Margherita Pasta Salad

When it comes to many things in life, including food, I have found that often times simple is best.  Margherita (not to be confused with margarita like the cocktail) pizza’s are known for their simplicity.  Authentic margherita pies are made of a simple salt dough, crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and basil.

This dish that I’m about to share with you is a play on margherita pizza.  You substitute good quality orecchiette pasta for dough, and then use all the classic margherita flavors to make a dish everyone will be asking for!

I also use reduced balsamic vinegar in this dish to amp up the flavor.  It is normally found in caprese salad, and not margherita pizza, but it sure makes a delicious dressing.

This salad will easily serve eight people.  It’s perfect pot luck fare.

Margherita Pasta Salad

Serves eight

You will Need:

1 lb orecchiette pasta (or any short noodle variety)

12 oz fresh mozzarella pearls

1 pint red grape tomatoes

a large bunch of fresh basil

2/3 cups good quality balsamic vinegar

3 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

a little olive oil

S & P

1.  Cook the pasta in heavily salted water to aldente.  Rinse the pasta in cold water, toss with a little olive oil, and place it in the fridge to cool.

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2.  Halve the beautiful grape tomatoes.

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3.  Chiffonade a very large bunch of fresh basil.  I just like to say chiffonade-it rolls right off the tongue, but you can just chop your basil up any way you want to.  Isn’t this a beautiful bunch of basil I picked up?

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4.  Strain and rinse the mozzarella balls.  These either come in what looks like a sour cream container floating in water, or they come all globbed together in a plastic package.  If you don’t look close, you’d just think they were a whole ball of fresh mozzarella.  I used one of each kind so they’d be two different sizes.  Once you’ve strained them, place them on a clean dishtowel to soak up the excess water.

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5.  Put the tomatoes, basil, cheese, and the cooled pasta in a very large mixing bowl.  Just behold those vibrant colors!

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6.  Now you are going to do something that sounds really intimidating.  You’re going to reduce the balsamic vinegar.  It’s actually the simplest process you will ever do.  I have seen salads similar to this one on Pinterest, but they make one vital mistake-they pour straight balsamic vinegar into the salad.  This will most likely create a very pungent taste that is going to be too strong for most people, especially if you didn’t spend your kids’ college fund on the good stuff.  Reducing the vinegar will make it sweet and syrupy-or to use a technical word I learned in college chemistry class-it will make it viscous.  Glad I could use some of my expensive college education here.   Anyway, simply pour it into a small sauce pan and simmer it over medium heat for about two minutes.  When you have about half the amount you started with,  the vinegar is properly reduced.

7.  Whir the reduced vinegar, the garlic cloves, and just a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the food processor just until the garlic is pulverized.  You will have a delicious, thick, dark-amber dressing to pour over all the fresh goodness in that mixing bowl.

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8.  Pour it over the ingredients like so.

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8.  Mix the salad gently.  Add salt and pepper, tasting as you go.  You don’t want this to be under seasoned.  Pour it into a clean bowl and refrigerate until it’s ready to be served.  If you find the salad to be a little sticky upon serving, just fold in a little olive oil.  Doesn’t this look good?

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My sister asked me to bring a salad to dinner when she invited us over and this was the one I chose.  Everyone really liked it, but of course I made enough for 75 people and there were only four of us.  I was afraid it would go to waste, but my husband ate the rest of the bowl the next day.  Yep, you heard me, the rest of it.  For something that doesn’t include meat, that is pretty good.

Here is a nice close up for ya.

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You could even add grilled chicken to this to make it a main dish-now there’s an idea.   I hope you love this salad!

Shauna

Comments

  1. chad havey says:

    So good everyone should try this masterpiece of flavors

  2. This looks really good, it would be a great dish for a potuck, so easy to put together. And who doesn’t like Margherita flavors??

    • Thank you! I hope you try it out-it’s a good, healthy salad. Basal and balsamic-doesn’t get better than that does it?

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