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pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella + green olivada

one of my favorite things about the warmer weather of springtime is the return of our outdoor grill for a good portion of our cooking each week. i’m a huge fan of grilling up burgers, sausages, or chicken, + pairing it with fresh veggies + lighter sides. my number one side dish for accompanying grilled goodness? pasta salad. sure, i like french fries or potato salad as much as anyone else, but it’s pasta salad filled with veggies + local cheese that really makes my heart go pitter-patter.

this past weekend, we had a family cookout + i knew that it was the perfect occasion to try this pasta salad that i had bookmarked a few weeks earlier. and i’m soo glad i did. it was a light, refreshing side dish that balanced wonderfully with the rich, perfectly-grilled hamburgers + bratwursts. the creaminess of the fresh mozzarella, the brightness of the tomatoes, the salty bite of the olive puree + the herby note of the fresh oregano all work perfectly together. surprisingly, even people who aren’t a huge fan of olives liked it. by pureeing the olives, their briny, saltiness comes through in a well-balanced way that won over both olive-lovers + olive-nonbelievers alike – not too shabby!

pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, + green olivada

serves 8-10, adapted from bon appetit

ingredients

1 garlic clove, peeled
2 cups coarsely chopped pitted green olives (from about 6 ounces unpitted whole olives), divided
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (i substituted soy sauce so it would be vegetarian-friendly)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound gemelli, fusilli, or rotelle pasta
2 pints cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
1 8-ounce package small (cherry-size) fresh mozzarella balls in water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

directions

with machine running, add garlic clove to processor through feed tube + process until finely chopped; turn off machine. add 1 cup chopped olives, capers, red wine vinegar, anchovy paste or soy sauce, mustard, + crushed red pepper. using 6 on/off turns, process to chop coarsely. with machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup olive oil, forming coarse puree. transfer to bowl; stir in remaining 1 cup olives. season olivada to taste with salt + pepper. (olivada can be made 3 days ahead. cover + refrigerate.)

cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. drain well. transfer drained pasta to large bowl. drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over pasta; toss to coat. cool, stirring occasionally.

add olivada, tomatoes, mozzarella, + oregano to pasta; toss to coat. season to taste with salt + pepper.