You find yourself on Pinterest a lot these days (4 million followers will do that to a girl). You keep seeing inspiration for caprese salad, a favorite you make from time to time. You've even seen roasted caprese stacks. Yesterday, in the middle of all of it, when you notice you still have a whole lot of basil from one of those "live" basil plants hanging out by the kitchen windowsill, you think that maybe it is time to make something new in the kitchen.
You ask your husband to get some ingredients at the store: little mozzarella balls, little tomatoes, and penne, and armed with this Pinterest inspiration, you are just going to wing it.
Your little family is out on a walk, which means you still have some time alone. Alone. In the kitchen. A few suggestions, add a glass of wine (or cider if that's all you have) and turn up a playlist involving The Beatles and maybe even some Jim Croce and Michael Franti, and just for a minute you might even think you are living a past life where you didn't spend half the day neck-deep in potty training.
So you'll preheat the oven to 350 and slice the tomatoes with the insides facing up and drizzle them with olive oil and Fini balsamic and salt and pepper and even a little sugar (inspired by this recipe). You'll pop them in the oven just as The Beatles finish up "Come Together" and you find yourself with the arms of a three year old wrapped around your legs.
"Are you making dinner Mama Kitty? For me?"
And the past life fades away as you answer, "For us. Yes."
A dance party begins as you watch them kind of work together clearing a space on the table so you can actually eat there instead of on the couch. There are moments of yelling and moments of giggling and you focus back in.
The tomatoes are doing their thing (for about 12-18, longer if the tomatoes are large) and the pasta water is beginning to boil. You slice the little balls of mozzarella in half, knowing you will use more than you really need because too much mozzarella feels like something you all need.
Pasta goes in. Penne takes a while and you forget how long and the instructions in Italian are nice and romantic but help you not at all. So you just keep winging it. Then you wash the basil and slice it with kitchen shears and admire how kind of gorgeous it is as the smell swirls around you.
You turn the oven off after about 12 minutes knowing it would be easy to forget the little tomatoes are in there because you are needed in the bathroom. Two to three minutes later you pull them back out of the oven and put the slices of mozzarella on top of several. Then pop them back in the oven for 4-6 minutes.
Somewhere in there you tried the pasta and it tasted like a twig, so you went with 5 more minutes.
Then it all comes together. Pasta goes in the bowl, tomatoes + mozzarella piled on top, basil on top next. Stir. Add a bit more olive oil and balsamic to taste.
But of course you remember where you are and put plain pasta + plain cheese + edemame aside for the three year old. Later, she will stir them together so her pasta looks like yours. And although you will try to get her to eat that green stuff that looks like lettuce, you will just be really happy that she gobbles up her own concoction.
You will try though and it will go like this.
"You should try this basil."
"Because basil tastes like adventure."
"Like adventure (said as abebenture)?"
"Yes. It tastes like an afternoon spent wandering in a small town in Italy when you meet someone who takes you back to her home for a huge afternoon meal on a little porch with a large table full of cousins and sisters and brothers and a Grandpa who makes you laugh. And the Grandma will bring out pasta that smells so good you cry. And there will be basil picked that afternoon and mozzarella from a farm down the street. And it will taste like nothing you've every experienced and you will know your life will never be the same."
(Between you and me that is some kind of crazy mashed up scene from Letters for Juliet meets Eat Pray Love meets that movie about the wine with Keanu Reeves that might be called A Walk in the Clouds meets some sort of dream I have about being brave enough to just go to Italy and wander and meet people so that I can host a retreat there soon.)
She will smile at you.
And she won't try one bite.
About five minutes later she says, "Mama Kitty, does basil taste like a dream?"
"Yes, honey. Yes, it does."
it tastes like adventure caprese pasta inspired by Pinterest
Wing it. Do whatever tastes good. Have fun. Check out Pinterest. But if these photos look like your kind of thing, here's a place to begin:
- Two pints of cherry tomatoes (we used yellow and red, some were oval so I sliced them the long way so they would lay flat)
- One container of small round mozzarella balls (you certainly don't need to use them all, but you could)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 tsp if sugar (optional)
- Heavy drizzlings of olive oil + balsamic
- Basil (about one cup)
- Penne pasta (we used about 12 oz)
1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Slice tomatoes and then drizzle olive oil and balsamic to taste + sprinkle salt and pepper to taste + sugar if using.
3. Cook for 12-15 minutes (this will vary depending on your tomato size). Watch for the tomatoes to begin to blister.
4. While tomatoes cook, put pasta water on to boil. Salt it if you want. Put pasta in when water boils. (Follow directions for cooking pasta that should be on the package. Or wing it if they are in Italian.
5. Slice mozzarella balls in half (eat one or two because you know you want to).
6. Wash and slice basil into strips.
7. When timer goes off, take tomatoes out of oven (you could turn oven off at this point) and balance mozzarella slices on as many tomatoes as you have cheese. Put back in for 3-6 minutes (watch them as you want them to just be melting but not browning).
8. When pasta + tomatoes and cheese are done, put them in a big bowl together. Add basil. Stir.
9. Add more olive oil and balsamic to taste.
10. Make up a story about how basil tastes. That will be the best part. Well, right after the eating part.
Makes about three adult servings + one three year old sized serving if it's your main meal and you are the Lamoreux family.
If you need things to be more precise, here are a whole bunch of caprese pasta recipes to peruse.
Over here in my corner, I'm trying to "use Pinterest for good." I really see it as a community of people trying to see the beauty and possibility in their lives. I'm adding a few new features here on my blog inspired by or directly about Pinterest as a way to invite others to look for this beauty within a social media community. I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds. Connect with me on Pinterest here.