We’re a bit spoiled here up north because the summer weather doesn’t usually get too oppressively hot. We usually see only a handful of days that approach 90 degrees. It’s warm enough to feel like summer, but not so warm that we have heat advisories, which is just the way I like it. We are, after all, accustomed to winters that can bring snow as early as October and have audacity to flurry well into April. Too much heat, and I might just melt.
Well, this week is a bit different. It is HOT in the north country. As in, flowers-wilt-3-minutes-after-being-watered hot. We’ve had daily temperatures in the upper 80′s to low 90′s, with like, 375% humidity. I’m not sure if it is even possible to have 375% humidity, but it sure feels that way. The sky is hazy and overcast, and the air is thick & chewy. I don’t even want to think of how oppressive the heat would feel if the the sun were shining.
Needless to say, the thought of turning on my oven and adding heat to the house for any reason is not appealing. In fact, come dinnertime, I am so wilted that I don’t want to do much of anything. Except for maybe go for a swim or drink iced cold lemonade. And yet, my family still expects to eat. They’re funny like that. This tortellini is nice compromise. The stove is on for a mere 10 minutes, and dinner is ready in 20 minutes flat!
1 (20 oz.) package meat based refrigerated tortellini
1 pint grape tomatoes
2C. baby spinach, torn
1 C. shredded Italian cheese
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
Start by filling a stock pot with water, and heating the water to a boil. Be sure to add a bit of salt to the water before adding the tortellini. Salting the water before adding the pasta is key–it adds another layer of flavor to the dish.
Cook the tortellini according to the directions printed on the package. The package of tortellini that I used said to boil it for 7 minutes. And speaking of tortellini, I *highly* recommend using a meat based tortellini in this dish. The recipe itself is so simple, so your really need to extra flavor that the meat imparts to avoid the whole thing being bland. My favorite tortellini to use is Chicken with Prosciutto. It is also very important to use the refrigerated pasta, as opposed to the frozen pasta. I’ve tried it both ways, and the refrigerated pasta tastes significantly better.
In a large bowl, tear the baby spinach into bite sized pieces. Baby spinach has a more delicate texture and milder flavor than large spinach leaves. And unless the stems are 3 inches long, I leave them attached.
Halve the grape tomatoes, and add them to the spinach. If your cherry tomato plants are bursting with goodness this time of year, then you can use those instead.
To make the simple dressing, stir the olive oil and Italian seasoning with a fork. I like Mrs. Dash Italian Blend seasoning because it’s your basic Italian seasoning blend with added garlic powder. If you use straight Italian seasoning, be sure to add a healthy pinch of garlic powder, as well. Pour the dressing over the spinach and tomatoes, and give it a quick stir, to coat. Keep in mind that you’ve already salted the pasta water and the tortellini itself has salt and seasonings in it, so there will be more flavor when the whole thing comes together.
Add the shredded cheese. Since I was feeling especially lazy, I used a pre-shredded blend of parmesan, asiago, fontina, and mozzarella cheeses. Stronger Italian cheeses have more flavor–more flavor is good.
By now, the tortellini is probably done cooking, so now would be a good time to drain it. It’s not that I think that you need to be told to drain your cooked pasta, it’s that I really just wanted to take a picture of my red colander. I just love that color. It was an impulse buy when I thought I needed a bit more color in my life. I bought a smaller blue one, too. I know– I’m a rebel.
Stirring the hot tortellini to the spinach mixture will melt the cheese, and combine with the olive oil, while the spinach will warm just enough to wilt a bit, but the tomatoes will stay firm. The resulting Tortellini Florentine is a perfect combination of textures. I usually serve this hot, as a main dish, but it’s just as delicious after chilling in the refrigerator for a few hours. This makes a great “dish to pass” at a summer picnic, too. Just be sure to serve it with iced cold lemonade.
6 side dish, or 4 main dish servings
1 (20 oz.) package meat based refrigerated tortellini (I like Chicken & Prosciutto)
1 pint grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
2C. baby spinach, torn
1 C. shredded Italian cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano, or a blend)
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ tsp. Italian seasoning (or a scant ½ tsp. basil and add garlic powder to complete the ½ tsp.)
- Boil tortellini in salted water, according to the package directions. Drain.
- While to tortellini is draining, tear baby spinach into bite sized pieces into a large bowl.
- Slice grape tomatoes in half, and add to the spinach.
- In a small bowl, whisk olive oil and Italian seasoning together to blend into a simple dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the spinach and tomatoes; stir to coat.
- Stir the shredded cheese into the dressed spinach mixture.
- Add hot tortellini to the bowl; gently stir into the spinach mixture. The heat of the tortellini will melt the shredded cheese.
Serve hot, or chill for a few hours and serve cold.