Friday, May 23, 2014

PESTO DRESSING plus STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD , plus TORTELLINI PASTA SALAD One simple dressing, two simple salads

My church has a restaurant, a really good restaurant called The Grill…like people come there all days of the week to eat just cuz the food is so delish!  Whenever I eat there, I get the same salad with a white balsamic herb dressing it’s sooo good, I might order something else as well, but I always get the salad.

I love the dressing so much, that I copied it using simple ingredients, and it tastes pretty right on spot on!

The recipes for Strawberry Spinach Salad and Tortellini Pasta Salad are simple and made even easier by using the same Pesto Dressing to dress both salads.  I brought both of these salads to an event, and no one even noticed that the same dressing was used; they just loved both of the salads!

Pesto Dressing is super simple to make, because it uses store bought basil pesto. 

Strawberry Spinach Salad is just four ingredients including the dressing, and it’s perfect with only those four ingredients; and the sweetness of the white balsamic vinegar is what stands out about the dressing.  

There is no chopping of anything of the ingredients for the Tortellini Pasta Salad, so that goes together in a cinch, and the noticeable flavors from the Pesto Dressing are the basil and cheese.

Normally I show step by step photos for each recipe, but the recipes are so easy that you don’t need them; put the ingredients for the Pesto Dressing in a bowl and whisk, put the ingredients for the Strawberry Spinach Salad in a bowl and toss, put the ingredients for Tortellini Pasta Salad in a bowl and stir…get my drift? 

When life seems complicated, uncomplicated it…at least in the kitchen any way!

This delicious dressing is made by mixing together jarred basil pesto, white balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and grape seed or canola oil.  

I like the flavor of olive oil, but it can take over in a dressing, so I also use a mild flavored grape seed oil.
For the Tortellini Pasta salad, toss together some cooked and cooled cheese or spinach & cheese tortellini, grape or cherry tomatoes, bocaccini (little mozarella balls), marinated artichoke hearts, corn, and Pesto Dressing.

Tortellini Pasta Salad is also the recipe I use for whimsical Pasta Salad on a Stick; omitting the corn, and using a bit more of the tomatoes and the bocaccini.

On six inch skewers; skewer two tortellini which have been tossed in half of the dressing, two tomatoes, and an artichoke heart, a bocaccini, and then serve the remaining dressing on the side.  

You'll get about a dozen and a half skewers.

The Strawberry Spinach Salad is just spinach, sliced strawberries, and Pesto Dressing tossed together.
 You could also use arugula or baby kale instead of the spinach. 

If you don't like sesame sticks use the wonton or tortilla strip Salad Toppers that you find in the produce section. 
I don't use cheese in the salad because the pesto contains cheese, but if you'd like you may add goat or feta cheese.


Makes 1 cup, serves 4

½             cup             Prepared basil pesto
2              Tbsp.           White balsamic vinegar
                                 Juice of half of a lemon
3              Tbsp.           Grape seed or canola oil
2              Tbsp.           Extra virgin olive oil

1.  Put all of the ingredients into a jar and shake well, or into a medium bowl and whisk well.  Store dressing in the refrigerator for about a week.

Serves 4

1 -6         oz. bag              Baby spinach
1             recipe                Pesto Dressing
1 ½         cups                  Fresh strawberries, sliced
1/3          cup                   Sesame sticks

1.  In a large bowl, toss the spinach with half of the dressing.  Top the dressed spinach with the strawberry slices and sesame.  Serve immediately with the remaining dressing on the side.

Serve with salmon, shrimp, chicken or pork.

Serves 6 to 8

1 -9         oz. package          Cheese or spinach & cheese tortellini
1 -8         oz. container        Bocaccini, marinated or plain, drained
1             pint                    Grape or cherry tomatoes
1 -12        oz. jar                 Marinated artichoke hearts, quartered and drained
1             cup                    Corn kernels, either frozen, or from 2 ears of corn which have been quickly blanched.
1 ½         recipes                Pesto dressing

1.  Cook the tortellini according to the package directions and drain the water and toss with half of the dressing.  Allow the tortellini to cool completely; it’s helpful to lay it a single layer on a sheet pan.
2.  Add the bocaccini, tomatoes, corn, and half of the remaining dressing, stir gently as not to break the tortellini.  Give it a taste and add more dressing if desired.  Serve at room temperature.
Notes:  *Fresh mozzarella which has been cubed may be substituted for bocaccini.
             **I also like to stir in baby spinach and/or cubed cooked turkey or chicken breast.       

You might also like:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese
Farfalle Pasta with Marinated Vegatables


  1. The pasta salad on a stick looks so fun!

  2. I'm always looking for a great new salad recipe! Thanks for sharing. I think it's great that your church has a restaurant. That must be fun!