Wilted Spinach and Mozzarella Tortellini Salad

Over the past six or seven months I’ve brought this pasta salad to two football gatherings, a baby shower and a picnic, where it has disappeared every time. I usually find pasta salad, well. Hollow. Pasta and herbs. Bah. Nothing very satisfying there. By using tortellini in place of plain old corkscrew pasta, you suddenly get a very hardy side dish.

You will need:

18-20 ounces cheese tortellini
6-9 ounces (4-6 cups) fresh baby spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pint (10 ounces) cherry tomatoes, halved
8 ounces pearl mozzarella balls, drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
four basil leaves, chopped (1-2 tsp)
Kosher salt and cracked pepper

Boil tortellini with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt for time recommended on package directions. Once the tortellini is cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool.

While the tortellini is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for a minute and then add the baby spinach. Reduce heat and cook until the spinach has completely wilted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. If desired, you can roughly chop the cooked spinach or you can leave it whole.

In a large bowl, toss together the cooked tortellini, spinach, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, basil, red wine vinegar, remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon each.

Refrigerate for at least an hour and serve.

Serves 6-8 as a side.