On our recent trip to Italy, I probably had caprese almost a dozen times. My favorite was in a little Tuscan town, Montalcino, at Grappolo Blu for lunch one day. It was perfect! I knew I needed to start eating caprese at home. It’s so simple and easy to make, yet so delicious. It’s a salad usually made with buffalo mozzarella, plum tomatoes and basil.
I was watching TV the other day and they were demonstrating a recipe for pasta caprese and I knew I had to try it. I expected to like it, but what I hadn’t expected was how much my family loved it. The flavors are so fresh and the summer tomatoes were still fabulous. It’s definitely one I’ll make again and again.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (see note above)
- 1 small garlic clove — minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
- 1 small shallot — minced fine (about 2 tablespoons)
- Table salt and ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes — cored, seeded, and cut into
- 1/2-inch dice
- 12 ounce fresh mozzarella cheese — cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see note)
- 1 lbs penne pasta or other short tubular or curly pasta such as fusilli or campanelle
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I didn’t have fresh and used dried)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (see note)
Whisk oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt,and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add tomatoes and gentlytoss to combine; set aside. Do not marinate tomatoes for longer than 45minutes.
While tomatoes are marinating, place mozzarella on plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes.
Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain well.
Add pasta and mozzarellato tomato mixture and gently toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.
Note: This dish will be very warm, not hot. The success of this recipe depends on high-quality ingredients, including ripe, in-season tomatoes and a fruity olive oil. Don’t skip the step of freezing the mozzarella, as freezing prevents it from turning chewy when it comes in contact with the hot pasta. If handmade buffalo- or cows-milk mozzarella is available (its commonly found in gourmet and cheese shops packed in water), we highly recommend using it, but skip the step of freezing and add it to the tomatoes while marinating. Additional lemon juice or up to 1 teaspoon sugar can be added at the end to taste, depending on the ripeness of the tomatoes.