Many years ago while living in Switzerland, we often traveled on the weekends. I vividly remember our weekend excursions to Como, Italy. On our way we always visited our friends at their home in Lugano, Switzerland for a lively day or night of laughter and dining. I freshly recall observing the chaos of ingredients being prepared with the joyful sounds of Italian conversation as the delicious meal was being concocted in the kitchen. One warm summer afternoon, a specific pasta dish struck me as a 'must-do once at home', and it has become a regular and favorite of my family. Qualities such as simplicity, few ingredients, healthy, lite and delight are words too good to be true. Conchiglie (shells), gigli, spirals or small penne pastas are my first pasta choices but many more options are possible. Explore your favorites, but favor the smaller pastas that you love the most. My friends prepared penne for us, and since I have tried many pasta variations, some work better that others, hence the reason I made my suggestions. That afternoon, as the pasta was boiling, the ingredients were cleaned, chopped, seasoned, and combined in time for the steaming hot al dente pasta to blend into the Caprese salad ingredients. Just as the mozzarella began to melt, everyone sat outside under the chestnut tree to enjoy the unimaginable simplicity of mouth-watering pasta blended with robust savory fresh ingredients. Leftovers from the meal make the best pasta salad for the next day.
16 oz. uncooked pasta, preferably smaller shell, penne or spiral pasta, as desired
2 cups cherry or vine tomatoes, chopped
4-6 oz. fresh mozzarella ciliegine, whole or sliced in half
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in half
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
15 basil leaves, sliced or torn by hand
3 tablespoons olive oil
1½ tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
parmesan cheese, grated
1. Cook pasta al dente, or as directed on package.
2. While the pasta is cooking, mix together tomatoes, mozzarella, onions, olives with olive oil and balsamic in a large serving bowl. If needed, add more olive oil to create a slightly thick sauce surrounding the vegetables. The olive oil will eventually coat and flavor the pasta when combined, so don't be shy. Add salt, pepper and basil leaves.
3. Drain pasta and immediately mix into freshly chopped vegetables. Continue to combine until all ingredients are mixed together and mozzarella begins to slightly melt. Grate with parmesan, if desired.
4. Leftovers make the perfect pasta salad. Refrigerate overnight and the next day let the pasta sit at room temperature to restore the original flavors. If needed drizzle a few drops of olive oil over the salad and lunch is ready!