Saturday, January 11, 2014

Belly Button Salad with Bacon and Spinach

Belly button salad (so named for those delicious cheese-filled, naval-shaped pastas) is a favorite at our house for nearly every gathering, from barbeques to Christmas, and anytime in between. A friend of ours gave us this recipe nearly 20 years ago, so the exact origins have been lost, but we have taken liberties with adding more bacon (as if that could ever be a bad thing) and switching out original ranch for a peppercorn version; a bolder compliment to the other ingredient.

The recipe below is as it appears in my hand-written version from our family cookbook, using bottled Peppercorn ranch. However I am not a fan of most store-bought dressings, so I make my own with ranch mix using buttermilk and mayonnaise according to the package direction and add 1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper with an extra 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. The homemade version has less salt than the bottled stuff and a much mellower flavor but as such, it needs that extra vinegar to stand out against the spinach.

The recipe makes a very large salad and can easily feed a crowd (18-20.) Typically a salad this big can be a problem when it comes to leftovers since most salads get soggy with age, but the cabbage in this salad provides a good crunch that keeps it almost as fresh as new overnight. That is great news if you get lucky enough to have this as lunch the next day at work.

All the ingredients for the salad can be cut and assembled in the bowl as shown here, kept refrigerated, and then tossed at the time of serving for the freshest possible presentation. 
Belly Button Salad

1 9 oz package cooked cheese tortellini, Barilla are hands-down my favorite; good size, cheesier flavor
2 cups shredded red cabbage
6 cups (approximately 1/2 pound) torn spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1 pound cooked, chopped bacon
8 ounces peppercorn ranch salad dressing  

Combine all ingredients. Mix to coat evenly with dressing. Serve. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container.

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