OK. So I totally went M.I.A. for the last 10 days on a self-imposed recipe hiatus. Life has been crazy with a capital “C”. I kid you not. Had lots of work coming through, Ethan’s birthday party, Halloween, a case of laryngitis, & his actual birthday hits tomorrow. But tomorrow it’s just about being present. Am going with him on a school field trip. Am making him whatever the little man wants for dinner. Maybe a fun “build-your-own burger bar” because he loves burgers almost as much as he loves fighting me to go to sleep every night (and that’s saying a lot). We also have a cozy tradition where I bake him a homemade cake which he decorates himself every year. I just cover it in organic, white icing and he goes to town with all the toppings, natural (and unnatural) sprinkles, and even little toys/gadgets I let him put on the cake as toppers. Last year, he decorated his cake with an army of tiny lego stormtroopers.
This past Sunday, we hosted a really fun costume party at the pumpkin patch for him over the weekend. Moms, (if you’re reading this), you probably know a weekend party takes up the entire weekend. Like, literally. All of Saturday was spent baking and preparing clementines dressed as pumpkins and paleo chocolate cupcakes dressed as mummies, owls, and (more) pumpkins. He squeaked with excitement every time he peeked into the kitchen to check on me. “Mama, are they all for my party?”- he asked and would then repeat the question (10 times) hoping my answer wouldn’t change. Oh I love him. They were all for you, baby cakes.
So that’s what I’ve been up to, friends. Now let’s talk Caprese. Not salad, but pasta salad. I am the first to admit most gluten-free breads in the market taste like cardboard. It took me a while to isolate the “good ones”. But gluten-free pasta? That’s a whole different story; and a happier one, indeed. Because you really, really can hardly tell the difference when comparing it to the regular durum wheat semolina stuff. I love brown rice pasta & lentil pasta. I can even fool my husband, and that my friends, requires skill. He’ll gobble it up and then realize he just had vegetable or brown rice pasta without actually noticing.
I love bocconcini too much, but I try to stay away from cheese (cow dairy) as much as possible. Mozzarella cheese being one of the unripened ones I avoid. But my kids & husband love this recipe and if you consume dairy, this one is for you. You could also make it with goat cheese or goat feta (I do consume goat dairy) but then it couldn’t possibly be called “Caprese”. You’ll have to name it something else. “Mediterranean Pasta al Pesto” or something fancy. Oh, and did I say this recipe comes with a kick-ass homemade pesto recipe that you’ll literally be smothering on everything.
Caprese Pasta Salad
- 1 bag of brown rice pasta (or lentil pasta) I really like the brown rice Tinkyada brand
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 small garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1.5 cups of bocconcini (baby mozzarella balls) You could slice them in half, too
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil (divided for separate uses)
- pinch of sea salt
- pinch of ground black pepper
- A handful of fresh basil for garnish ( I ran out of basil after making the pesto, so I used fresh oregano. But basil is best!)
Your choice of pesto or balsamic vinaigrette, I enjoy mine with homemade pesto!
- 2 cups of fresh basil
- 1 large avocado (peeled & pitted, only the flesh)
- 1/3 cup of pine nuts
- 3 cloves of garlic
- a pinch of sea salt
- a pinch of ground pepper
- 1/3 cup freshly grated cheese of your choice: grana padano, pecorino or parmigiana regiano. (optional if vegan or sensitive to dairy) OR try substituting for 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast which kind of tastes like cheese and is so good for you!
- 2/3 cup of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
- Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking tray with parchment paper
- In a bowl, toss the tomatoes & garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil & add a pinch of sea salt & pepper. Place them over the tray and bake them for 15-20 mins.
- Follow instructions on the pasta of your choice, bring the water to a boil. I like to add sea salt, pepper & 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the water I cook the pasta in. Brown rice pasta could get sticky, so the extra virgin olive oil keeps it from clumping together as it cooks.
- While the tomatoes roast & the pasta boils, let’s make the pesto. Throw in the pine nuts, garlic & basil into your food processor & pulse. Throw in the avocado, sea salt & pepper & cheese OR nutritional yeast for vegan options. Through the top opening, slowly incorporate the olive oil and process until smooth. Some people don’t process the grated cheese and rather add it at the end.
- Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl or platter. Add a few tablespoons of pesto and toss. Add the oven-roasted cherry tomatoes & garlic. Add the fresh bocconcini. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
- Enjoy every single bite! I enjoy this pasta both hot or cold out of the fridge the next day. If the contents have thickened a bit, mix in 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil or add some more fresh pesto. I also have a habit of sometimes eating this with 1-2 tablespoons of hummus. Odd but so satisfying!