Cherry Tomato & Pesto Pasta

Popping a cherry tomato in my mouth instantly transports me to a perfect childhood moment.  I close my eyes, revel in the bright, sunny taste and the lovely “pop” of the tomato bursting in my mouth and for a split second, I’m a kid again, standing in the sunshine, raiding somebody’s cherry tomato plant while their back is turned.

I am an ungifted gardener to say the least, but I always plant a cherry tomato plant, just to have a few moments like these throughout my summer.  I also always plant basil, since it’s the one thing I actually have had consistent success with.  Not to mention, pesto is just about the most perfect condiment for well…anything.

I have discovered through my farmer’s market travels this summer that while the early bird may get the best choices, the fat, lazy bird who likes to sleep in gets the best prices.  I scored two overflowing pints of cherry tomatoes last week for less than half of what I would have paid in the grocery store.  On the ripe side, these babies needed to be used right away, so into my pasta they flew.  Add some freshly made pesto and there was magic.  Tasty, tasty magic.

Cherry Tomato & Pesto Pasta

1 pkg. pasta
3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
2-3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half and divided
1/2 cup – or more – pesto (see below for my recipe or use your favorite)
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated parmesan for the top (optional)

Cook pasta until tender, but still firm to the bite.  Prep all of your ingredients ahead of time because this dish comes together very quickly.

All ingredients prepped and ready to go. Beautiful!

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and about half of the tomatoes to the pan.  Cook one or two minutes.  Add pesto and continue to cook another minute or two.  Drain the pasta and add to the pan.  Add the rest of the tomatoes and the mozzarella.  Toss well to combine.  Add a pinch of salt & pepper if needed. Serve immediately and top with parmesan cheese if desired.

Basil & Walnut Pesto

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt & pepper
Handful of walnuts (or any other nut you like)
1/4 cup of fresh parmesan
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except for oil in a food processor or blender.

Loading up the food processor to make pesto.

Whirl it up until finely chopped, scraping down the sides once or twice.  Add olive oil in a slow stream until the pesto is the consistency you like.  You can adjust this to your preference.  It can be coarsely chopped or a fine puree, it can be thicker or thinner, whatever you like best.  For my pasta recipe I wanted it a little chunkier; for a spread on a sandwich, I would probably blend it a little more.  Any leftovers can be stored in a sealed container for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or frozen.  Drizzle with olive oil to keep it from turning brown.

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