Sunday, July 24, 2011

Caprese Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette

There are many things I love about summer in Nashville.  (The heat is not one of them.)  I love going to the drive-in and seeing two new-release movies for $7.00.  I love driving downtown to get milkshakes on weeknights.  I love Friday night happy hour on the patio at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  I love seeing sunshine past 5 pm.  And I LOVE the Amish produce sold at the farm stand a few blocks away from our house.

The farm stand is the primary source my summer culinary inspiration.  It’s where I purchase squash and eggplant and peppers and tomatoes.  And oh, let me tell you about the tomatoes.  They are insanely good.  There are many varieties, but I like the heirlooms the best.  They come in colors I never saw growing up.  Last weekend I bought orange tomatoes, purple and green swirl tomatoes, and I even got one that was yellow with green and red swirls.  Not only are they beautiful, the heirlooms taste amazing – sweet and juicy and nothing like the tomatoes found in supermarkets in the middle of winter.  Needless to say, I’ve been buying and eating a lot of tomatoes.  The season doesn’t last long, so I’m taking full advantage while I can.

Since I have a lot of tomatoes to use up, I’ve been trying out all kinds of new recipes.  Last night, I made this Caprese Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette.  In it, campanelle pasta (or whatever kind you like) is coated with a thick, rich, and tangy dressing flavored with sundried tomatoes, capers, and garlic.  The pasta is then tossed with cubes of fresh mozzarella, juicy fresh tomatoes, salty olives, and ribbons of basil (or arugula, if like me, your basil isn’t looking so hot).  It looks and sounds like a lot, but the whole recipe comes together in barely more time than it takes to cook the pasta.  And it is good – rich and savory, but still light and fresh.  We ate the pasta salad as a light entrée, but I couldn’t help thinking it would make a great side dish alongside some grilled chicken.  Either way, it’s certainly a dish I will be making again and again – as long as I have my farm-fresh tomatoes at the ready.

One Year Ago: Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins and Baked Ziti

Caprese Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette

1 pound campanella pasta
1/2 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
6 T. sundried tomato oil or olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. capers, drained
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large red tomato, diced
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (I used arugula)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted & halved

Cook pasta according to package directions, stopping 1 or 2 minutes short of al dente.  (You want the pasta to still have a good bite to it.)

While the pasta is cooking, purée the sundried tomatoes, oil, vinegar, capers, and garlic in a blender or food processor.

Drain the pasta and toss it with the vinaigrette. Stir gently until the pasta is well-coated and beginning to cool.

Add the fresh tomato, mozzarella, basil, Parmesan cheese, and olives.  Stir gently to combine.

Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish.

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