Whenever I am fortunate to be eating in a restaurant that has a wood-fired oven, I like to order a Margherita pizza. In my opinion, this simple and classic combination of tomato, fresh mozarella, and basil is the perfect way to enjoy a good quality pie. I haven't had one in a while, but, for some reason, as I was dreaming up a pasta salad for tonight's supper, the image of a Margherita pizza popped into my head. Once it did, it wasn't going anywhere! So, I decided to just roll with it.
I kept the salad very simple, just like the original concept. I tossed some cold fusilli, halved grape tomatoes, and quartered bocconcini in a homemade garlic-infused olive oil and let the mixture marinate for a few hours. In order to keep the basil as fresh as possible, I waited until I was ready to serve the salad before tearing the leaves and adding them in. I sprinkled a little bit of asiago on top as a garnish, and I was good to go!
Sometimes, simple is best. Tomato, fresh mozarella, and basil are a classic for a reason; the combination of the three just tastes right! (A little garlic in the background never hurt anyone, either.) The Margherita pasta salad was very refreshing, and I think it will be perfect for warm weather cooking, alongside just about anything. Why not borrow flavours from one dish to create another? I'm glad I did!
Margherita Pasta Salad: The Recipe
Amanda's notes: When cooking pasta, make sure your water is very salty--like the ocean! This is your one chance to add flavour to the pasta itself. If you do it right, you won't even have to add salt to the final dish before serving.
1 pkg fusilli pasta
1 container bocconcini (200 g), quartered (or whole baby bocconcini)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup garlic-infused olive oil*
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 bouquet fresh basil leaves
grated asiago, to garnish
Cook pasta to al dente in plenty of boiling, salted water; drain, rinse under cold water until cool. Toss with bocconcini and tomatoes, add olive oil and toss to coat. Add plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, stir, and set in fridge for at least a couple of hours. Stir occasionally.
When ready to serve, tear basil leaves and fold into pasta. Taste and season if necessary. Garnish salad with grated asiago, serve immediately. Enjoy!
*To make your own garlic-infused olive oil, pour 3/4 cup of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add 2 or 3 peeled and smashed cloves of garlic. Once oil heats and bubbles for 5 minutes, strain and cool.