The past few weeks have been really heavy, for a lot of us. I don’t know if there seems to be more heartache in our world right now, or if we’ve all just slowed down enough to finally see and feel it all. But either way, I know this time is hard for a lot of us. And while I recognize that sharing a Caprese pasta salad recipe today isn’t necessarily “fixing” anything that’s going on in our world, sometimes when I don’t know what to do, I cook.
Food has always been a source of comfort and calm for me. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I cook. Lately, it’s been a lot of bread (if you’ve been following along with me in my Instagram stories you’ve probably witnessed my sourdough obsession), plates of pasta, and food from childhood. Comfort food. Things that make me feel good. After all, food is supposed to make us happy.
The past few months I’ve been making a lot of dishes from my childhood; tuna noodle casserole with ritz crackers on top (minus the tuna for me ;), chocolate chip cookies, pizza bread, and every pasta dish under the sun, including a twist on an old pasta salad I remember my mom making every summer.
Growing up as a child, I remember in the summers my mom would always make a huge Tupperware container filled with fusilli pasta smothered in Kraft Zesty Italian dressing, cubed cheddar cheese, and salami. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? It went just about everywhere we did. I can remember the Tupperware my mom always used too. It was a huge oversized green bowl.
While this pasta salad doesn’t have any Zesty Italian dressing or the curly fusilli shaped noodles, it’s just as yummy. Instead, I used tiny ditalini pasta, which is one of my personal favorites. And instead of the “cubed” cheddar cheese, I opted for big scoops of fresh ricotta that gets mixed right in to create a creamy velvety texture.
One of my favorite things about this Caprese pasta salad is how I cook the pasta. It’s cooked right in the sauce (very similar to how I cook my one-pot lemon pasta ). I start with a large dutch oven filled with shallots, garlic, lemon, and chicken stock, that the pasta actually cooks in. Which creates a beautiful sauce and velvety texture. The pasta gets drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh herbs. Super simple, but the flavor of the lemon and garlic and basil really shine here.
Then right on top, I add generous scoops of creamy fresh ricotta cheese, seasoned tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts. It’s light, and refreshing and such an easy summer dish.
- I lb of Ditalini pasta
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- 4 large shallots, minced
- 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 lemon
- 4 cups of chicken stock
- 1 - 2 cups of water
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (or other tomatoes) sliced and seasoned with salt/pepper
- 1 cup of fresh ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup of pine nuts, toasted
- a handful of fresh basil
- extra olive oil for garnish
- In a large pot (I like to use my dutch oven for this) add the olive oil and shallots and cook over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes or until shallots are translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute (being careful not to burn the garlic). Season with salt/pepper.
- Once shallots/garlic are cooked, add the juice of one lemon, 4 cups of chicken stock and 1 cup of water (you may need a second cup of water, but start with 1, to begin with). Bring to a simmer/low boil and add the ditalini pasta. Stir to combine.
- Allow pasta to cook at a simmer/low boil for 7-9 minutes, stirring often, until pasta is al dente. If the pasta begins to "stick" to the bottom or absorb all of the liquid, you can add the additional 1 cup of water (adding ½ cup at a time).
- Once pasta is done cooking, remove the pot from heat and give the pasta a good stir. At this stage, I like to add an extra drizzle of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons) to keep the pasta from "sticking". Then transfer to a serving dish
- Add a few generous mounds of ricotta directly on the pasta. Sprinkle with salt/pepper. Then add the cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and a handful of fresh basil.
- To serve toss all together and drizzle with additional olive oil
For other pasta inspiration, but sure to check out our Cavatappi pasta with spring onions and morels, and our one-pot lemon pasta.