|Mozzarella, tomatoes and basil—the ingredients of a Caprese salad, get adapted to a Caprese pasta salad. Photo courtesy Zabar’s.
Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe
Insalata Caprese Is A Year-Round Favorite
Caprese Salad History
Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri) is a favorite of many people—perhaps all the more precious because one of its four ingredients, tomatoes (along with basil, mozzarella di bufala and olive oil) are splendid for such a short period of each year.
Food historians can’t determine if the Caprese salad actually originated on the Italian island of Capri, but it is credited to the Campania region of Italy, on the southwest coast.
Made of sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Basil is indigenous to Italy and mozzarella and olive oil have been made since ancient Roman times (olive oil is actually much older). The other key ingredients arrived much later:
- Mozzarella di bufala, used today instead of cow’s milk mozzarella, arrived—around 1000 C.E.,* introduced by the Arabs to Sicily.
- Tomatoes were brought back from the New World in 1529, but those original tomatoes—the size of cherry tomatoes—were first used as ornamental houseplants. They weren’t eaten until
*Source: Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. This is the current best historical guess. History of mozzarella di bufala.
However, insalata caprese became popular throughout the Western world after it became a favorite of King Farouk of Egypt, who discovered it during the a vacation in the 1950s (and probably invented the first insalata caprese sandwich—said to be his favorite way of eating it).
At some point, balsamic vinegar was offered as an addition to the plain olive oil (although fine olive oil as the sole condiment is sufficiently flavorful). Caprese salad is also called insalata tricolore, referring to the three colors of the Italian flag (green, white and red). Outside of tomato season, radicchio, red bell peppers or sundried tomatoes can be substituted.
Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe
This easy pasta salad actually works year-round, since cherry tomatoes and fresh basil are always in season. For the summer, it makes a great picnic lunch or light dinner, and is a popular addition to any buffet. This recipe is courtesy Andrea Watman, creative director of Zabar’s in New York City. Andrea uses bow tie pasta (farfalle, which means butterflies in Italian); but you can substitute your favorite short cut.
- 1 pound bow tie pasta (farfalle)
- 1 whole bulb fresh garlic
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 1 box ripe cherry tomatoes
- 1 pound bocconcini (bite-size fresh mozzarella balls; you can substitute ciliegine [cherry size] or perlini [pearl size] if you can’t find bocconcini)
- 1 small red onion, minced (optional; you can substitute chives)
- 1 large red or green bell pepper, diced (optional; if you like heat, you can mince a jalapeño chile (remove seeds and white ribs)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta in salted water according to the directions on the box (9 to 11 minutes). The pasta should be al dente, not overcooked. (Remember that the pasta will continue to cook after it’s drained. Drain well.
- Clean and slice garlic.
- Place the olive oil in a small saucepan, add sliced garlic and slowly heat until garlic is tender and golden. Do this at a low temperature and be patient—you don’t want the garlic to burn.
- Put warm pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add heated oil and garlic and toss.
- Rinse tomatoes and cut in half. Add to pasta.
- Cut fresh basil into thin strips (julienne). Add to pasta along with optional onion and bell pepper.
- Add bocconcini. If you can not find bocconcini, you can add the smaller perlini; or you can cut a whole mozzarella into cubes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Recipe © 2011 Andrea Watman. All rights reserved. All other material
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