One of my favorite summer salads is a simple caprese salad. A little tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, topped off with EVOO, baslamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, is a refreshing precursor to any main entree. But, why not allow it to accompany the actual entree or main feature? By combining this salad with pasta, it becomes the perfect pairing to my Crowd Pleasing Flank Steak, or any feature protein of choice. Paired with big bowl of fruit, this salad would make a delightful combo for lunching.
I served this at a mid-week family dinner and it was an instant hit. Everyone helped themselves to seconds and thirds. Even my daughter who doesn’t prefer cheese, enjoyed several servings of this pasta salad and commented it might be one of her favorite new dishes I’ve made. Wow! That’s a big compliment and the type of comment that has mom feeling a huge sense of dinner success.
This is a light and bright colorful dish that preserves the simple goodness and all the great flavors of the traditional caprese salad, combined with delicious bites of penne pasta tossed in a light, creamy dressing. This easy-to-make dish is one you’re going to want to add to an upcoming menu, stat!
Prep/Cook Time: Pasta noodles 13 mins; 10-15 mins salad assembly
Author: Mindi Cunningham | sweet basil & lemon
1 box penne pasta
8 ounces of sour cream
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large shallot minced
1/2 seasoning packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
1 carton of cherry tomatoes rinsed and dried
Handful of fresh basil cut into small pieces leaving a few pieces for garnish
1 ball of fresh mozzarella (12oz) cubed into small piece
*Note, it’s important to use fresh mozzarella and not processed mozzarella. Fresh will be creamy and soft, and both the taste and the texture will align with the creamy pasta dressing.
Boil penne pasta for ~13 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool to touch. Set aside in a large mixing bowl. Next, mix the sour cream and ranch seasoning together in a small bowl, adding the olive oil and mix contents until the seasoning and oil have been thoroughly blended throughout the creamy dressing.
Using a wooden spoon, carefully mix the creamy dressing throughout the pasta. Fold in the shallots, basil, and cubed fresh mozzarella cheese. Add the cherry tomatoes last and top with fresh basil. I like to place the bowl in the fridge to let the pasta salad hang out a bit before serving to make it nice and chilled. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and remove when ready to serve.
To freshen up any leftovers, or increase the creaminess of the pasta, mix up some additional sour cream and Hidden Valley ranch seasoning and add to the pasta. I tend to prefer my noodles a little lighter on the dressing to preserve a nice balance with the fresh mozzarella and basil.
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