The warm weekends are passing us by so we must enjoy them! It is the perfect time to plan a barbecue with family and friends. Keeping it simple and easy is definitely the way to go, especially after a busy work week. Grilled hot dogs, juicy burgers, tangy barbecue chicken or grilled fish with sweet summer salsas — it is all delicious and satisfying when grilled to perfection!

We love to serve Judy’s fresh blueberry lemonade or an iced sweet tea with fresh mint, but what about the side dishes? We are so sick of that same coleslaw and potato salad recipe and “that every picnic macaroni salad” the kids want us to make.

Our Aunt Fran (DeDe) came up with a great new idea for a side picnic salad. Sometimes we just have to splurge and the weekends are a perfect time to do just that. It is made with small cheese-filled tortellini, sweet tomatoes, fresh basil, and a sprinkle of roasted pignoli nuts. After all, we are Italian. Everyone loved our new side salad and it is now the new picnic dish!

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Tortellini Picnic Salad

1 lb. small cheese tortellini

2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup kalamata olives

1 shallot, sliced thin

3-4 slices torn prosciutto

1 small bunch fresh basil, torn

grated parmesan cheese for garnish

toasted pignoli nuts for garnish (optional)

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup flavored infused vinegar

splash of red vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and place in large serving dish in a single layer while cooling. (This way they won’t stick to each other.)

While pasta is cooling, combine the oil, vinegars, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk ingredients together. Place tortellini and the rest of  the ingredients in large bowl and pour just enough dressing to coat. Very gently toss salad to blend all ingredients. Add in remaining ingredients. Sprinkle with the torn basil, grated parmesan, and toasted pignolis. Taste and season again if  needed.