomato, 1" dice
1 cup basil chiffonade
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup shaved Parmegiano Regianno
1/2 lb. container fresh cheese tortellini
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt

1. Boil pasta until cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Drain and cool with running water. Set aside in a serving bowl.

2. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, heat about 4 tablespoons olive oil until almost smoking. Add garlic and pine nuts, cook until lightly browned. Remove from heat and toss with pasta. Add tomatoes, basil, and cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve.


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