Caprese Pasta Salad
Named after the famous Italian tomato-mozzarella salad, this is a nearly instant, super-fresh recipe that's bursting with the summery flavors of juicy vine-ripened tomatoes and fragrant basil. Use as much of the fresh mozzarella as your budget will allow -- although if you're eating this as a side dish rather than a main course, you could skip the cheese altogether. And feel free to improvise: use halved cherry tomatoes, if that's what you've got, or add a few tablespoons of pesto, if you can't scare up any fresh basil.
Ready In: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
1 pound dried pasta shapes (fusilli, orecchiette, penne)
2 pounds tomatoes (around 6 medium) roughly diced
1/2-1 pound fresh, water-packed mozzarella, cubed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
freshly ground black pepper
1 packed cup basil leaves, washed, spun dry, and slivered
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it heavily (it should taste like seawater), then add the pasta and cook until just done.
- Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes and cheese and put them in a very large bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper to taste; the mayo will help keep the oil and vinegar from separating.
- Drain the hot pasta and shake it dry (don't rinse it), then add it to the bowl with the cheese and tomatoes and stir with a rubber spatula to combine.
- Add about half the dressing, and stir again, then fold in the basil and pine nuts.
- Now taste the pasta, and add more dressing, if it needs it, and more salt, which it will almost surely need. If you have time, cover it and let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so to let the flavors blend and to let the pasta absorb some of the juice that will come out of the tomatoes (don't refrigerate it, or the pasta may get tough and the tomatoes may get spongy. Taste just before serving and re-season as necessary.