As I mentioned in this post, my favorite food in the whole world is Caprese.
"Caprese" refers to something that comes from or is in the style of Capri (my favorite little island in all of Italy and, lets be honest, the world). Capri is a small island off the coast near Naples and Pompeii.
Caprese consists of cheese, tomato and basil. These flavors are great together and the colors are the colors of the Italian flag. The name of the island Capri, comes from "capra", the Italian work for "goat". (In English, "caprine" refers to anything having to do with goats). A real insalata caprese (Caprese salad), is not made with goat's milk cheese but with true Mozzarella di Bufala Campana - buffalo's milk mozzarella made in certain designated areas of Italy.
I am not a stickler for where my fresh mozzarella comes from when I make Caprese. When you live in the US of A, you can't always designate that your mozzarella be from a certain area or even made from buffalo's milk. I take what I can get in the fresh mozzarella compartment.
To make Caprese a more hearty dish (because sometimes a salad just doesn't cut it), I combined it with pasta, specifically a corkscrew pasta. The corkscrew pasta works best because parts of the mozzarella, tomato and basil really get in it and stick to the pasta.
Here is how I make my Caprese Pasta. It serves 4-6 and only takes about 10-15 minutes to make.
1 pd Fusilli or corkscrew pasta
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic - minced
3 C cherry tomatoes (this is about 1 1/2 pints of cherry tomatoes)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 C fresh basil leaves - torn
16 ounces fresh mozzarella - diced
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still firm, stirring occasionally (about 8-10 minutes).
2. Drain the pasta into a large bowl and reserve about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.
3. In a medium skillet head olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. As the tomatoes cook, smash them with a fork. Continue to cook until the tomatoes make a chunky style sauce (about 4 minutes).
4. Transfer the tomato sauce to the large bowl with pasta and toss to combine. Add the torn basil leaves and diced mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add the reserved cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time until the pasta is moist.
This recipe is super and easy and the smashed tomatoes give the dish a rough, more authentic Italian feel.
** I also cook a spiced chicken breast on the side for my husband. He always demands meat with his meal so I dice it up and he puts it on top of his pasta. **
The flavors of this dish lend itself to additions or being modified. I recommend trying it once my way and then making it your own. Sometimes I add mushrooms or shrimp just for variation.
This way is my favorite and is excellent leftover for at least a week.
I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear what variations you would do with this!