Fresh Tomato Pasta Salad

I try to go to the farmer’s market every week, which is a ritual I love. I’ve been going to this market since I moved here over six years ago (I was a regular at markets back home before I moved, too), and at this point I know most of the farmers by name and so it is a combination of shopping and catching up.

It probably also distracts me from the fact that I haven’t really done anything with my garden in a couple of years, despite my best intentions. It does,  however, keep me in grounded in the season, not to mention getting me better and fresher produce than I could buy elsewhere.

One of my favorite vendors sells baskets of mixed heirloom tomatoes, and right now their plants and putting out like crazy after the summer lull. The last two weeks I have not been able to resist the siren call of these beauties.

Drained tomato liquid and balsamic vinegar in a bowl

Last week when I brought them home, I felt momentarily stumped about how to enjoy them. I’m not someone who eats tomatoes like an apple. I was enjoying my version of a caprese style panzanella earlier this summer, but found it too fussy at work, what with the carrying bread separately, mixing, and letting it sit for a few minutes before eating.

Reducing the tomato liquid and balsamic vinegar in a pot

Then I remembered a pasta dish I’ve been making since college, with fresh diced tomatoes tossed onto hot pasta, with basil and feta cheese. And with a little updating, it’s now my new favorite craveable lunch.

The reduced sauce tossed with cavatelli pasta and cannellini beans

Fresh tomatoes, especially good heirlooms, can give off a lot of liquid. Which is full of flavor, but can really water things down. I decided to drain the liquid from the tomatoes, and cook it down with balsamic vinegar to make a sauce. Basically concentrating the flavor, and using it to sauce the pasta.

Tossing the heirloom tomatoes with the pasta and beans

Beautiful fresh heirloom tomatoes with feta, basil, cavatelli, and cannellini beans

Then tossing in the fresh tomatoes, basil, and some crumbled feta, along with some cannellini beans to increase the protein, and you’ve got a wonderful meal of a salad. I’ve been packing it into wide mouth pint jars and taking it for lunch.

Fresh tomato pasta salad in pint jars

Fresh Tomato Pasta Salad

Fresh Tomato Pasta Salad

  • About 2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, or any flavorful tomatoes
  • 1 cup cavatelli pasta, or any small shaped pasta
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Splash or two of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • About 4 ounces feta cheese
  • Put a pot of water on the stove. When it boils, add the pasta and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the pasta is done to your liking.
  • While the water is coming to temperature, start chopping the tomatoes. They should be a medium size, roughly 1/2-3/4", big enough to be chunky but small enough you could eat a couple at a time. Place the pieces and any juices released during chopping in a colander set over a bowl. Gently toss the chopped tomatoes a couple of times to help the juices fall out.
  • Chop the basil leaves into thin ribbons (chiffonade). If the feta is in block form, crumble it or cut it into small cubes, which will functionally crumble it.
  • Just before the pasta is done, move the tomatoes to a second bowl. Use the colander to drain the pasta. Put the empty pot back on the stove, and pour the tomato juices (and any seeds) into the pot, along with the balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let it boil until reduced to a nice consistency. Put the pasta into the bowl that the tomato juices were in, and pour a little olive oil over it and stir to coat.
  • Put the pasta back into the pot and stir it to make sure the sauce is coating every bit. Pour pasta back into bowl, scraping to get all the sauce out. Add cannellini beans to bowl, and stir. Add tomatoes, basil, and feta and stir to combine.
  • Salad is best served at room temperature.
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