With all the gorgeous weather we’ve been having here in Adelaide recently, my lily-white legs were crying out for some sunshine. What better way to make the most of this glorious change in seasons than by packing a picnic and heading to the National Park. A couple of weeks back it was my friend Mel’s birthday, Mel is a relatively new arrival to Australia and is crazy about our beautiful landscapes and wildlife. It seemed natural, therefore, that for her birthday we’d pack a picnic, some bubbles and set up under a glorious old gum tree and take in some rays. With blue skies as far as the eye could see, wildflowers in abundance and kookaburra’s cackling in the distance we set up a generous spread of breads, dips, cheese, cakes and this springtime tortellini pasta salad.
Picnics don’t need to be an over the top affair as I’m sure you don’t need me to point out, a few simple ingredients are all that is needed to pass the time. I threw together this pasta salad in the morning before we left and kept it cool wrapped in a tea towel with one of those little frozen ice bricks. The pasta comes from Vari’s, a shop that needs no introduction for many Adelaide foodies. If you’ve not been to Vari’s before then I suggest you check it out; it is a great little Italian food shop on the Parade at Norwood that stocks fantastic anti-pasto, dried pasta, Italian sweets and sauces. The owners are lovely and it is always a joy to call in and see what they’ve got for sale, how business is going and grab my absolute favourite pasta, the handmade dried tortellini. It is filled with crumbly, salty cheese and is just the right size. I love it on its own with a little olive oil, parmesan and lemon, stirred through the infallible tomato butter sauce or paired with some bite-sized ditali pasta in this riff on the old school pasta salad.
The ingredients are simple but freshness is important and everything can be prepared in a single pot of boiling water. Simply boil and salt the water, pop the pasta in while you prepare the vegies and then dunk them in for the last couple of minutes of cooking to brighten up. Mix with a simple dressing, some fresh herbs and salad greens, golden macadamias and some salty feta cheese and I guarantee it will be a huge hit.
Happy Birthday, Mel!x
- 1 cup dried cheese tortellini
- 1 cup ditali pasta
- 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 cups green beans, tips removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup green peas
- 1 bunch mint, finely chopped
- 2 tbspns flat-lead parsley
- 2 tbspns chives
- ½ preserved lemon
- 100g feta cheese
- 1 cup macadamias, toasted until golden
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbspns olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add 1 tspn salt.
- Add the tortellini and cook for 4 minutes.
- Add the digitali to the same pot and cook for another 7 minutes.
- Add the asparagus, beans and peas to the same pot and cook for a minute or so.
- Drain the pot and run under cold water to stop the cooking.
- Add the pasta and greens to a large salad bowl.
- Add the herbs, preserved lemon, feta, macadamias, lemon juice, olive oil and mix well until everything is coated.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Test the pasta and check the seasoning.