Another weekend, another barbecue. This time some friends from Ben’s first study group came over for burgers in the late afternoon. Sick of cooking potatoes, I made the pasta salad that I first fell in love with at my bridal shower last summer. Ben’s mom’s best friend (and our good friend too!) Lydia makes this supremely simple and delicious pasta salad; we were all begging for instructions after we tried it. Ben called and got the directions on Saturday, and it’s as easy as can be:
Lydia’s Pasta Salad
While your pasta water is boiling, cut up ripe tomatoes and put them in a big bowl with olive oil and salt. (I used cherry and grape tomatoes, about two pints, quartered (they MUST be cut up), with maybe a quarter cup (plus a little) of oil and a bunch of salt.) Let the tomatoes start releasing their juice.
Cut up about a pound of firm mozzarella (though I want to give fresh another shot, I think the flavor would be better even if it did melt all over the place) into small bites and put it in with the tomatoes. [SEE EDIT, below.]
Cook a pound of pasta (Lydia uses penne), drain it, and toss it in with the tomatoes and cheese while it’s still hot.
Add torn up basil and lots of salt and pepper. Keep tasting it; it’s a bit hard to season this enough but you also don’t want to go overboard.
Obviously with a salad this simple, your ingredients need to be top-notch. I used grape/cherry tomatoes because I’ve had better luck finding tasty and sweet ones in the off season. And the cheese I used was so-so. But it’s still really easy and really popular. We went through about 5/6 of this huge bowl!
Per Mom’s question in the comments, I made this again for a dinner party Friday night and used little bocconcini (small balls of fresh mozzarella), cut into quarters. The salad was WAY better–definitely use fresh mozzarella. I cut it small so that if it did melt when I added the pasta I wouldn’t have any enormous blobs of cheese, but it stayed fairly intact. We ate leftovers in the car on the way to Boston on Saturday; this is great picnic food! (I didn’t love it with this shape of pasta, though. Tubes of some sort are better.)