Happy Easter, everyone!  If this is a holiday that you celebrate, I hope you have had a nice day and spent it with family like we did.  I made a huge meal for Ben’s family and we had a really nice time.  I’ll be posting a few items from that eventually, but I’m still playing a major game of catch-up here on the blog so it may be a while.  I have always been a big fan of pasta salad.  I make a beeline for it every time I see it at a pitch-in or potluck.  However, I’ve never had great success with making it myself.  Usually it ends up tasting too much like salad dressing or the vegetables aren’t right.  Last month we had some friends over for dinner and I was looking for a good side dish to go with a meal of grilled chicken and veggie sandwiches, and this seemed like a suitable option.  Almost anything with fresh tomato and basil gets my vote, so it was no surprise that this was a hit.  

The garlic infused oil is a wonderfully light but flavorful dressing that doesn’t overpower the other ingredients in the dish.  Next time I make this, I will do a couple things differently.  I think I will use half shredded mozzarella instead of all Parmesan – it just seems like a natural addition because of the tomatoes and basil.  Also, I’ll break the pasta strands in half before cooking them just to make them more manageable for eating.  Finally, I definitely preferred the taste of this at room temperature as opposed to after refrigerating so I will only serve it at room temp from now on.  I think the flavors were muted by the chill.  I’ve reflected these changes below.  Enjoy!

Angel Hair Pasta Salad with Tomato and Basil
1 lb. angel hair pasta, broken in half before cooking
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup  shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted and chopped

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions until al dente.  Drain well.  Transfer to a serving bowl.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Saute the garlic until sizzling and golden, stirring frequently (a few minutes).  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Pour the garlic and oil over the warm pasta and toss well.  Add all of the mozzarella cheese and about half of the Parmesan.  Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of the kosher salt on top and season with freshly ground black pepper.  Mix well.  Let the noodles cool slightly.  Just before serving, top the noodles with the chopped tomatoes, basil, toasted pine nuts and remaining Parmesan cheese.  Very lightly toss being careful not to let all the toppings go to the bottom.  Serve.

Source: adapted from My Kitchen Cafe