Thursday, September 8, 2011

Black Tie Caprese Pasta Salad

This Spring I took a weekend trip to Seattle and met up with some girlfriends. Three of whom are professional chefs. Not bad company to keep. It was a fun little trip where we ate pretty much everything we could get our hands on without shame. 

We went Here (and ordered the entire menu).

And Here.

Took a tour of Here (and brought lots of goodies home).

And dined Here (the Tart Tatine.OMG).

We watched them throw fish at the market and waited in line for approximately two years for some mini donuts. Or 20 minutes, whatever. I picked up these beautiful little bow ties at a shop outside of Pike Place Market. I can't remember the name, but Google says it might be here.

The store was full of fancy schmancy things like saffron infused oil and truffle salt (never liked truffle much). I taste tested the gourmet offerings but I wasn’t compelled to bring anything home until I saw these little guys. So dapper! I still have a bag of rainbow striped ones in my cupboard waiting for the perfect recipe. Any suggestions?

I wanted to use the pretty pasta in a dish that would let it shine, something without a thick sauce to mar its beauty. I think this simple caprese pasta salad does a fine job of that. And this dish will be perfectly delicious with whatever pasta you use. It’s all in the balsamic reduction. That’s where the magic is. It is delightful drizzled over thin slices of steak as well.

Caprese Pasta Salad with Balsamic Reduction


250 gr. dry pasta of your choice
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tub (500 gr.) fresh mozzarella/ boconcini (I used Tre Stelle pearls, I like the slightly larger ones as opposed to the mini mini ones)
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup of your favorite balsamic vinegar - I used fig balsamic!

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and drizzle with a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking to iteself. Refrigerate to cool.

2. To make balsamic reduction add 1 cup of the vinegar to a small saucepan set on med-high. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly and quickly. Don't leave the room while this is going on, it can burn up on you very quickly! It is done when the vinegar is thick and syrupy and has reduced by about half. Set aside.

3. Make a Chiffonade of the basil by rolling the leaves tightly lengthwise and then slicing thinly perpendicularly. You should end up with fine, thin strips of basil.

4. When the pasta has cooled add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. If you want you can drizzle with a little more olive oil to loosen the pasta up, but don't over do it. Add salt and pepper to your liking and mix it all up.

Drizzle the balsamic reduction over each plate. I added lots more to mine than you see in the picture. You can even make extra to use on salads, grilled steak, chicken, or fish. Yum. This makes quite a lot of pasta and the leftovers will keep for a few days. However, I do recommend bringing it to room temperature before eating, as the flavors are so much more pronounced this way. I also hate cold tomatoes. Ew.




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