Friday, July 3, 2020

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Perfect for July 4th...California Layered Pasta Salad #july4th #summerfood #pastasalad #sidedish

Tomorrow is July 4th...hard to believe it's already Summer! Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, celebrating this year is going to be...different. Instead of heading outdoors to celebrate and watch fireworks, we're going to be celebrating safely by grilling at home. If you're also planning to grill, I've got a perfect side dish for you! A popular salad from my childhood in the 70s is seven-layer salad. It was so pretty to look at...but it's totally I came up with a fresh new spin on this classic side dish. My California Layered Pas1ta Salad features layers of cheese tortellini, veggies, homemade reduced-fat ranch dressing, and a ton of tasty toppings. 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 it...and it can be made a day ahead of serving! 

California Layered Pasta Salad
a Weekend Gourmet Original

  • 2 cups baby field greens from a 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, diced
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 tsp. Creole seasoning mix
  • 3 slices center-cut bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 large or two Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled or small-dice cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta or creamy goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup finely diced purple onion -- can use 2-3 scallions instead
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 greens to the bottom of a clear bowl. Top with the defrosted frozen corn kernels. Top the corn with the cooked cheese tortellini. Drizzle the tortellini with the Italian dressing.
Step 2: Layer the diced avocado on top of the tortellini. Try to concentrate the majority of the avocado cubes toward the sides of the bowl so they show as a uniform layer in the clear bowl. Sprinkle the lime juice and Creole seasoning on top of the avocado. 

Step 3: Make the ranch dressing by adding the mayo, Greek yogurt, skim milk, and 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 dressing with the reserved bacon, diced Roma tomato, feta or goat 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 ingredients together. 

This salad is refreshing and full of exciting flavors and textures! The homemade lowfat Ranch dressing, creamy avocado, juicy tomatoes, double shot of cheese, sweet corn, onion, and smoky bacon flavors pair so nicely with the cheese 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 also delicious. There's a reason why this is one of my most popular recipes -- I hope you'll give it a try this Summer!

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