Sunday, September 13, 2009

Road Trip: Kate's Caprese Pasta Salad

One and one half years ago, my husband and I took our first cross-country road trip. We drove 4,400 miles (exactly), and visited 14 cities in 13 days. Our first day consisted of driving as far as we possibly could before stopping at a roadside motel in the middle of nowhere, to then make it to our first destination the next day. In an effort to save time from having to stop for food, and in fear of not knowing what kind of food we’d be able to find, I decided to make our meals for that day so we could eat while on the road. I really wanted to avoid traditional “car food” and come up with something a little more creative than sandwiches. I also needed something that could be served a room temperature (or the temperature of inside our cooler). I decided to turn one of my favorite foods into a pasta dish.

I added all of the elements of a caprese salad and tossed them with Fusilli pasta. (I have since adjusted the recipe to use Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta, which looks nicer, but the Fusilli was really easy to pick up with a plastic fork while driving and attempting to not drop pieces of pasta all over the car.) I added some grilled chicken breast for my meat-eating husband. I also added some lemon juice and zest to bring out the flavors, and some toasted pine nuts for more texture.

Wow! The end product was a success! We loved it so much that this has made it into our regular rotation. I have brought this dish to a number of pot-lucks, and it is a hit. When we set out for another road trip last summer, there was no question of what we’d be eating our first night driving down I-80.

Kate’s Caprese Pasta Salad
1 box of Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced
¼ cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
2 lemons (zest and juice)
1 container (or 1 large ball – approximately 8 oz.) of fresh mozzarella, cubed
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Kosher or Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper, to taste
Cook pasta in large pot of salted boiling water, per instructions on box.

Meanwhile, in large bowl combine olive oil, zest and juice of lemons, a pinch of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper each. Wisk ingredients together.

Drain pasta, but do not rinse, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Add pasta to bowl and stir. Allow pasta to cool, and then add remaining ingredients to pasta and stir. Add more seasoning to taste.

Optional: Grill or bake chicken breasts, slice, and serve on top of pasta. Chicken can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning; or marinated in Italian salad dressing.

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