The first time I had caprese, it was in a salad. Not the traditional caprese salad you may be thinking of – which is just sliced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella laying together in harmony, perfect as they are – but instead a big pile of salad greens with fresh basil leaves throughout, topped with cut tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Needless to say, it was incredibly good, so good that I often ordered in lieu of pizza at that restaurant (gasp). It has since been my go-to whenever I’m asked to bring an appetizer to a potluck – it’s hard to mess up.
And in the warm months, it’s hard to imagine a better thing to eat. Basil and tomatoes are at their freshest and if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, you can just go grab handfuls of both right outside. It is a big, bold, underlined item on my Life Goals list to have a garden of my own, and when I do, it will be required to house many bunches of my beloved basil.
Here, we’ve got another slight variation on the tomato, mozz, basil holy trinity: toss ’em with pasta. This caprese pasta salad has a twist, too: the tomatoes are quickly roasted in olive oil and garlic until they blister and soften in the oven, taking away any bitterness and replacing it with earthy sweetness. I had a hard time not plucking them all off of the pan and eating them before assembling the pasta. The roasted tomatoes get tossed with whatever pasta you like, ribbons of basil, and mozzarella in a bright vinaigrette. It’s equally good cold, room temperature, or warm, which makes it a great take-along meal for potlucks, parties, or just your desk at work.
- 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 16 - ounce package dried pasta (rotini or penne)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 8 ounces small fresh mozzarella balls or cubed fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cup snipped fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 450F. Place tomato halves (cut side up) on a large baking sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the oregano, oregano, garlic, and salt and then drizzle the 1/4 cup olive oil over them, evenly coating. Roast the tomatoes for about 20-25 minutes or until they begin to get browned spots and are collapsing. Try not to burn them, but it's ok if little spots have some char.
- While tomatoes are roasting, prepare the pasta according to package directions and then drain. In a large bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together (1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, and pepper). When the pasta is done and drained, add it to the bowl with the dressing and mix it all together to coat.
- When tomatoes have finished roasting, add them to the pasta (including any drippings from the pan). Toss together with the mozzarella balls and fresh basil. Serve room temperature, cold, or hot - all are delicious!
Recipe adapted slightly from Midwest Living