True story – I used to be scared of making pesto. It seemed fancy, which often equates to being difficult. Then I found out the truth: pesto is herbs, garlic, cheese and some toasted nuts all ground together with oil, all with approximate measuring. Very easy and very, very not scary. I used 3 “verys” in that sentence, so you know I’m being serious.
Traditionally you use pine nuts, but I’ve been known to sub in walnuts and even macadamia and it still was heavenly. Basil is also the standard herb, but sometimes I throw in a little parsley, and my neighbor once told me you can make mint pesto. That pretty much sums up why I’m never moving. It’s hard to find good neighbors like that.
Here’s the thing about measuring – don’t go too crazy on being precise. If you really love garlic, throw in an extra clove. If it doesn’t look green enough for you, add in more herbs. Seriously, with ingredients like these it just isn’t going to taste bad, no matter how hard you try.
This pasta salad caused quite the controversy at my house, all because I have family members that hate basil, which I imagine made me feel the same way they felt when I confessed to being a Democrat (horrors!) and so we couldn’t agree as to whether pesto is delicious or not. I never knew that there could be such an argument, it’s like debating whether puppies are cute. OF COURSE pesto is delicious, I would use it as toothpaste if I could. Or, you know, on my pasta salad.
Caprese Pasta Salad
I like to marinate my tomatoes in some balsamic vinegar, but you can omit this step if you prefer.
1 lb short pasta (penne, rigatoni, rotini, etc.)
1 bunch (approx 1 cup) basil
A few sprigs parsley (approx 1/3 cup)
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
8 – 10 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
One large ball of FRESH mozzarella cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper
Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente – when it still has a little bit of bite.
Meanwhile, combine the fresh herbs, cheese, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and blend while slowly streaming in olive oil. Stop once the mixture has reached a saucy consistency (this is sort of up to you, I tend to like my pesto to be a little thicker, while some like a thinner consistency.)
Once it has finished cooking, drain the hot pasta and immediately transfer to a large bowl. Pour the pesto sauce over the hot pasta and stir. The heat will release all the flavor from the herbs and garlic – YUM! Allow the mixture to cool.
In a small bowl, combine the cherry tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar and allow to marinate for about 15-30 mins. Remove the tomatoes, leaving behind the excess vinegar. Toss the tomatoes and cheese with the pasta and serve!