ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE & TORTELLINI SALAD

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This is one of my go-to recipes.  I found it years ago on the packaging of store bought turkey sausage.  The cut-on-the-dotted-line recipe card is now yellowed, stained, and worn from a lot of love and use.  I like to prepare this hearty salad for potlucks, company, and Sunday lunch for my family.   It is a favorite dish among the family and friends who eat at my home regularly.

After the lentil soup fiasco of the previous Monday night, this was the perfect choice for this week’s community dinner.  A safe and well-loved meal that I know I can prepare and serve without complication.  Going back to a tried and true recipe is probably the best way to get your confidence back in your kitchen after the occasional (and inevitable!) cooking failure.

This recipe is adaptable to your personal preferences, and is easy to prepare in large quantities if you’re feeding a crowd.  I made notes on how I do that at the bottom.

ENJOY!

ingredients:

  • 5 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 pkg (5 or 6 links) Fresh Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage
  • 1 pkg (9 oz) fresh cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1 jar (6-1/2 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained (marinade reserved)
  • 1/2 Cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half
  • 1/2 Cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 Cup sliced green onion
  • 1/4 Cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil drained & julienned
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar (Red wine vinegar works too.)
  • 1 Clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (you can substitute 1 tsp dried basil, but it does slightly alter the flavor.)
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill weed
  • Fresh spinach leaves (5 oz pkg, or small bunch)

directions:

Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add turkey sausage and brown 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally.  Add 1/4 C water, reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking sausage 8-10 minutes more, turning once.  Cool and then cut sausages into 1/4 inch slices.

Cook tortellini in a large pot according to package directions.  (I always cook pasta for the least amount of cooking time suggested because I don’t like mushy pasta.)  Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well and toss with 1 Tbsp oil.

In a small bowl, whisk together reserved marinade, the remaining 3 Tbsp oil, vinegar, garlic, basil and dill weed.

Combine tortellini, sausage, artichoke heats, olives, feta, onions, and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Pour dressing over the top and toss to combine.

Refrigerate for several hours.  Before serving toss in spinach and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  (I often do not have the time and/or the space in my fridge to make this salad early.  If you are going to serve it immediately, then I suggest adding an extra clove or two of garlic.  The garlic flavors become much stronger as the salad sits, so just be prepared for very garlicky leftovers…which is never a problem for me!)

Makes 6 Servings

Notes for serving a crowd:

  • This recipe doubles proportionally very well.  
  • When I make it for our community dinners of 15 or more people, I usually triple or quadruple most of the ingredients with a few adjustments:
    • I buy a large, double pack of fresh tortellini; a large bag of baby spinach; large jars of marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil; and feta cheese from a box store (like Costco).  
    • I also purchase one sausage link per person from whatever grocery store has the best price, and buy all the other ingredients I don’t have on hand at that same store.  
    • I use all of the tortellini, spinach, and sausage; and then estimate the other salad ingredients so that what I add is close to 3x’s or 4x’s the original amount.  
    • For the dressing, I multiply the ingredients proportionally except for the basil and the oil.  I add more basil to taste so that the flavor doesn’t get lost in the spinach.  And I add less oil.  Tripling and quadrupling oil becomes way too much.  I omit the added oil from the dressing and then drizzle it to taste on the salad as I toss it.
    • At these larger proportions, it is nearly impossible to find a bowl big enough in a home kitchen to toss all of the ingredients together at the same time.  I tried serving the sausage-tortellini mixture and the spinach from separate serving bowls, but it really doesn’t come out as good.  I prefer to toss a quarter or third of the sausage-tortellini mixture with a quarter or third of the spinach at a time, and serve as a complete salad in several large bowls.  The process of tossing everything together softens and flavors the spinach in a way that is key to this dish being fabulous.
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