Tomato Mozz Fried Chickpea Pasta Salad

This one has a long name because I don't want to lose you, patient reader. I'm trying to entice with other ingredients before I hit you with the waa-waa-waaaah ...oh yeah, it's a pasta salad.

Pasta salad is usually the last thing left on the potluck buffet, am I right? They're often dull, dry (yet mushy) and contain too much pasta. I'm always hunting for the non pasta bits and there are never enough for me.

But...I was asked to bring a pasta salad to an event this weekend, so I'm going for it - trying to make one that doesn't have leftovers.

I'm using 3 kinds of tomatoes (roasted and fresh in the salad, and sun-dried in the vinaigrette) to get 3 kinds of tomato flavor (sweet, bright and intense), mini-mozzarella for gooey, fried chickpeas for creamy and meaty, red onion for zing and crisp, and basil for freshness and sweetness. I also marinated the mozzarella for a day in garlic, basil and olive oil to pep them up. Dusting with parmesan at the end helps the dressing adhere to the pasta (and adds salty flavor).

Tomato Mozzarella Fried Chickpea Pasta Salad

Serves 8

1 lb. fusilli pasta (sturdy, with nice ridges for sauce-catching
3 pints cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion
Large bunch fresh basil (1 cup, packed)
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
8 oz. Ciligene (mini-mozzarella balls)
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove

Drain cheese, then marinate with 1 chopped garlic clove, 1/4 cup of chopped basil and 1/4 cup of olive oil for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350ยช. 

Line a sheet pan with parchment, spread out 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roll around to coat. Bake for 1 hour or until deflated (but not without spirit) and brown.

Make pasta in salted water (2 tablespoons per pot) until al dente. Drain but do not rinse. Toss with a little olive oil and spread on a sheet pan to cool (to prevent sticking and mushing). 

Rinse chickpeas and dry by spreading on pan lined with a clean towel. Heat tablespoon of oil in saute pan until hot and add chickpeas in one layer (you will have to do this in a few batches). Cook until they start to "pop" then shake the pan to brown evenly. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt (these are very tasty). 

Fried chickpeas - well worth the extra effort.

Halve 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (or quarter if larger - you want bite sized).  Drain and halve mozzarella (reserve oil to use in dressing).

Julienne remaining basil.

(adapted from Ina Garten, Family Style)

10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/4 cup tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil (use oil left over from the mozzarella marinade)
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 teaspoons capers, drained
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Put all ingredients, except olive oil, in a blender or food processor and blend, then drizzle in oil with machine running to finish.

Combine pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, chickpeas, basil and parmesan. Toss with dressing and serve at room temperature. If you need to make this ahead of time, store all components separately in the refrigerator (except the fresh turns them to cold mush). Combine and toss with dressing no more than an hour or two before serving. 


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