Caprese Pasta Salad

My kids evaluate the fresh flavors in this pasta salad. Spoiler alert: They love this dinner! But in the video they just fiddle around with a jacket and laugh when the chair makes a noise. Lower your standards and enjoy the show! 

This recipe depends on high quality tomatoes, so you won't enjoy it in January with mealy grocery store tomatoes. As long as you have vine-ripened half-way decent tomatoes and fresh basil, this is the best pasta salad ever – especially in late summer when the tomatoes are at their best.

I use gluten-free pasta and no one is the wiser. Similar recipes call for a mozzarella ball that you chop up; but I opt for mozzarella pearls because they are already bite sized and save 5 minutes of chopping for the same result. 

You'll need
For the dressing:
  1/4 cup olive oil
  1 Tb lemon juice
  1/2 tsp lemon zest
  1 small clove garlic, minced (1/2 tsp)
  1 small shallot, minced (2 Tb)
  1/2 tsp salt
  1/4 tsp pepper
  *1/2 tsp sugar (*optional, add if using less sweet tomatoes)

For the pasta salad:
   1.5 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2" pieces
   1 lb pasta, like penne or fusilli
   1 lb fresh mozzarella pearls (two packages of pearl mozzarella)
   1/4 cup fresh basil chopped

1. Start making the dressing! Stir together the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the chopped tomatoes and stir gently. Allow the tomatoes to marinate in the dressing while the pasta cooks, but no longer than 45 minutes (they can get mushy).

2. Unwrap the mozzarella packages and separate the individual pearls. Place in the freezer while you prepare the pasta. Freezing it slightly prevents the cheese from getting gummy when you add the hot pasta later. 

3. Cook the pasta in boiling water with 1 Tb salt until al dente. Drain well.

4. Add the cooked pasta into the marinating tomatoes. Stir in the slightly frozen mozzarella pearls. Let stand 5 minutes, then add the fresh basil. Stir and serve immediately.

Serves: 5 people
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

caprese pasta salad