Book Club: Pasta Salad and Cannoli Dip

Well how do you start a post about book club in the middle of a global pandemic?  Forget about the pandemic for a minute, that’s how.  It’s hard to do, since it is all people are talking about, all that’s on TV and the internet, and smacks you in the face when you go into a store to empty shelves.  But on Saturday night, our group of funny and smart ladies got together like we usually do to eat some yummy food, drink wine, and talk about everything under the sun for 4 hours (including the book, because at our book club we do indeed read the books!)

white book pages on table
Photo by Roman Koval on Pexels.com

This month, I decided to bring a Tortellini Pasta Salad in a creamy Italian dressing and then a Cannoli Dip with Waffle Cone Pieces for dessert.  Our hostess with the mostest, Dana, made a delicious pork tenderloin and Caesar salad so we were definitely well fed.  And while our conversation didn’t exclude the COVID-19 virus all together,  it definitely wasn’t the center of our conversation which was refreshing.

This month we discussed “Dear Wife” by Kimberly Belle, the story of an abused woman who manages to escape her violent husband.  It was a quick, easy read that felt like the makings of a made-for-TV movie with a plot twist near the end.  It was a decent book, not my favorite of all time, but I didn’t dislike it; it was OK.  If you want to check out other books we’ve read, you can refer to my posts 2018 Reading List, What I’m Reading 2019, and 2019 Reading List Part 2.

But here’s the good stuff:  my Tortellini Pasta Salad with a creamy homemade Italian dressing and Cannoli Dip – much easier to make than actual cannolis and perfect for a party.

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Tortellini Pasta Salad with Creamy Italian Dressing

12 oz package dry tortellini, cooked according to package directions (al dente)
8 oz package mozzarella pearls or small mozzarella balls
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
1/3 cup diced banana peppers
1 cup salami, thinly sliced in bite-size pieces
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup minced fresh basil

Cook the tortellini in a pot of salted water until al dente.  Do not overcook, or you’ll have a mushy pasta salad.  Drain, and rinse with cold water; set aside.

Rinse the mozzarella pearls and pat dry with paper towel and add to a large mixing bowl.  Rinse the quartered grape tomatoes under cold water to help remove some of the seeds, then drain and pat dry with paper towel; add to the bowl.  Drain the olives and banana peppers on paper towel before slicing, and add those to the bowl along with the sliced salami.  *Patting the items dry will keep your salad from getting watery/runny.  Add half of the cooled pasta to the bowl, gently toss, then add the rest, gently tossing.  Set aside.

Make the dressing:  in a shaker, add the sugar, all the spices and the red wine vinegar. Shake vigorously until mixed and the sugar is dissolved.  *Alternately, you can place these items in a small deep bowl and whisk until mixed.  Add in the olive oil and shake again for about 30 seconds.  In a separate bowl, add the mayonnaise and then slowly pour the vinegar and oil mixture into the mayonnaise, whisking to incorporate.  Continue to whisk the dressing until it is well blended.

Pour half of the dressing over the pasta salad, toss gently, then add the rest of the dressing, folding it into the salad.  Cover and let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to come out.  Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil, and serve (don’t do this in advance, as it will wilt).

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Easy Cannoli Dip with Waffle Cone Pieces

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
8 oz ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 box of waffle cones or crispy waffle cookies
Dipping chocolate
Sprinkles, pistachios (optional)

*Before making this, I like to drain the ricotta to prevent the dip from getting watery.  To do this, place it in a mesh strainer over a bowl, then top with some paper towel and let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours.  

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and ricotta and beat with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Add in the powdered sugar, mixing on low until incorporated, then on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth and a little fluffy.  Mix in the vanilla, then add the chocolate chips, folding in with a spoon.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Break the waffle cones into chip-size pieces.  If desired, dip the ends in dark or white chocolate and roll in sprinkles or pistachios.  Allow to rest on wax or parchment paper until the chocolate has set.  Serve with the dip, or eat them plain!

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