Every year I plant a bunch of herbs. I have a few perennials set aside in a certain area of our land, but the annuals I just do in containers. One that I always plant is basil. Is there anything like the scent of fresh basil??? it is one of those smells that just makes me think “summer”. Problem is, me being, well, me, I inevitably plant more than we can use. I love basil, but I get busy and forget to actually USE it. I’ll grab a handful for spaghetti sauce, I’ll snip a few leaves to use with a sliced up tomato and some olive oil. Then that will be it. I’ll talk a good game about using the 496 plants for a few
hundred batches of pesto, but I never get to it. Then, Autumn comes, the first frost comes and I am left kicking myself because my basil died. I’m sad and then next Spring the cycle starts all over again.
So this year I only bought TWO basil plants. That’s it; two. And what does that mean? That suddenly, I find myself wanting basil all the time to the point where my poor plants can’t keep up the supply. Nature can’t win with me. But I’m afraid to buy another plant or two. Because what will happen is that craving will die and so will my basil plants.
But…!! This salad is a great way to use about 1/2 of a cup (which is a fair amount of leaves) of the lovely green stuff. Every year, one of the things I do is make a Caprese pasta. I usually make a hot dinner of it though, with spaghetti or a similar pasta and the cheese all melted in it. While that is absolutely wonderful, I wanted to try my hand at a chilled salad this time. I am totally pleased with what I came up with. This is about as easy as it gets. I used a good quality bottled Italian dressing in this. You are, of course, free to make your own dressing, but I was going for easy and tasty, not involved. With this salad, the most involved part is chopping the basil and the tomatoes. Hard work, ehh? Make sure you let this chill for a bit; at least a couple of hours. You want those flavors to blend and then blend some more. Then, just garnish it with some fresh basil for decoration and a sprinkling of pepper for flavor, check for needed salt one last time and chow down.
Chilled Caprese Pasta Salad
- 1 16 to 19 ounce package frozen tortellini, cooked according to package direction, then drained and rinsed in cold water
- 8 ounces ciliegine mozzarella ( those are the small balls, usually found in tubs packed in water)
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 cup finely chopped green onion (I know this isn’t a typical ingredient for caprese, but it adds a nice flavor)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (same as what I said for the green onion)
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup good Italian dressing
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (this is one of those times when the cheaper powdery stuff is acceptable, even preferred, because it coats and clings better than freshly grated)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pour the tortellini on a layer of paper towels and gently pat dry. Place them in a large bowl.
- Add the mozzarella, the tomatoes, green onion, lemon zest and basil to the bowl with the tortellini. Gently toss together.
- Pour in the Italian dressing and toss to coat.
- Sprinkle the Parmesan on and again, toss to coat. Give it a taste, then add some salt and pepper. I’m not giving a specific amount here because tastes vary. You may be not a huge salt person, but others are, so I salt for your taste and then others can add more if they want it. Seems the best way to season something like a pasta salad.
- Pour the salad into a serving bowl. Cover and chill for at least two hours. Garnish with some basil and freshly ground pepper and serve.