This past weekend, we had a little family cookout to celebrate our sons’ graduation. It’s sad that so many seniors, both high school and college, missed out on bigger celebrations this year, but it is what it is. I keep telling myself, “this too shall pass,” but for now, we’re making the best of it.
We’re still hoping that some “real” ceremonies will be able to happen later this summer, but when you’ve worked so hard for this achievement, it seems anti-climactic to finish without at least some kind of acknowledgment. So, we decided a smallish family barbecue would be a good way to celebrate until we can have the real deal later this summer, hopefully.
My husband got up early on Saturday morning and got some meat going on his smoker. My mother-in-law brought some fruit and her famous cheesy potatoes. We made baked beans, corn bread, and this amazing Caprese Pasta Salad.
If you know me, you know my love of all things caprese. I wait all year for the fresh garden tomatoes to be ready, as well as my herb garden basil. Oh my word. Caprese is definitely in my top 10 favorite foods.
This caprese version of a pasta salad just screams “SUMMER!” It was perfect for our graduation outdoor barbecue celebration.
You’ll need a pound of pasta, cooked according to the package directions. I used a spiral pasta, but bow tie pasta, mostaccioli, or penne would work fine, too.
After your pasta is cooked, drain it well and transfer it to a large bowl. Dressing the pasta while it is still warm allows the vinaigrette to absorb into the noodles better.
In a mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Whisk together until well-mixed, then pour over warm pasta and toss until all the noodles are coated.
Place the pasta salad into the fridge for a couple of hours until chilled.
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
I can’t wait for my garden tomatoes to be ready to use in dishes like this, but for now, some sweet grape tomatoes from Costco worked well. I like the Sugar Bomb or Angel Sweet varieties the best. Costco sells them in bigger containers for a good price, but you can also find both at the grocery store, too. I got Angel Sweet grape tomatoes with my last Whole Foods delivery.
Cut the tomatoes in half and toss into the salad. I used about a pint.
The little “pearl” fresh mozzarella balls would be lovely in here, but again, Costco is my go-to, and I usually buy their double packs of pre-sliced fresh mozzarella because it’s such a great price. We use it on homemade pizzas on the grill, so I frequently have it on hand.
I used about 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, but feel free to add more to your liking!
My herb box was teeming with fresh basil, and this was the perfect use for it. I picked a large handful and added it about 30 minutes before serving the salad, to make sure it was still fresh and green.
I like the fresh basil to be cut into long, pretty ribbons, so I stack a couple of leaves together, roll them up, and then chiffonade them by cutting them into thin slices with a pair of kitchen scissors.
The finishing touch and pièce de résistance is a pretty drizzle of balsamic glaze.
You can make your own glaze by making a simple reduction of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, which I often do. Or, when you’re in a hurry you can buy a pre-made glaze in a bottle. I got this one at Hy-Vee, but Trader Joe’s also has a good one.
If you love Caprese salad as much as I do, you won’t be disappointed in this! The leftovers are great for a light summer lunch, too. 🍅
Caprese Pasta Salad
For the dressing:
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 clove garlic minced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the pasta salad:
- 1 lb pasta, cooked spiral, bow tie, or other of your choice
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella cubed
- 2 pints grape tomatoes halved
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
- balsamic glaze for drizzling
- In a medium bowl, combine oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and whisk until combined.
- Add the cooked and drained pasta to a large bowl while still warm. Drizzle with dressing and mix to coat the pasta. Chill in fridge until cooled.
- Add the halved grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and thinly sliced basil. Mix to combine.
- Garnish with sliced basil, drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve.