Warm Mediterranean Salad


There is a nice shopping mall about 2 hours away that I visit when I have to go to a mall. Well, truth be told, I probably only shop at Williams-Sonoma there, unless I’m Christmas shopping. Then I’m a bit more adventurous.

The mall has a nice restaurant that I go to because of the convenience. But it’s good! You’ll all probably be shocked that it’s a chain restaurant, called Pepperoni Grill.

The menu is nice, the restaurant is always clean, and the service great. Surprisingly great.

Oddly enough, I’ve always ordered the same thing, which is a warm Mediterranean Tortellini and Vegetable salad, served with a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

I say this is odd, because typically, I would order something new on the menu. But, after 20+ years, I keep ordering this salad. It’s so good, so well prepared, and so satisfying.

Then I had the brilliant idea to replicate the salad at home. It doesn’t look exactly the same because the restaurant uses tricolor tortellini, but mine tasted just as good! Being that it’s not springtime, I opted for green beans instead of asparagus.

Warm Mediterranean Salad
inspired by Pepperoni Grill’s salad
Serves 12

3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon agave syrup
2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 pounds small, red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 pound trimmed green Beans
1 pound yellow squash, coarsely chopped
32 ounces cheese tortellini
10 uncles spring lettuces
Sliced sun-dried tomatoes, the kind stored in oil
Kalamata olives, drained, halved
Grated Parmesan

To prepare the vinaigrette, place all of the ingredients in a small blender jar. Blend until smooth. Taste for salt. Can be made a day ahead, but bring the vinaigrette to room temperature before making the salad.

The vegetables must be prepared separately for the salad, in order to have them all at the proper cook. It’s also best for all of the vegetables and the tortellini to be warm when served, so one must move quickly!

In a steamer basket, cook the potatoes just until tender. Place in a large bowl, toss with a few tablespoons of vinaigrette, and set aside. If you don’t like a lot of dressing, use some olive oil instead.

Cook the green beans in the steamer basket and add them to the potatoes. Toss together gently, adding a little more vinaigrette to keep the vegetables moist.

Do the same with the yellow squash, making sure not to overcook. Add to the potatoes and beans.

Cook the cheese tortellini according to package directions. Drain and let cool slightly.

Add the still warm tortellini to the vegetables. Add the desired amount of vinaigrette and and toss gently.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives to taste.

Then sprinkle on a generous amount of Parmesan. No mixing necessary.

Serve warm.

I like a lot of vinaigrette on my salads, but I’m aware that not everyone does. So when I suggest to add the desired amount of vinaigrette, that’s exactly what I mean!

My mother’s secret to a good potato salad was to always add some olive oil to the warm, just-cooked potatoes. So that’s what I did in this salad, using the vinaigrette instead of just olive oil, as well as adding some vinaigrette to the cooked tortellini. This keeps them moist and prevents sticking.

In anticipation of making this salad, I googled it to see if I was making something fairly unique or not. Turns out, there are tortellini/pasta salads, and there are potato salads. This salad really combines the two – a pasta salad with a significant amount of veggies.

The vegetables are along the lines of “primavera” vegetables, and can definitely be changed depending on what’s in season. Zucchini, broccoli, baby carrots, asparagus… all would be good. They could be grilled as well.

And of course this salad would be wonderful with grilled meat, but I prefer it the way it is.

So would I visit Pepperoni Grill for a special night out? No. But the fact that I can expect quality with what I’m ordering and enjoy a leisurely lunch, with a decent glass of wine, during a day of shopping, is really nice.

53 thoughts on “Warm Mediterranean Salad

  1. I don’t blame you for returning again and again and ordering the same dish :) Love all the ingredients in that dressing and one can make it as versatile as ever with the different veggies. I usually go to this one restaurant, real eclectic type of place and I’m always ordering chickpea fajitas. They make the guac real fresh and I can never get enough of it.

    • Right! Maybe we’re too scared to orther something that wouldn’t be as good! It’s just more typical of me to try something new or different, but I guess that’s more when we’re traveling, not just 2 hours away!

  2. I have favourites too in some places – and sometimes when I force myself to have a change I’m disappointed! Lovely salad. Like you I wouldn’t want meat as it’s a great meal on its own. How nice to have such a good place to eat in the shopping mall.

  3. We have a restaurant where I live that I have been going to for years and most of the time I order their ginger wasabi salmon over vegetables. Come to think of it, I should try to make it at home. Your salad looks delicious, who cares if it’s a chain restaurant.

  4. I hate shopping! Except for food. And wine. :-) But I’d be tempted to go if I could order this at a restaurant. This looks excellent — thanks.

    • I’ve shopped only online for as long as there was an internet. Mostly because I’ve lived in some smaller towns, like the one I’m in now, that haven’t had decent places to shop. I especially dislike malls. Thank goodness this one mall has a Williams-Sonoma. Sometimes you need to see things in person!

  5. I also dress the just cooked potatoes with olive oil when making a salad, it seems to make a huge difference to the final flavour. Good food is good food no matter the source. I see from the above comment you’re heading our way. Just Sydney? There’s plenty of great food there..

      • Brisbane isn’t a tourist hot spot but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with your itinerary. I presume Cairns is to access the Great Barrier Reef and Adelaide for wineries. Have a wonderful time, I hope to keep track via your posts.

  6. Williams-Sonoma is the best darn store in the mall! Love shopping there but usually it’s window shopping because YIKES on their prices. Lol! It’s so strange too how every mall always has one fantastic quick service place. Our mall has an awesome little place that serve Mediterranean foods and everything is homemade and delicious! Sometimes I just run in to grab something to eat there. I like eating meatless lunches through the week so I’ll have to make this salad for next week. Have a great weekend Mimi :)

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