Here's our fifth guest blog post from Elly McCausland:
Sometimes, you want the comforting starchiness of a bowl of pasta, but you also want that virtuous, nourished feeling that comes with eating a whole bowl of salad. The solution, I find, is to use stuffed pasta (like ravioli or tortellini) as an ingredient in a salad full of vibrant green vegetables, rather than simply eating it on its own. That way, you get the best of both worlds: deliciously squidgy, bolstering carbohydrate, and the fresh crunch of healthy greenery. It’s also a far more interesting plateful to eat than a bowl of tortellini on its own, which can be somewhat monotonous.
Here, I’ve used smoked ham and cheese tortellini. I’ve surrounded these delicate little parcels with delicious stalks of tenderstem broccoli, bright sweet peas, lovely fresh herbs, and some toasted pine nuts for crunch and depth of flavour. What really makes this salad complete, though, is the delicious creamy texture of cubes of ripe avocado, scattered throughout. The combination of the smooth avocado flesh with the smoky flavours of the ham and cheese in the tortellini is a beautiful thing, all the more so when tossed together in a simple but flavoursome dressing of crushed garlic, lemon juice and good-quality olive oil.
This salad is very adaptable. You can use whatever flavour stuffed pasta you like, and whatever vegetables. Try a vegetarian version with spinach and ricotta tortellini, or in the autumn, mix it up with pumpkin ravioli, sage and fried mushrooms. It’s very quick to put together, and keeps well in the fridge, making it perfect for lunchboxes. And, of course, it’s another great and interesting way to sneak nourishing avocados into your diet: combine them with pasta, and who could say no?
Tortellini, summer vegetable and avocado salad (serves 2):
1 clove garlic, crushed
50ml good-quality olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp salt
180g tenderstem broccoli or asparagus, sliced into 1-inch lengths
A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
300g tortellini of your choice
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
1 avocado, diced
A small bunch of mint, finely shredded
A small bunch of basil, torn
Freshly ground black pepper
First, make the dressing. In a small jug, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Taste – you might want more lemon juice or salt depending on your preference.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the broccoli and peas and cook for one minute, then add the tortellini and cook for another minute (or as long as it suggests on the packet instructions). Drain well, then return to the pan. Toss together with the dressing, then add the pine nuts, avocado and herbs, and season with black pepper. Mix gently and serve immediately.