• 20 ounces fresh or frozen Three Cheese Tortellini (or your family's favorite)
  • 2 cups cubed pepperoni, chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) jar kalamata or black olives, drained
  • 2 jars marinated artichokes in oil or water, drained
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 ripe tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • Handful of parsley, minced
  • Handful fresh basil, chopped
  • 12 ounces Italian dressing –the zestier the better—I like to use ken's Zesty Italian Salad Dressing)
  • Zest of 1 large lemon

The folks at the Food Network have asked bloggers like me to share our favorite kid-friendly recipes with you this week.  I did not have to think very hard.

When I was writing my cookbook YOU NEVER COOK ALONE, I asked my two children to each write a story which would be included in the book. I just love the chapter Grillin’ and Chillin’  because my oldest son, Nathaniel, wrote the most beautiful story. Included in some of his favorite recipes was my zesty tortellini salad. Nathaniel has requested this recipe for his birthday since he was a young child.

Today I thought I’d share with you Nate’s wonderful story which first brought me to tears. Nurturing and loving my family through their tummies has not only been so much fun, but clearly the love put into each recipe is what makes them so memorable.  This recipe will provide the color needed for any festive gathering or picky eater. The flavors will please every guest no matter what age!  It’s also a great choice for warmer months because it does not contain ingredients like mayonnaise or sour cream and can sit out a while.

Here’s what my son Nathaniel wrote for my book, You Never Cook Alone:

“Birthdays are special days, and because of that, birthday memories have a funny way of staying around in your mind. Because my birthday falls in the month of July, right in the heat of the summer, for most of my 22 years on this Earth my parties have typically been built around a favorite theme of mine–a summer barbecue. Whether we had our birthday barbecue celebration at home, a local park, or a nearby lake, we always participated in the same fun activities: bonfires, water gun fights, outdoor games, and even the occasional launching of some fireworks left over from the 4th of July.

While I enjoyed all of those things, they were never the most amazing part of my birthday. One thing was always memorable and more brilliant than everything else—the food. There was nothing else on that day that inspired more compliments, more fun, or more memories than the delicious spread laid out on our family table. My favorite summer dishes always included at my parties were hot-dogs, baked beans, a cool summer salad, homemade burgers, and my personal favorite–tortellini pasta salad. Of course, to top everything off, there was always a homemade cake made by mom with ice cream on the side.

One of my favorite aspects of the food served at those parties is that each dish doesn’t just bring to mind birthday memories, but special highlights throughout the years. A bite of salad reminds me of my 14th birthday, when we celebrated around a campfire the year our family moved to a new house that sat beside a lake. A bite of hamburger takes me back to the massive water gun fight we had on my 12th birthday and the amazing baseball season I had that year when I played my personal best. The pasta salad always makes me remember my 16th birthday, party where it seemed like the whole neighborhood turned out to celebrate. It also reminds me of my favorite days sailing on the water for hours on end.

For me, food does so much more than nourish my body. It reminds me of the best days of the past, and makes me excited about creating memories in the future. “


Cook your tortellini for five minutes or until they all pop up to the top of the water.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let hang out in the refrigerator at least two hours, but overnight is best!

This post is part of Food Network’s Sensational Side series. Be sure to check out these other sensational kid-friendly side recipes:

Feed Me Phoebe: Radish and Basil Thai Fried Rice
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Easy Stir-Fry Green Beans
The Cultural Dish: Authentically Homemade Guacamole
Devour: Kid-Friendly Baked Ziti
Domesticate Me: Skillet Cornbread
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Healthy Carrot Cake Cupcakes With Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Red or Green? Spicy Chickpea Burgers With Cabbage Slaw
The Heritage Cook: Duck Fat Fries, a Kid’s Favorite Snack!
Virtually Homemade: Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
FN Dish: Kid-Friendly Veggie Sides