Pasta with Salsa Cruda

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

Italy is home to the oldest continuously-inhabited Jewish community in Europe. This pasta dish is a variation of the famous insalata caprese made up of the season’s freshest tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella found on the island of Capri in the fertile Campania region that surrounds Naples.

To get the most out of this dish, it must be made with the freshest, sweetest produce and soft mozzarella. The original caprese salad is a staple at every Roman Jewish restaurant I've visited. The addition of pasta makes this a hearty main dish or side for fish.

3/4 pound (2–3 large) tomatoes
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup basil leaves, lightly packed
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces dried rotelle (spiral) or penne rigati pasta
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  1. Cut the tomatoes into 1/2" cubes and place them in a 3-quart glass or ceramic serving bowl.
  2. Cut the mozzarella into 1/2" cubes and add to the tomatoes.
  3. Layer the basil leaves and roll them up lengthwise, like a cigarette. Slice thinly crosswise through the roll to make a chiffonade — thin strands of basil that “float” like chiffon — and add to the tomato mixture.
  4. Add the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper to the bowl, stirring to combine. 
  5. Cover the bowl and set aside at room temperature for at least one hour.
  6. When ready to serve, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and immediately toss with the tomato mixture.
  7. Serve at once with freshly grated parmesan cheese and more black pepper if desired.
Additional Notes
  • Pasta in shapes like macaroni, shells, or twists will hold onto small particles of food in chunky sauces better than long, smooth pasta.
  • The heat of the drained pasta will wilt the basil and slightly soften the cheese to bring out their full flavor. Therefore, do not rinse the pasta, as this will cool it.
  • Eliminate the cheese for a meat meal or if you need to make the dish in advance, since the melted cheese will clump when cold.