Caprese-Style Pasta Salad

Caprese-style pasta salad

I have such fond memories of all the backyard barbecues we had when I was growing up. It definitely has to do with the fact that my July 2 birthday was always combined with a Fourth of July celebration. But I didn't mind because I got to eat my favorite foods, those real American classics like my mom's potato salad and my godmother's macaroni salad. I've always had a secret affinity for pasta salads. And with Labor Day approaching, I wanted to make a fun, Italian-inspired pasta salad to capture my absolute love for Italy.

Enter my Caprese-style pasta salad. I haven't been to Capri yet, but Caprese salad is so famous it's almost infamous. You will find this dish on every Italian restaurant's menu in and out of the country. Everyone knows this salad. That's not even a question. But I decided to combine my love for picnic pasta salads with my appreciation for this simple tricolore salad.

Red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil symbolize the Italian flag. These three ingredients make absolute harmony together when you drizzle it with good olive oil. Now add to that some pasta, and you've got yourself a winning combination. Some salt, pepper, and lemon juice round out the sauce, which also gets some additional moisture from the pasta water. But, that's it! It's so simple. It's the perfect recipe because it doesn't require much prep at all or a long cooking time. It's summery and refreshing!

Caprese-Style Pasta Salad

12 ounces fusilli or rotini
sea salt
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pound bocconcini mozzarella, halved
1 small bunch basil, leaves torn
1 handful oregano leaves
freshly grated black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Season liberally with salt. Add the pasta and cook 1 minute under the recommended package directions.

While the pasta cooks, assemble the salad in a large mixing bowl: Combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and half the oil.

Add the cooked pasta using a scoop so that some of the pasta water goes along with the pasta. Toss to coat. At this point, add the remaining oil, and, if needed, a few tablespoons of pasta water to create a thin flavorful sauce. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve the pasta salad immediately or chilled. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.


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