Musical pairing – Blue Skies by Eva Cassidy
I have always turned up my nose at pasta salads because, horror of horrors, I’m not a fan of mayonnaise and most recipes are dripping with the stuff . . . and cheese . . . and bacon . . . and peas . . . and a multitude of other ingredients making the end result much too starchy and gloppy for my taste.
I want a salad that is light, I want a salad that celebrates tomatoes. I want pasta that is perfectly cooked to al dente’. I want a salad with ever-so-slightly melted fresh mozzarella cheese. I want a salad that is bright and sings summer! And while we’re at it, is it too much to ask for a pair of jeans that fit my short stature and my curves??? Sorry, I got carried away with the ‘I wants’ . . .
I truly can’t remember which magazine I found this recipe in years ago (probably ‘Gourmet’), but I make it AT LEAST 5 times during the summer months – maybe more. And when winters are long here in Indiana (that’s an oxymoron, right??) I’ve been known to break out this recipe and imagine myself having a plate of it on the deck with The Professor, full sun, blue skies, gentle winds, the birds happily chirping at the feeders and all is right with the world.
The salad is ridiculously easy to make and is terrific when your garden is overflowing with fresh tomatoes (or in Santa Cruz where they offer these guys), but I almost always open a large can of San Marzanos since fresh tomatoes aren’t readily available in my neck of the woods. Here, the full flavor of the tomato is supported by the fruitiness of the olive oil; the cheese adds a bit of texture to the pasta and the basil just screams ‘summer’ to me. This is by far my most requested recipe when I’ve cooked for employees!
Do you have a favorite summer salad?
ITALIAN PASTA SALAD
Similar recipe in ‘Summer Entertaining’ from Cook’s Illustrated
1 lb Pasta – short pasta works best; I used a cheese tortellini and it was superb!
1 Large can San Marzano whole tomatoes; by all means, use fresh if you’ve got them!
1 Cup Mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces (can use fresh buffalo or water packed; just don’t use pre-shredded)
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the darker green, the better); more if needed after tossing
¼ Cup Fresh Basil, torn into pieces
Cook pasta according to package directions; make sure to season your water with plenty of salt; drain.
While pasta is cooking, in a large bowl, add olive oil, mozzarella, salty, pepper and tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes into bite-sized chunks (SMITH BITES NOTE: Take care when breaking up the tomatoes – they are juicy and can squirt unsuspecting victims . . . not that it’s happened to me . . .) Add drained hot pasta straight into the bowl, toss with tomato mixture, add torn basil leaves, toss lightly. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.
The hot pasta will melt the cheese somewhat and will also absorb all that tomato juice goodness – add a bit more olive oil or basil if you’d like.
Serve with garlic toasts and a glass of wine – MANGIA!!!