I’m growing tomatoes for the second summer in a row, four huge plants that began with leaves, then flowers, and that are now adorned with green fruit that’s getting larger every day.
I keep checking on them, every time I’m outside – with the dog, to get the paper, about to go for a walk – impatiently waiting for them to ripen, to be ready to eat.
Most times, I pull away a few dead leaves – there are bunches of them – even though I have no idea if this is a good thing to do. I just want to help them along, to do whatever I can to encourage them to redden.
And I’ll be honest. Last year, I took the majority of my Roma tomatoes inside too soon. This was mainly because I’d planted them near a sprinkler head, which the plant grew over and then felt the effects of every day, making a whole side of it die thanks to oversaturation.
Bringing them inside seemed like the right thing to do then, the best way to protect what remained from being ruined. But this was a mistake, and they just weren’t ready.
With this year’s group, every time I pull away shriveled leaves, feel the branches of the vines between my fingers, I walk away with the most delicious smell that lingers on my hands. It’s a mix of dirt and green growth and fresh, newly-formed fruit all in one, the smell of tomatoes, the smell of summer.
It will probably be a few weeks – maybe a month? – before my tomatoes are ready. And this is just a guess, this since I have no legitimate knowledge of how long tomatoes take to ripen. One thing’s for sure: I’ll be the first to notice when they’re ready.
Meanwhile, a girl’s got to get her summer tomato fix when she wants it. So, I made the following pasta dish. It’s really as simple as a homemade weeknight dinner can be.
It’s quick and easy, comprised of fresh, healthy ingredients that are as natural as they are packed with flavor. And I can’t wait to make it again, as soon as the fresh produce from my own garden is ready to harvest and enjoy.Print
Summertime picnics call for the best sides, and this tomato pasta salad is a winner. You won’t believe how light and bright it is.
For the Dressing:
- 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
For the Salad:
- In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Cook penne pasta according to the instructions on the box. Drain in a colander, and add to the large bowl with the dressing. Toss to combine.
- When the pasta stops steaming, cool completely in the refrigerator, approximately 30 minutes.
- Remove from the refrigerator and add the mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese. Stir to make sure everything is incorporated well.
- Serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
You can make this recipe up to a day in advance. Simply complete steps 1 and 2, then chill. When you’re ready to serve, stir in the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and parmesan.
Keywords: tomato, pasta, basil, mozzarella, summer
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Chop, Grate, and Measure Remaining Ingredients
Chop the tomatoes and mozzarella into bite-sized chunks. Set aside, or keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Chop the basil and set aside or refrigerate.
Grate the parmesan cheese.
Zest and juice the lemon, and mince the garlic.
Measure all remaining ingredients, and keep them out on your counter or workspace in the order listed in the ingredients list.
Step 2 – Make Dressing
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Whisk until well combined.
Adjust seasoning to taste, and set aside.
Step 3 – Cook Pasta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Add the penne pasta, and cook until al dente, according to the instructions on the box.
Step 4 – Dress and Cool Pasta
Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the dressing you made. A quick rinse with cool water can help to bring down the temperature of the macaroni more quickly.
Toss to coat the pasta. Set aside until it finished steaming, then set the bowl in the refrigerator to cool completely, for approximately 30 minutes.
Step 5 – Finish Salad
Once the pasta is cooled, add the mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and parmesan.
Stir well to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated and equally distributed.
Serve immediately, or chill until you are ready to serve.
Garden Fresh Is Always Best
The key to a really amazing pasta salad is fresh ingredients. While you can always use fresh tomatoes and basil from the supermarket, if you want to take this salad to a whole new level, use ingredients from the garden.
If you happen to be a gardener, you most likely already have tomatoes and basil growing out back. Looking for some tips to get started? Check out these expert guides on our sister site, Gardener’s Path.
The beauty of this simple salad is, no matter what type of tomatoes you are growing in your garden, you can use them to make this salad.
From vine-ripe farmhouse tomatoes to plum, cherry, or grape, and heirloom to beefsteak, each brings a unique flavor to the party. With the simple ingredients in this pasta salad, you are guaranteed to have a delicious tasting end result no matter which variety you have on hand.
Don’t have a garden? Head to your local farmers market instead for the freshest ingredients available.
The only question is, when’s the next gathering, so you can bust out this recipe? Tell us in the comments below what you like best about this dish, and be sure to give it a five-star rating if you loved it!
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Photos by Meghan Bassett, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 8th, 2008. Last updated: July 13, 2018 at 19:02 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Bassett and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.