Cooking From Every Angle

Summer Pasta alla Caprese

June 22, 2010 • 30 Comments

Pasta Alla Caprese

- Merrill

My mother has always been great at "cooking by feel," and I owe her a lot of credit for any ability I possess in this domain. She has a knack for taking whatever is in the fridge or the pantry and throwing together a simple, delicious meal. I remember many a warm summer night when, motivated by a strong aversion to turning on the oven, my mother would whip up a quick pasta with a no-cook sauce. An oven burner was lighted for all of 15 minutes, and dinner was on the table.

One of my favorite iterations was a variation on a popular theme: pasta with raw tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and sometimes basil. (In case you missed them, there have been countless versions of this pasta published since the 1970s, including this one from Nigella Lawson in the New York Times). My mother decided to forgo the garlic, instead marinating diced fresh tomatoes and roughly chopped basil in a sea of olive oil spiked with a glug of good balsamic vinegar. After the tomatoes luxuriated in this aromatic bath for an hour or two, she would cook up some sort of beautiful, artisanal, corkscrew-shaped pasta (the kind she used was long like spaghetti and made me think of the ringlets of a beautiful princess) and fold it into the tomato-basil-oil-vinegar concotion, sometimes with a handful of diced fresh mozzarella or Brie, sometimes not. This room temperature pasta -- almost a pasta salad, really -- along with a big green salad, made the perfect dinner for a balmy summer evening.

My version incorporates finely chopped red onion in place of the classic garlic, but otherwise it's true to my mother's original recipe.

Summer Pasta alla Caprese

Serves 4 as a main course

  • 3 medium red, ripe tomatoes
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound curly pasta (I like cavatappi)
  • 1 medium ball fresh mozzarella

1.  A couple of hours before you plan to eat, core and roughly chop the tomatoes and tip them into a very large serving bowl. (You’ll be serving the pasta out of this very same bowl -- isn’t that great?) Add the chopped red onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil, a few healthy pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Gently stir these all together and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour so the flavors have a chance to meld.

2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of very salty water (as Amanda rightly says, it should taste like seawater) until al dente. Meanwhile, dice the mozzarella and add it to the big bowl of tomatoes, onion, basil, etc. 

3. When the pasta is done, drain it thoroughly and add it to the bowl. Gently fold everything together and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if you’d like. Let the pasta sit for 5 minutes or so before serving, folding gently a couple of times to distribute the tomato juices and olive oil. Serve with a big green salad, or as an accompaniment to some nice, juicy grilled steaks.

 

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Comments (30)

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about 4 years ago Merryl

Not quite sure where the name came from but my mom made a point of adding the extra "r" because she didn't want people to call me "Merle" (as in Haggard)

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Sounds familiar!

Naughtyandniceme

about 4 years ago AmandaJET

Thank you so much for this recipe! I was going to wait until the farmers' markets started really rolling here in southern Indiana -- excellent tomatoes, for one, won't start arriving for another couple of weeks -- but I made a pantry version of it over the weekend with canned tomatoes, shallots and marjoram (my basil seems to have wandered off) and it was a great and super-easy light lunch for a very hot and busy weekend. I bet it will be even better with all-fresh ingredients.

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about 4 years ago Food52

This is from your friendly editors at Food52.

Reminds me of Mario Batali's winter "Caprese" at Otto here in New York, which uses roasted tomatoes instead of fresh. Great idea!

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about 4 years ago Merryl

I've been making this for years - I use angel hair pasta and crumbled feta - delish!

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about 4 years ago Food52

This is from your friendly editors at Food52.

I'll have to try feta next time. I love the spelling of your name, by the way! How did you get the name Merryl? Mine's a family name.

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Whoops! That was Merrill, not food52 replying to your comment!

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about 4 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Made this last night, used chevre because it's what I had, and added mint because it needed picking - absolutely delicious. I may never cook my tomatoes and onions again. Thanks!!!!

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about 4 years ago Food52

This is from your friendly editors at Food52.

Yu-um!

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about 4 years ago Rhonda35

When I was a teenager, I discovered a recipe similar to this in a popular magazine (could have been Seventeen or maybe Glamour!) I made it every week throughout the summer and my whole family loved it. It was back in the days before fresh herbs were widely available, so it really was something special to have all that fresh basil macerating with ripe tomatoes and good olive oil. It's supposed to be over 90 degrees here all week so this post is perfectly timed!

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about 4 years ago Loves Food Loves to Eat

This sounds like the perfect, light, low on the fat/dairy, easy on the stomach pre-half marathon dinner! Just what I was hoping to make to prep for the big race!

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Wow. Hope it serves you well, and good luck!

Catherinejagers

about 4 years ago CatherineTornow

This looks like summer heaven in a bowl. I love it when you guys highlight simple goodness.

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Well, thanks!

Title01

about 4 years ago Teri

I make a similar thing, except I replace the cheese with ceviche and use a smaller pasta so the scallops and fish don't get overwhelmed. Talk about no-cook satisfaction. Maybe I hear a contest theme coming up?

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Sounds delicious!

Ozoz_profile

about 4 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

PS, when are we going to see Sara Shatz feature as 'chic' of the day - I am seriously seeking tips for dreamy photos so please include that in the Q & A. I enjoyed Martine's. Thanks . And I made the pasta salad but didn't post it....hmmm. Love the spoon too!

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Isn't that spoon great? It's Amanda's, but I covet it. And point taken re: Sarah. She is highly deserving!

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about 4 years ago C_lynn

Where can we pick up this spoon? I've checked the Food52 store, but it wasn't there.

Ozoz_profile

about 4 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

I made this last week during our mozzarella contest and it was heavenly. I called it caprese salsa....the freshness of the ingredients just takes the cake and you want to gently salt those tomatoes well ahead of time. Initially, the husband saw it, snickered and one forkful he was sold - in love, with it and me (I hope!)

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about 4 years ago KelseyTheNaptimeChef

Yum, I LOVE this. I've been making Pamela Sherrid's Summer Pasta (clipped from Amanda's article) for a long time, I can't wait to try this version with balsamic and onion!

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

That one is a real winner!

Lnd_jen

about 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

A summertime favorite - you've got to love a meal so simple it practically makes itself!

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

My thoughts exactly.

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about 4 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Now I want this for dinner! Seymour has made eleventy billion more tomatoes, so my version willl be a yellow tomato one ... thanks for the idea! I haven't tried pre-marinating the tomatoes before!

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Yum! I bet your version will be beautiful.

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about 4 years ago J-Dizzle

The Pasta Alla Caprese recipe sounds wonderful summery and light....looking forward to trying it out this weekend! Thanks...

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks -- hope it comes out well!

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about 4 years ago katekirk

There's no mozzarella in the ingredient list to dice in Step #2 :)

My solution: USE AS MUCH AS YOU WANT!

Merrill

about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I like that idea! Sorry about the omission -- it's there now!