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08 August 2014

Pasta Salad with Pesto, Mozzarella and Tomatoes

When I was in a Press Trip once in Liguria, where the basil pesto was born, one of the things that was shown to us was how to make a genuine pesto from scratch. The chef was standing in front of a table with all the ingredients that she was going to use and a big deep marble mortar and pestle. She was going to pound away the sauce for our trofie, the local pasta shape. It was a part of our lunch, a big group of around 20 people and I was thinking what a lot of elbow grease she would be using.

Being a Press Trip, everyone surrounded her clicking on their cameras and the videocameras were zoomed on her while she pounded. Minutes ticked by and slowly, the cameras were stashed away while she still patiently pounded. Some of us started to go to our tables and eat the appetizers while she was still pounding our pesto! There were about twenty of us to be fed so that's a lot of pesto she had to pound. I learned from the Ligurian people from the group that in their own homes, they really pound their pesto by hand. It obviously takes less time because no one has twenty kids to feed at home. When the trofie with pesto was finally served, I couldn't believe how delicious it was. I've had pasta with pesto genovese before in other parts of Italy but nothing could compare to that one I had that day. Can it be the kind of basil that was used? Or maybe because this was pounded in a mortar and pestle?

I don't buy my pesto and you shouldn't too because it is so easy to make. There are two ways. The correct way is by pounding it on a mortar and pestle and the shortcut is to use an immersion blender to smoothen the pesto in less than a minute. The shortcut beats buying those little bottle of pesto at the supermarket. Make your own with fresh basil. It beats the taste of the store-bought ones and the one that you will make is much healthier too. And if you have the luxury of not rushing, take your time and pound away in your mortar and pestle. You will be glad you did because the flavors are still much better!

In summer, the dishes in Italy are usually cold. There's not much cooking involved and the ingredients used are all fresh. One of the popular cold dishes is cold pasta. I love them because I can get creative and mix different kinds of ingredients. For this recipe, I did stick to a classic one though. It's healthy, fast (shortcut fresh pesto) and shouting with Italian flavors. If you are going to make this, please use the best and sweetest tomatoes you can find. Good tomatoes make a lot of difference from sour tomatoes. In this dish, I used datterini tomatoes. The size of the mozzarella doesn't matter. The mozzarella I used in this dish are quite peculiar with their size. They are extra, extra small and they look great in the pasta. However, they are not common here and I am assuming that outside Italy, it should be close to impossible in finding minute mozzarella like these. Go for the regular ones. Size doesn't matter in this dish.

I created this Pasta Salad with Pesto, Mozzarella and Tomatoes recipe for Skinny Ms., a site dedicated to giving resources, tips and recipes on healthy living.

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