Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fusilli alla Caprese

My girl crush with Giada De Laurentiis continues! I first saw this meal on Everyday Italian and thought it looked divine. A few weeks ago I saw it on Lauren's blog, La Cucina di Lauren, and I knew I had to rework our menu so I could try it this week.

This meal is great for summer--it's delicious and light and tastes great! It's also relatively light on calories. What I love about this meal is that it takes a well known Italian salad, a Caprese salad, and turns it into an amazing meal.

FYI, a Caprese salad is defined as a salad that features tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese. It originates from the island of Capri, off the Italian coast. It is considered part of the Province of Naples, where my mom's family comes from. Growing up, I felt like we ate Caprese EVERYTHING! But, I've got a soft spot in my heart for anything that originates from Naples, so naturally I had to try this dish.

Like I said, this is basically a Caprese salad with pasta. While I loved it served warm, I think it would also be excellent as a cold side salad at a cookout or church picnic or something. It's simple enough to be made the night before, and the ingredients are all fresh and easy to find in your local grocery store so just about anyone can make this meal.

Fusilli alla Caprese

1 pound fusilli pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 1 1/2 pints)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a medium skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. As the tomatoes cook and soften, smash them with a fork. Continue to cook until the tomatoes make a chunky style sauce, about 4 minutes.

Transfer the tomato sauce to the bowl with the pasta. Toss to combine.

Add the basil leaves and mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the pasta is moist. Serve.

Notes:
  • I didn't quarter the tomatoes, but next time I will. They still worked out fine, but if you don't quarter, use more tomatoes.
  • Speaking of, I only used a 1/2 box of pasta and a whole small container of cherry tomatoes. Worked out splendidly.
  • No fresh basil....mine is still growing and isn't yet tall enough to use in a recipe. Maybe by the end of the summer I'll have some fresh basil? Anywho, I had to use dried basil, and I just added a few sprinkles everytime I mixed the ingredients together.
  • I also used shredded mozz since we had some in the fridge. I prefer big chunks of fresh cheese, but...it was hot outside today and I wasn't going to the grocery store.
  • If you can't find Fusilli pasta, any curly-cue pasta will do.
  • Like Lauren said, the squish and pop from smashing the tomatoes is weirdly satisfying.

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