For those of you who grew up in the south or the mid-west, or “just north of Texas,” your mom probably made 7-Layer Salad, or at least had it in her recipe repertoire. If she didn’t make it at least once, her mom probably did.
This was a very popular salad that swept the American interior in the 1950s – and maybe even made it to the coasts – with its sophisticated layered presentation, flexibility for ingredients you might be cleaning out of your fridge and the plentiful mass of mayonnaise on top. In the south it’s heavy on peas, and it makes a great picnic or pot luck salad.
This Layered Mediterranean Tortellini Salad is a healthier version of this 7-Layer Salad using spinach and whole wheat tortellini and I decided to make it for my mom when she came to town. She fondly remembers the classic 7-Layer Salad from my childhood (as well as a variety of wine punch recipes involving a fancy punch bowl and polyester bell bottoms) and was eager to try this lighter, updated recipe.
I used my new punch bowl/cake stand to showcase the salad and made just a few substitutions: I used a chunk of Italian parmesan cut into wide strips with a vegetable peeler and I replaced the canned olives with a gourmet mix of fresh olives with their pits from the local grocer. I also made my own Greek salad dressing with olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried Italian herbs, salt and pepper (I added a dash of buttermilk to evoke some of the classic taste for my mom).
Layered Mediterranean Tortellini Salad
Ingredients for 12 servings:
- 1 package (9 ounces) Refrigerated Spinach Cheese Tortellini
- 1 package (9 ounces) Refrigerated 100% Whole Wheat Three Cheese Tortellini
- 6 tablespoons bottled light Greek or Italian dressing, divided
- 2 cups whole cherry or pear tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
- 1 1/2 cups sliced cucumber
- 1 can (13.75 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered (about 1 1/3 cups)
- 1 can (6 ounces) pitted whole ripe olives, drained (about 1 1/3 cups)
- Ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) Freshly Shredded Parmesan Cheese
PREPARE pasta according to package directions; rinse in cold water then drain well. Place spinach tortellini in one bowl and the whole wheat tortellini in another bowl. Add 2 tablespoons salad dressing to each bowl; toss gently to coat.
PLACE tomatoes in large glass serving bowl; drizzle with 1 tablespoon salad dressing. Top with all of spinach tortellini, feta cheese, red onion and basil; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon salad dressing. Top with all of the whole wheat tortellini, cucumbers, artichokes and olives. Cover; refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Season with pepper; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.
It was delicious, light and very satisfying as a summer meal. It was even better the next day after marinating in the dressing overnight. My mom was delighted too. Next, we’re moving on to the punch.