Summer Caprese Pasta

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I was proud of the intro I’d written to this recipe a few weeks ago, but then I made a stupid mistake and lost it all. With fall right around the corner in the Northern Hemisphere, I figured I’d better write a new post, stat! The start of San Francisco fall tends to be warmer than summer, so I’m hoping to make this dish at least once more before the November chill sets in.

Weekend dinner planning often develops throughout the course of the day in my house. We often start with what we have on hand and think about how we can use the ingredients to build the kind of dinner we feel like eating. We had beautiful mixed cherry/plum tomatoes and the weather was really hot, so a fresh, simple pasta dinner sounded like just the right thing.

The idea started as a fresh tomato sauce over a thin, round noodle like capellini, but then my husband started reminiscing about the pasta his mom used to make when he was growing up that included in-season tomatoes and mozzarella. Back then, the fresh mozzarella we have today wasn’t readily available, so she used vacuum-packed part-skim mozzarella.

I wanted to take my husband back to the days of his youth, so I did a modern spin on his mom’s classic. He loved it so much, he really wanted me to share this simple recipe with everyone. I’m so happy I was able to feed him something that made him so happy.

Trust me, your diners will love this dish! But, you know what the best part might be? It is so simple and you can prepare the tomato mixture well ahead of time. It’s also delicious for a picnic, a potluck, or as leftovers the next day. Enjoy!


 

INGREDIENTS

For 3-4 servings. Feel free to multiply, but don’t halve as you will want the leftovers!

  • Pint of cherry tomatoes

  • Container of Ciliegine (mini fresh mozzarella balls)

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled

  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to taste

  • 1/4 cup Shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, or more!

  • Package of fusilli; I used fresh but dry pasta works just fine

  • Bunch of Basil; I used ~20 leaves (washed and dried)

  • My way: Fresh Spinach for extra greens; I used 1/2 a clamshell but feel free to use more or less

  • To Serve: Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Red Pepper Flakes

 


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. At least one hour before you want to eat, but preferably 2-4 hours, quarter the tomatoes and put them in a large bowl.

  2. Add the mozzarella to the bowl. (If your pieces are larger, cut or tear them up into bite-sized pieces.)

  3. Crush the garlic right over the bowl using a garlic press so all of the juices run into the bowl. If you don’t have a garlic press, mince the garlic first then add it to the bowl.

  4. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to the bowl a bit at a time. Stir and taste. Add more if needed, but better to have too little than too much at this stage.

  5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate.

  6. Remove the bowl from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to eat. You’ll likely see a fair amount of liquid at the bottom of the bowl - don’t drain it! Add in the spinach and parmigiano; stir to combine.

  7. While the tomato mixture is coming to room temp, boil water (salted generously!) and prepare pasta according to package directions.

  8. When the pasta is cooked according to your liking, drain, then add the pasta to the tomato mixture and stir to combine.

  9. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste.

  10. Stack the basil leaves and use kitchen shears to cut thin slivers into the bowl. You can also chiffonade the basil on a cutting board with a chef’s knife. (See note, below.)

  11. Toss everything together and taste once more. Add additional salt, pepper, or oil, if needed.

  12. Serve family style in a big bowl or dish into individual bowls. Encourage diners to drizzle their pasta with a bit of balsamic vinegar - it really makes a difference!

  13. Dig in. :)


 
 


RECIPE NOTES:

  • We happened to be able to get fresh fusilli, but dried certainly works. So does any other short pasta.

  • Learn to chiffonade basil here.

  • Ideally, the balsamic vinegar will be on the thicker side. We really love this one from Safeway. Look out for an “aged” or “reserve” style.

  • If you can’t find fresh mozzarella, feel free to use any kind of mozzarella you like.

  • The next night, we ate our leftovers along with this delicious halibut dish. It was a tomato feast!

  • If you don’t have parm, you can certainly omit it.