CSA Week 10, and Pasta Caprese
We just keep rockin’ and rollin’ with the great CSA produce here…last week’s share included cucumbers, swiss chard, carrots, a tomato, yellow squash, zucchini, garlic, field greens, a big bunch of beautiful basil, onions, Japanese eggplant (woo!), blue pattypan squash, and two adorable little lemon cucumbers! (they’re just to the right of the tomato in the picture above.)
And our fruit share: apricots, peaches and blueberries…I could die a happy woman.
As much as I’ve been rejoicing lately about the arrival of stone fruit on the summer produce scene, these past two weeks have marked the arrival of the other fruit I most eagerly anticipate for the summer growing season: heirloom tomatoes!! While I was in Ithaca during college, the Farmer’s Market was actually the first place I discovered that these beautiful tomato varieties existed — far, far different from the uniform and bland red tomatoes of my suburban supermarket youth. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was like a whole new world was opened up to me…green, purple, red-and-yellow-marbled; when I bit into a slice of one, it was as though I was tasting Tomato for the first time in my life.
beautiful! I especially loved the green one.
luscious, luscious, luscious
My Seasonal Cooking article in the summer issue of Edible Finger Lakes magazine is all about heirloom tomatoes, in fact! You can read the article online here, but you’ll have to pick up a copy in person (or better yet, subscribe!) to get the recipes I developed for the article — Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho and Marinated Heirloom Tomato Salad. While you’re on the Edible Finger Lakes web site, do take a look at the other articles in the summer issue; there’s some terrific writing about the return of the forbidden black currant, and why we can’t easily buy local fish here in the Finger Lakes.
But the recipe I do want to share with you today is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite summer dishes. It’s versatile — good eaten hot or cold — comes together in a snap, and just tastes of the essence of summer. Many of you, like me, probably love to eat simple Caprese salads when tomatoes are in season; there’s nothing better than ripe, sliced tomato eaten with fresh mozzarella, basil, some sea salt and extra-virgin olive oil. Mmm.
Add a little garlic and pasta to that mixture and you have Pasta Caprese:
toss together juicy tomato chunks, slivered basil, garlic, olive oil, and nubs of fresh mozzarella
add drained, cooled pasta and finish with some grated Parmesan
I first started making this dish in college, actually, with tomatoes that I grew in my family’s garden while I was home on break over the summer. It was originally a recipe in Cooking Light magazine, but I since have adapted it a little — using slightly more olive oil and really amping up the amount of tomatoes — and I love it even more now.
You can make this hot, prepping all the ingredients while the pasta cooks and then tossing everything together with the hot pasta. The cheese melts into little gooey blobs, the tomatoes and garlic and basil get nicely warmed up, and it’s a hot mouthful of heaven.
Just don’t make it hot then cool it down to serve cold the next day – let’s just say congealed melted mozzarella is not so great.
The way I’ve been making it lately is as a cold pasta salad, and it’s perfect for picnics or to bring to a potluck – everyone likes these flavors! Just cook your pasta, but then drain it and cool it thoroughly before tossing it with your tomato/basil/garlic/olive oil/mozzarella mixture.
It’s so, so good.
dig right in
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine
1 pound chunky pasta, preferably a shape that has some grooves or ridges
6-7 cups ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups basil, thinly sliced
1 cup (4 ounces) fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water. Drain and rinse to cool thoroughly (I know rinsing pasta is usually a no-no, but I find it works the best in this situation to stop the cooking process and get the pasta cooled quickly.)
Meanwhile, chop your tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; place in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, sea salt, minced garlic and plenty of freshly ground black pepper; toss with the tomato mixture.
Add the cooked, cooled pasta to the bowl and toss to combine. Add the Parmesan cheese and gently mix to combine.
Serve at room temperature, or store in the fridge if you’re not going to serve it right away.
Makes 6-8 servings