Sizzle Simmer Sauté–Crazy for Caprese

Jennifer Ruple

The caprese may, in fact, be summer’s quintessential salad. Think of sun-drenched, vine-ripened tomatoes, the sweet-spicy aroma of newly picked basil leaves, and the freshest, most creamy mozzarella cheese, all sprinkled with salt and pepper and drizzled with fruity extra virgin olive oil – the combination is one of the season’s greatest gifts to foodies.
Classic caprese flavors not only create the perfect salad but a lot of perfect other things too. The trio of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella becomes a savory appetizer when threaded onto skewers and drizzled with balsamic glaze, a delightful dinner when arranged and baked on flatbread, and a hearty side dish when paired with four cheese tortellini and bathed in homemade pesto sauce.
Am I making you crazy for caprese yet? If your answer is yes, here are three new ways to enjoy these summertime ingredients.

Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Glaze
Perfect for snacking by the pool or with wine on the patio, these colorful hors d’oeuvres pack all the flavors of a caprese salad on a single skewer. The addition of cheese tortellini provides an extra layer of deliciousness.

10-ounce bag cheese tortellini
8-ounce container Ciliegine, cherry size mozzarella balls
1 pint mixed cherry and grape tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

Balsamic glaze
Cook tortellini according to package directions. Allow to cool slightly.
On each bamboo skewer, thread 2 tomatoes, 1 tortellini, 1 mozzarella ball and two basil leaves in the order of your preference.
Arrange skewers on a serving platter then drizzle them with olive oil and balsamic glaze.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Pesto Caprese Pasta
Take a trip to the local farmers market and pick up a big bunch of fresh basil then whip up a batch of pesto to mix into this pasta dish. The following recipes yields two cups of pesto. You’ll only need about half a cup for this recipe, but it’s sure nice to have a stash in your freezer to use for a few upcoming meals.

For the pasta
10-ounce bag cheese tortellini
2 cups cherry and grape tomatoes
4 ounces Ciliegine, cherry size mozzarella balls
½ cup basil pesto
Fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Cook tortellini according to package directions. Allow to cool.
In a medium size bowl, stir together tortellini, tomatoes, mozzarella, ½ cup of the pesto. Sprinkle with fresh basil.

For the pesto
¼ cup walnuts, pine nuts or a mixture of both
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups fresh basil leaves, packed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Place walnuts, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and process for 30 seconds. Add the basil, salt and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is pureed.
Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use immediately or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.
(Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Flatbread
I know… here I go again with the naan bread. It’s just that I think it makes a fabulous base for pizza-type dishes. Just add your toppings and bake it or throw it on the grill, making for an easy no-oven meal. This recipe makes two flatbreads.
1 package naan flatbread (2-pack)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 package sliced fresh mozzarella
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pint grape and cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced or homemade basil pesto (see previous recipe)
Heat oven to 400 F. Place flatbreads on a baking sheet.
Brush flatbreads with olive oil. Place 4 to 5 slices of mozzarella on each flatbread. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Top with tomato halves and fresh basil. Or instead of basil, drop dollops of homemade basil pesto randomly over the flatbread.
Bake for 11 – 12 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned and bubbly.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

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