I know. It sounds odd. Asian flavors in a traditional mozzarella and tomato pasta salad?!! But stay with me guys, because this East meets West twist is absolutely delicious!!
I'm pretty much in love with all the different ingredients that meld together here so well.
Juicy fresh grape tomatoes, tender pasta, little cubes of creamy fresh mozzarella and lots and lots of aromatic fresh basil. What's not to love?!!
It's summertime in a bowl!
But the real kicker is the the red pepper vinaigrette which not only includes roasted red peppers (duh) but rice vinegar, mirin and toasted sesame oil, adding an unexpected but wonderful Asian spin to each bite. It's different and out there but still comfortingly familiar! A guaranteed crowd pleaser!!
Because... it not only looks so good but it's also knock-your-socks-off tasty!! Seriously, you're going to want to dive right into that bowl...literally! You may never go back to the traditional oil and vinegar version again. Serve it at your next potluck or bbq and watch it disappear!
Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Pasta Salad with Asian-Style Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Makes at least 8 servings as a side; if you’re using this as a main course, you could safely serve 5, unless you have huge eaters.
You will need a blender or food processor for the vinaigrette.
Prep Time: About 20 minutes
For the pasta salad
- 1/2 pound small pasta like orecchiette, ziti, macaroni
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut in cubes or you can buy those little balls
- Large handful fresh basil, leaves stacked, rolled up and cut into ribbons
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
For the red pepper vinaigrette
- 2 jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry with paper towels and roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon mirin
- The juice of half a lime
- A pinch or two of kosher salt
- A pinch or two of black pepper
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1. For the pasta salad: bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water. Let pasta drain—you can help it along by using paper towels to absorb some of the leftover water. Once it’s dried, add it to a large bowl. Then add in the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
2. To make the Asian-Style Red Pepper Vinaigrette: place the red peppers, garlic, vinegar, mirin, lime juice, salt and pepper in s blender and blend on medium speed for a few seconds. Then with the blender running on low speed, slowly pour the canola oil and sesame oil in the top, until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. You can make this up to one week ahead and store in a container in the fridge.
3. To finish off the salad, pour the vinaigrette over the ingredients in the bowl (give the vinaigrette a good shake if you’ve made it ahead of time) and toss well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready. We also like this warm, especially when it’s a main course.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Lemonade Cookbook by Alan Jackson and JoAnn Cianciulli. I tinkered with proportions in the salad and cut fresh ginger from the dressing.