Trofie pasta is one of my newly discovered favorite pastas. It’s short and twisty and has a similar texture to gnocchi, but not quite as thick. Trofie is usually used in Italian cooking, especially with pesto, but I was in the mood for a Summer-like salad using cucumber, basil, fresh mozzarella, slow-roasted tomatoes, and of course, trofie. The result was light and refreshing, and exactly what I had been craving. Bring this pasta salad as a winning side dish to your next Summer BBQ, or serve it in big bowls for dinner.
Pasta salad with roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, cucumber, basil, and toasted pine nuts tossed with an easy Italian vinaigrette dressing.
Let’s talk about slow-roasted tomatoes for a sec. You can find roasted tomatoes in the salad bar of most grocery stores, or pre-packaged in the aisles. That’s fine if you are in a hurry to get this pasta salad eaten, but once you slow-roast them yourself and realize how easy and incredibly delicious it is, slow-roasting will suddenly become the only way to enjoy cherry tomatoes. Toss some halved tomatoes with olive oil (just enough that the tomatoes glisten), thyme, rosemary, and a tiny pinch of salt and pepper. Be creative with your seasonings. Use your favorite Italian seasoning, or a bit of crushed red pepper. Cherry tomatoes, especially this time of year, are so sweet and juicy on their own that the seasonings are only there to enhance the greatness that comes just from oven roasting. No need to go overboard on the salt, just the tiniest pinch will do. The final product will be so flavorful that a small amount will go far. Spread them out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast them low and slow at 225 for about 2 hours.
You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but still left with some juices inside. Use a spatula to transfer the roasted tomatoes to a bowl to let cool.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook your pasta according to package directions. You can either use trofie or orecchiette in this pasta salad. Trofie takes about 20 minutes to cook, which gives you plenty of time to put the rest of the salad together.
Pine nuts. Why not take them from a 7 to a 10 if it takes 5 minutes? Toasting nuts gives them a deeper flavor and crispiness. Heat your oven to 350 and toast for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan about halfway through. Keep in mind that they’ll continue to bake on the hot pan once they’re out of the oven.
Italian vinaigrette- another one of those ingredients that can be made so simply yourself. Whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, and a little salt/pepper together in a small bowl until combined. If you do this step ahead of time, you may have to give it another quick stir to break up the layers before adding it to the salad.
Put everything else- the cucumber, red onion, mozzarella, basil, pine nuts, and tomatoes into a large bowl.
Add in the pasta and gently toss to combine.
Pour in your Italian vinaigrette and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve at room temperature or chilled. This yields enough for 8-10 side dishes or 4-6 full meals.