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     Caprese salad brings together some of my very favorite summer flavors.  In fact, when I’m missing the warmth of the summer sun, I’ll even throw one together in the dead of winter.  One thing about a true caprese salad, though, with its layers of fresh tomato and mozzarella slices, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette is that it doesn’t travel well, making it a little out of place at a pot-luck picnic or back-yard barbecue.  This new spin on a classic salad makes this summer-flavor favorite easily portable.  Orecchiette—Italian for “small ear”—pasta is the perfect size and shape to carry the vinaigrette without overpowering the sweet grape tomatoes and creamy mozzarella.  

     Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 c. dried orecchiette pasta, cooked per package directions
  • 1 c. grape tomatoes, quartered   
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella pearls or cubes   
  • 20-25 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)   
  • Salt and pepper to taste

     For the balsamic vinaigrette:

  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed   
  • 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

     First, start the pasta as directed.  While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

     Next, cut your tomatoes and basil and put them in a medium-sized bowl.  Sprinkle in the mozzarella and toss everything together.

     When the pasta is ready, rinse it well with cold water and add to the bowl.  Pour the dressing over the top and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste and serve room temperature or chilled.

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