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Monday, August 5, 2013

Caprese Pasta Salad

Caprese Pasta Salad + Hodgson Mill #SummerPastabilities Contest & Giveaway |
So, I don't know if you'd noticed or not,'s still hot outside!  Summer is in full-swing, and between cook-outs and bonfires, potlucks and camping trips, baseball games and pool parties, there are plenty of opportunities for mindless eating.  However, that means equal opportunities for conscious eating!

(Most) People naturally gravitate towards fresher options in summertime, since they abound between gardens, farmer's markets, and roadside stands.  It's hard to resist the allure of a rainbow, no matter what form it shows up in.

A great way to get that beneficial rainbow into your system is by adding fresh vegetables to your meals, alongside (and in) your usual dishes.  Think eggs, rice, grains, pasta, and the like.  Speaking of pasta, pasta salad shows up at summertime functions all the time...and a fantastic way to "healthify" those offerings are by adding those fresh fruits and veggies, as well as switching up plain white pasta for a whole wheat variety such as Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat pasta.

One of everybody's favorite summertime salads is a Caprese Salad.  Am I right?  I know it's one of mine.  Well, I wanted to take the flavors of Caprese and combine them with the whole wheat pasta for a simple, fresh take on a pasta salad.  By turning bright green basil into a pesto, which is perfectly cupped by the whole wheat bow ties, this takes the place of a heavy mayonnaise-based sauce.  The mozzarella component comes in the form of those irresistible little "pearls" of cheese.  The tomatoes?  The bright, sunny taste is concentrated by slow-roasting some juicy vine-ripened cherry or grape tomatoes.  Now, not everybody likes the addition of Balsamic vinegar, but if you do, drizzle a  bit on right before serving up this salad.
Caprese Pasta Salad + Hodgson Mill #SummerPastabilities Contest & Giveaway |
What's that?  Did you say something?  I thought I heard somebody scream SUMMER!

Oh wait, that was just the Caprese Pasta Salad...

Caprese Pasta Salad
This recipe for Caprese Pasta Salad is a welcome twist on everybody's favorite summer salad containing tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.
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by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes (active) | 30 mi
Cook Time: 7-9 minutes
Keywords: simmer side entree salad vegetarian sugar-free soy-free basil cheese pasta tomatoes July 4th Labor Day Memorial Day summer

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 1 (10 ounce) box Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Bow Ties
  • 1/2 cup Basil Pesto, storebought or homemade (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup Slow-Roasted Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, storebought or homemade
  • 8 ounces Mozzarella Pearls or Bocconcini
  • Aged Balsamic Vinegar, optional
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Cook pasta until al dente in a large pot of boiling, salted water, 7-9 minutes. Drain pasta, shaking to remove excess water, and then place the pasta into a medium-sized bowl. Add the basil pesto, and toss until the pesto coats each and every piece of pasta. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature, 30-40 minutes (you don't want to melt the mozzarella).

Once the pasta has come to room temperature, add the slow-roasted tomatoes and mozzarella pearls. Toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

You can serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (it's good cold or at room temperature). If you like, drizzle the salad (or the edges of the plate) with a little Balsamic vinegar to taste, just before serving.

I recommend using a good, aged Balsamic Vinegar here. Balsamic that has been aged for at least 8 years will be thicker and sweeter (and pricier, but you only need a tiny bit). If you don't want to buy the expensive stuff, you can take a little shortcut by reducing a young Balsamic on the stove top.

Add at least double the amount of Balsamic that you want to use to a small pan over medium-high heat. Once it starts to bubble, adjust heat to keep a steady simmer going. Let simmer until reduced by at least half, it should be thick enough to sit on top of the pasta salad when you drizzle it (as opposed to seeping in). You really want to babysit the vinegar, because the reduction process happens pretty fast, especially when you're just doing a small batch. Let cool completely before using.

equipment needed:
large pot (for cooking pasta)
colander or strainer
medium bowl
large spoon
food processor, any size (if making your own pesto)
baking sheet (if slow-roasting your own tomatoes)

making Homemade Basil Pesto (about the amount you'll need for this recipe):
4 ounces fresh basil leaved, rinsed gently and patted dry
2 tablespoons (or so) extra virgin olive oil
1 fat cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
few grinds of black pepper
scant 1/2 cup (scant 1 ounce) finely shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lightly toasted, unsalted pine nuts

Combine basil, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Turn on low speed while drizzling in the olive oil. Process until everything has come together, stopping to scrape down the bowl once, if needed.

Add the cheese and pine nuts, process again until everything is just combined. Taste, and adjust lemon juice and seasoning, if needed.
Caprese Pasta Salad + Hodgson Mill #SummerPastabilities Contest & Giveaway |

I was provided with 6 boxes of Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pasta. I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions stated here are 100% my own.