Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pasta Salad With Sun Dried Tomatoes

I can remember making my first pasta salad, at around the same time I discovered sun dried tomatoes. It was a recipe from one of the old Vogue Entertaining cookbooks, and used multi-coloured fettucine. The sun dried tomatoes were a revelation for me - I can still clearly remember the surprise of the intense burst of taste delivered by something that looked like a shrivelled up hibiscus flower. It was oily, salty, tangy, pungent, and incredibly more-ish. Suddenly sundried tomatoes were turning up in pastas, salads, sandwiches and quiches everywhere (ah yes the 80s). But then, after a few years, we moved on to semi-dried tomatoes, olives and then to goats cheese, and the sun-dried tomatoes moved back a bit on the deli shelves.

This recipe reminded me why I loved sun-dried tomatoes in the first place. It was full of flavour, and is the sort of side dish that would stand up well to a marinated steak or a BBQ, without being swamped by the other flavours. Make sure you use the fusilli rather than any other pasta because the spirals seem to grab the dressing and hold it close, so no bite is bland. I substituted baby bocconcini for the mozarella as it is a little lighter, and I like the shape of the balls. I also reduced it to about 250g, which was plenty of cheese for me. And my supermarket was out of green basil but had purple basil, so I used that - I like the dark tones it gave the salad, less colourful but more dramatic than green, and the taste is the same. I also skipped the oil in the pasta water as I don't believe it is useful. Just make sure you stir your pasta as it goes into the water and every couple of minutes while it is cooking and it won't stick.

This salad was the first July pick for the Barefoot Bloggers and came from Cat of Delta Whiskey. Drop by her blog, she always has something worth reading to share. The Barefoot Bloggers are a far flung group who are cooking their way through the opus of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Join us twice a month for something completely delicious. Thanks Cat - you brought back some great memories.

Pasta With Sun-Dried Tomatoes
adapted from "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" by Ina Garten

250g fusilli (spirals) pasta
500g ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
3/4 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
500g fresh mozzarella, medium-diced (I used 250g baby bocconcini instead)
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

For the dressing:

5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon capers, drained (I used salted, just rinse them well and then use)
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup packed basil leaves, julienned

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together (I left out the oil). Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and basil, and toss well.


kimberly said...

Looks good! We also loved this pasta salad.

Debinhawaii said...

Your salad looks perfect. This was a great recipe!