For most people, summer food means one thing - lots of barbecue. And while I like a good hamburger every once in a while, they are not the food that I dream about during the middle of February while I am walking down the street in knee-high snow, chilled to the bone and imagining how much better life would be if it could be June year-round.
Instead, I am taken back to an appetizer that my mother used to make for us on most summer nights. She would cut small slices of Italian bread (crostini-sized), top them with fresh mozzarella slices, tomato and/or store-bought bruschetta, and basil and then decorate them with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sometimes if we were lucky and the bread was a day old, they would go into the oven where the cheese would melt and bubble and brown, making for a truly delicious mouthful.
For me, then, no summer would be complete without a caprese dish of some kind or another and so when I saw that tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella were not only on sale this week at Whole Foods but were also locally grown and produced - I knew it was time. Although it would have been nice to do a traditional "mom-style" dish of little appetizer sandwiches, I am in carb-loading mode and so making a pasta dish was much more imperative. This recipe comes from Giada DeLaurentis and uses fresh tomatoes to make a heavenly sauce that is dotted with pillows of mozzarella and flecks of basil. I think you should know that if I could, I would eat this every day for the rest of my life. It was that good. It also fueled me really well for the 16 miles I ran yesterday, as well as made for some really good drunken midnight fridge raiding done by my friend Andrew who dug in with a fork straight from the tupperware. The only thing that could lure him away was a carrot cupcake. But that's another post for another day.
I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted this week by Katie of One Little Corner of the World.
Caprese Pasta Salad
Serves 4, adapted from Giada De Laurentis
1 lb whole wheat pasta
2 very large tomatoes (about 2 lb), cut into small pieces
8 oz fresh mozzarella (I used ciliegine balls that I then cut into sixths)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup basil, torn
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1. Start the water for the pasta. When it boils, cook the pasta and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook until they break down into a sauce-like consistency. You should probably mash some with a fork.
3. Mix the pasta with the tomato sauce. Toss in the mozzarella and basil. Pour in the reserved pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until pasta is not dry.