Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: California Layered Pasta Salad

Warmer weather is slowly returning to Central Texas...which also means we're starting to enjoy lighter, more refreshing foods. In fact, one of the things I love best about longer days and the warm weather is  eating more salads. Today, I'm reaching into The Weekend Gourmet archives to share one of my most requested and popular warm-weather recipes.

One popular salad from my childhood in the 70s is layered salad. It was so pretty to look at, but it's totally retro! I LOVE the concept, I came up with a spin on seven-layer salad that's a bit more modern and healthy. My California Layered Pas1ta Salad features layers of cheese tortellini, healthy veggies, homemade reduced-fat ranch dressing, and a ton of tasty toppings to create a modern spin on this iconic dish. This salad is pretty to look at and full of robust flavors. Even better? You don't have to turn on your oven to make this hearty salad! 
California Layered Pasta Salad
a Weekend Gourmet Original

  • 2 cups baby field greens bagged salad
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 9-ounce package low-fat cheese tortellini, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 tbs. low-fat Italian dressing [NOTE: I used Newman's Own]
  • 1 large or 2 small avocados, peeled and diced
  • Juice from half a lime
  • 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning mix
  • 3 slices lean center-cut bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup lowfat cheddar cheese -- crumbled or shredded
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup purple onion, finely diced
For the Ranch dressing:
  • 1/2 cup lowfat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup 0% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • Packet dry Ranch dressing mix
Step 1: Add the baby field green salad mix to the bottom of a clear bowl. Top with the defrosted frozen corn kernels. Top the corn with a layer of the cooked cheese tortellini. Drizzle the tortellini with the Italian dressing.
Step 2: Place the diced avocado on top of the tortellini. I tried to concentrate the majority of the avocado cubes toward the sides so they would show as a uniform layer in the clear bowl. Sprinkle the lime juice Cajun seasoning on top of the avocado. 

Step 3: Make the ranch dressing by adding the mayo, Greek yogurt, skim milk, and packet of dry ranch dressing mix to a large bowl. Whisk well to combine -- the dressing will be fairly thick. Evenly pour the dressing over the top of the avocados. Top the salad with the reserved cooked bacon, diced Roma tomato, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, and purple onion. 

Step 4:  Cover the completed salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. However, overnight is best if you have time to prepare the salad a day ahead. The longer you chill, the better the flavors will combine. Just before serving, use salad tongs to toss all of the salad's ingredients together. 

This salad is refreshing and full of exciting flavors and textures! The reduced-fat homemade Ranch dressing, creamy avocado, juicy tomatoes, double shot of cheese, sweet corn, onion, and smoky bacon flavors pair so nicely with the tortellini and salad greens. This is an excellent side dish for any grilled meat -- but the tortellini makes this salad hearty enough to be a light veg-friendly entrée. I sometimes add a layer of boiled shrimp to the salad too, which is delicious. There's a reason why this is one of my most popular recipes -- I hope you'll give it a try soon!

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