It’s August. The summer is more than halfway over, and here in the greater Seattle area, the hot weather has returned.
For a menu-planner like me, the summer usually means shopping lists full of fish, meats and veggies (and even pizza dough), all destined for the grill. But during these especially hot weeks, when the thermometer starts edging into the 90’s, it’s nice to break up the normal routine with a simple, crowd-pleasing dish that’s great the first, second, and even third time around.
As an added bonus, my 10 month old twins LOVED this dish. I think it was a combination of the textures, their love of cheese, and the ease with which the chunks of salad can be unceremoniously shoveled into open mouths.
That’s not saying you will have to unceremoniously shovel your own serving (and/or rub it in your hair)… but you may want to. You have been warned.
Caprese Pasta Salad:
- 3/4 lb (12 oz) pasta – cooked according to package directions
- 1 pint (the smaller container that they come in at the store) cherry tomatoes – halved
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella – cut into small cubes (or 1 8 0z container mozzarella pearls)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil – diced
- 1 fresh cucumber – cut into similar-sized chunks
- Optional: small cubes of pepperoni or peppered salami
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive Oil – at least three tablespoons
- Balsamic vinegar – at least 1/4 of a cup
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. I like to use a veggie pasta, like the vegetable Barilla rotini, to trick myself into thinking this is healthier than it actually is. Drain the pasta when it’s cooked, and run it under cold water.
As the pasta is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Thankfully, this simply involved chopping up the mozz, basil, tomatoes, cucumber, and sausage (if you’re including it). One of the tricks to a balanced pasta salad is using similar-sized ingredients, so make sure relatively uniform. Don’t stress over it, it’s just a nice thing to have.
When you’ve got everything ready, go ahead and toss it all together.
Notice I didn’t include exact measurements for the dressing ingredients. This is truly a “season to taste” type of recipe.
Start with about 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, the three tablespoons of oil, and the 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar.
Dump it in and mix it all around, grab a fork, and give it a taste. Offer a taste to a friend. Figure out what it needs more of, and add a little of whatever it is. Keep going until you think it tastes good.
Serve and enjoy!