There’s a story behind every recipe and this is mine. Last week I was asked to bring a side dish to a graduation party, one that I hadn’t made in years. I had a vague recollection of it showing up years ago at every BBQ and Baby/Wedding Shower but couldn’t remember what all the hoopla was about.

I dusted off my recipe box and flipped through scraps and post-its until a stained and faded card caught my eye. “This is it.” I got so excited. “Now I remember. It’s colorfully delicious. Like a carnival concession stand or edible confetti. This pasta begs for a celebration. OMG.”

So I shopped and chopped, tossed and tasted. Before long this delightful salad began to take shape. Bursts of color and crunchy flavor once again made it a summer side dish second to none. It looked like a pasta party perfectly suited for Father’s Day or the 4th of July. I taste tested more than usual and as our grown kids flew through the door, each grabbed a little bowl to fill.

There is so much going on in this salad that it’s easy to adapt by adding or subtracting ingredients. Some like it without the peas but I’m easily amused and like when a pea gets caught in the middle of the Tortellini. Others like it without the Cheddar Cheese cubes but I think the orange color is to die for. The Black Olives seem underwhelming but without the stark contrast in color it’s hard to appreciate the brightness of all the others.

I like it this old-fashioned way – chock full of color and flavor. I should warn that if you bring it once, you might have to bring it again… and again. When cooking for a crowd, you might be tempted to add more to the recipe but don’t be fooled: The pasta poundage more than doubles when you add all the worth-their-weight-in-gold ingredients. We always have more than enough to send home with those twenty-something kids with big appetites and small budgets. I imagine them opening their refrigerators the following day to find another reason for a little celebration… tortellini salad.

Celebration Tortellini Salad
2 lbs Cheese Tortellini (1 plain & 1 mixed for color)
20-30 Cherry Tomatoes - cut in half
3 Peppers – 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 red – chopped
8 Scallions - chopped
1 chunk Hard Cheddar Cheese (3/4 lb) - cubed
1 – 14 oz bag Frozen Peas
1 – 6 oz can Black Pitted Olives
- drained & cut in half
¾ cup Olive Oil
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 tsp Grey Poupon Mustard (yellow smooth)
¼ tsp Ground Pepper

Cook Tortellini in boiling water and drain.
Toss with Frozen Peas (no need to cook them).
Add Cherry Tomatoes, Peppers, Scallions, Black Olives and toss with dressing (see below).
Wait until cooled to add cubes of Cheddar.
Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving, though overnight is ideal.
Always toss again just before serving.

Salad Dressing
Mix Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Poupon Mustard & Pepper

Keep in mind that final amount more than doubles that of pasta used. Cut recipe in half for smaller get-togethers. Enjoy!

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