Pasta with Salsa Cruda

This dish, a variation of the famous Insalata Caprese, is a melange of the summer’s freshest tomatoes, basil, and soft mozzarella. Caprese salad, associated with the island of Capri, was served in every Jewish restaurant I visited in Rome and Venice.

3⁄4 pound (2–3 large) tomatoes
1⁄2 pound fresh, soft mozzarella
1⁄2 cup lightly packed basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces dried rotelle (spirals) or penne rigati (pencil-shaped ridged pasta)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

  1. Chop the tomatoes into 1⁄2-inch cubes and place them in a 3-quart glass or ceramic serving bowl.
  2. Cut the mozzarella also into 1⁄2-inch cubes and add to the tomatoes.
  3. Layer 10–15 basil leaves on top of one another, and then roll them up lengthwise like a cigarette. Slice thinly through the roll to make a chiffonade—thin strands of basil that “float” like chiffon—and add to the tomato-mozzarella mixture.
  4. Mix in the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
  5. When you’re ready to serve, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until it’s al dente. Drain, immediately toss with the tomato mixture, and serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and more black pepper if desired. Serves 4–6 people as a main dish or 8–10 as a side.
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