I’ve really been craving greens lately, so the thought of a hearty kale salad had been itching at the back of my brain. I added some cheese tortellini to make the salad a little more meal-like, then topped it off with the contrasting flavors of salty feta, spicy red onion, and sweet dried cranberries. Ohboy, ohboy, ohboy it’s good!
The trick to making salads like this work on a budget is to not over do it with the “luxury” toppings. You only need a small sprinkle of feta, a few dried cranberries, and a few tortellini to balance out the hearty green kale. Each of those toppings has big flavor on its own, so a little goes a long way. It pays to measure, so that you don’t accidentally over do it.
I dressed my salad with my favorite dressing du jour, champagne vinaigrette. A balsamic vinaigrette or even a creamy caesar would also be great with this salad. I toyed with making my own champagne vinaigrette, but my only options for champagne vinegar at the store today were a bit pricy and made it not worth the effort. Weigh your options and pick your favorite dressing.
Kale, Tortellini & Cranberry Salad
Kale, Tortellini & Cranberry Salad
This hearty and flavorful Kale, Tortellini & Cranberry Salad makes a great light meal or all-in-one side dish.
- 1/2 bunch bunch kale $1.00
- 10 oz cheese tortellini $1.65
- 1/4 red onion $0.14
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries $0.50
- 2 oz feta $0.86
- 1/2 cup dressing of your choice $1.16
Pull the kale leaves from the woody stems. Bunch the torn kale pieces together tightly, then chop into thin strips. Rinse the chopped kale and let drain while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then add the tortellini. Boil until tender (frozen tortellini will cook very quickly, dried tortellini will take longer. Usually it's done when it begins to float). Drain the pasta in a colander and let it cool briefly (5 minutes).
Slice the red onion as thinly as possible. Crumble the feta. Build the salad by filling a bowl with kale first, topping with the drained tortellini, then a sprinkle of feta, sliced onions, and dried cranberries. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons of dressing.
To help soften the kale leaves, the dressing can be massaged into the leaves after they have drained. Then, the salad can be built as usual, but the kale will already be coated with the dressing.
(This is only half of the salad in this large bow, BTW. The recipe makes a good bit of salad.)
Step by Step Photos
The first thing to do is to pull the kale leaves off of the stiff, woody stems. This is a really easy job and it only takes two minutes. Just hold the kale leaf in one hand by the spine/stem and pull the leaves off with the other hand. Discard the stems. I only used half of a bunch of kale because kale seems to multiply in volume once you tear it into pieces. I swear this was a tiny bunch, but once I was done pulling the leaves off it was about 3x the size. Crazy.
I like to cut my kale into thin strips because it’s easier to eat. This can be tricky because kale is very fluffy. I grab a big handful of it in my left and and compress it into a ball, then carefully use the knife to slice thin strips off the end. So basically, all of that kale on the left side of the knife is usually balled up under my left hand and I’m slicing thin strips off the right side with the knife (can’t take a picture of it in action because it requires both hands!)
Make sure to give the kale a really good rinse, then let it drain really well. Sand (and critters) like to hide in those curly leaves.
While the kale is draining, cook the tortellini. I used half of this 19 oz. bag. The other half will make a quick weeknight dinner some other day. You can usually find tortellini in three places in the grocery store – the dry pasta aisle, near the cheese with other fresh pastas, and in the freezer aisle with ravioli and other pasta dishes. At my store, the frozen tortellini was the least expensive option. It also happens to cook very quickly – yay!
Boil the tortellini until it’s tender. Usually it floats when it’s done. You can also check the package instructions for an estimated cooking time. Drain the tortellini and let it cool for a few minutes.
While the tortellini is cooking, slice 1/4 of a red onion as thinly as possible, crumble 2 oz. of feta, and measure out 1/3 cup dried cranberries. I usually buy an 8 oz. block of feta, so measuring out 2 oz. is as easy as cutting the block into quarters. Red onions are expensive, so I plan to use up the remaining 3/4 of this one over the coming week (pizza topping!).
Pile the washed and drained kale into a bowl, add the drained and slightly cooled tortellini, then some feta, sliced onions, and cranberries. (This huge bowl is half of the salad… there was still more on my countertop!)
This is my favorite salad dressing right now. I think this salad needs something tangy, like a balsamic vinaigrette or even a caesar dressing to balance out the kale. Use about 2 tablespoons of dressing per salad. OR, pre-dress the kale leaves with the dressing to soften them up, then add the rest of the toppings.
It makes a great light meal or a hearty side to something simple like Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin. Ooohhh yeah.