Caprese Pasta Salad

Caprese Pasta Salad

If you’ve been reading this blog for much time, you probably know that I’m a big fan of culinary challenges. Unusual ingredients, strange kitchen set ups – you name it. Recently though, I completed a trial like no other.

I spent two weeks as a vegetarian.

Yes, it’s true. Your humble blogger and avowed carnivore went fourteen days without a single bite of meat. It was part of a deal that my girlfriend and I made to “eat healthier,” because meat is “bad for you.” In exchange she agreed to give up sweets for two weeks. I think I got the raw end of the deal.

(For the record, there is ample evidence to suggest that eating less meat contributes to better overall health. There, I admitted it.)

So what did I learn from the experience?

It wasn’t as hard as I expected, for starters. I didn’t really crave meat the way I thought I would. Although I was more hungry more frequently, I generally found myself snacking on healthier foods. The worst part was the inconvenience of seeing something great on the menu and not being able to order it. Also, meat substitutes are anything but a substitute for actual meat.

Unfortunately, I also rediscovered that I’m not great at working up vegetarian recipes. I leaned heavily on other blogs and cookbooks when planning out my meals. If you’re looking for vegetarian inspiration, I highly recommend Smitten Kitchen, My New Roots, and any cook book by Yotam Ottolenghi.

The one dish I did come up with was this Caprese Pasta Salad, although it’s not really an original concept. Caprese has been blowing away people’s taste buds for centuries with its delicious simplicity and elegant presentation.

This spin gives it enough heft to move from appetizer to appetite satisfier by embedding the sweet cherry tomatoes and creamy mozzarella in marinated pasta and garlicky zucchini.Light but filling, this Caprese Pasta Salad will look and taste great on your end of summer table!

(Also pairs well with a nicely grilled steak)

Caprese Pasta Salad (serves 4)

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Salad Ingredients

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 6 oz. rotini pasta
  • 25-30 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut or torn into 1/4 inch bits
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the over to 350 degrees. Toss the diced zucchini and garlic together with a dash of olive oil and spread evenly across a pan or casserole dish. Cook until the zucchini just begins to become translucent, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Cook the pasta al dente so that it has just a bit of bite left to it (generally 1 to 2 fewer minutes than the instructions on the box). Drain the pasta and empty it into a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the pasta and mix until evenly distributed. Refrigerate the marinated pasta while you prepare the other ingredients and wait for the zucchini to finish cooking.
  4. Remove marinated pasta from the refrigerator and add all the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can be served immediately or refrigerated for up to three days.
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