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Published on June 26, 2011 by Cara @ Due Spaghetti
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A plate of pasta fredda with a fork on a white napkin to the left, and some cherry tomatoes, a sprig of basil and some black peppercorns in the background.

Pasta salad, or pasta fredda as it is called in Italian, is a dish that calls to us over and over again in the summer months. We’ve made this pasta salad hundreds of times, and each time we make it exactly the same way. The only thing that ever varies is the type of pasta we use in it. The flavors, though, remain the same. It is a dish that has become part of our identity. We’ve served it at countless gatherings and events, and it is possibly the most requested and replicated recipe of all. Friends and family ask us when we will make it again.

There are many variations of pasta fredda. We keep ours simple: mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, salt, black pepper, and olive oil. Some like to add olives or tuna. The key is to use fresh mozzarella and good olive oil. Salt the pasta water abundantly. Be generous with the olive oil.

Pro tip: the best pasta is found at the bottom of the serving bowl because that is where the olive oil and tomato-mozzarella juices settle.

A plate of pasta fredda with a fork on a white napkin to the left, and some cherry tomatoes, a sprig of basil and some black peppercorns in the background.

Pasta fredda

Yield: 4-6 servings

There are many variations to this pasta salad, called pasta fredda in Italian. We keep it simple: mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, salt, black pepper, and olive oil. The key is to use fresh mozzarella and good olive oil.  Salt the pasta water abundantly. Be generous with the olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of short pasta - farfalle, rigatoni, penne or rotini all work well
  • 2 tubs of fresh mozzarella in water - ovoline or bocconcini
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

    Place a large pot of water on the stove and wait for it to come to a rolling boil.

    In the meanwhile, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and cut the mozzarella into 1/2 inch cubes.

    Place the tomatoes and mozzarella together in a large serving bowl.

    Chop your basil into small pieces and add it to the tomatoes and mozzarella.

    Add salt, black pepper and olive oil liberally, and stir. Look to see that your ingredients are coated in oil, and taste for the right degree of saltiness.

    Let the mixture sit. The juices of the tomatoes and mozzarella will combine with the olive oil to make a delicious sauce for the pasta.

    When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the time specified. Taste on occasion, and once the pasta reaches al dente, cook another 1 minute.

    Drain the pasta into a colander and rinse under cold water for a minute or two. Use your hands to mix the pasta, ensuring that it all cools to room temperature.

    Strain the pasta well, and add it to the serving bowl with the tomato and mozzarella mixture.

    Stir well and let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Notes

A tip – we grab a bunch of washed basil in our fist, and use a kitchen scissors to snip the basil into the serving bowl.

We've been experimenting with using burrata instead of mozzarella or together with mozzarella. It makes for a creamier pasta.

Hint: the best pasta is found at the bottom of the serving bowl, because that is where the olive oil and tomato-mozzarella juices settle.

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