Fusilli with Basil, Mint, and Mozzarella

It was the offer of fresh herbs from my mother that inspired this recipe — big bunches of mint and basil that I was determined to make good use of right away. I thought of using them together over pasta, and I took inspiration from a New York Times recipe for the addition of fresh mozzarella and fusilli pasta. While at the store to buy the pasta, I saw grape tomatoes I wanted to use. That’s how I came up with this recipe, an easy one that is great for warm weather, when we don’t want heavy sauces and don’t want to spend a long time in the kitchen.

I can’t give exact amounts of the herbs, but I recommend using a whole lot. I had about six sprigs of garden-grown mint that, when chopped, yielded a large pile on the cutting board (if I could have scooped it up, it would have been a giant handful). Same with the basil. I had maybe three stems of organic basil that were huge and gave me about the same amount as the mint. But go with what you have, or whatever amount you prefer.

16 oz. fusilli pasta
1 punnet (about 1 pint) grape tomatoes
16 oz. mozzarella pearls (I used these from BelGioioso) or balls of mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
A lot of mint, chopped
A lot of basil, chopped
Garlic powder (about 1/2 tsp.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the tomatoes in half width-wise (if they are especially long grape tomatoes, cut them in thirds). Place them in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients, mix and let sit at room temperature while you cook the pasta.

Cook the fusilli until al dente, then drain and add to the bowl with the tomato mixture. Mix well and serve.

Spaghetti al Crudo

Literally, spaghetti with a raw, or uncooked, sauce. It’s typically made with tomatoes, capers, olives, and anchovies. It’s a great dish to make during the summer because it requires a minimum of cooking and uses beautiful, fresh, quality ingredients. I made it over the weekend as a sort of last goodbye to the warm weather this year.

This recipe comes from London star chef Giorgio Locatelli. He says that on a hot day in Italy, many people add a tin of tuna to the sauce.

Serves 4

2 Tbsp. capers (baby ones if possible — if they’re very large, chop them up a little)
4 Tbsp. pitted back olives, quartered
5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 very large tomatoes, or 3 smaller ones (the best quality you can find), finely chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato passata
400g spaghetti
1 bunch basil
5 Tbsp. olive oil

Put all the ingredients except the spaghetti, basil, and half the oil in a wide bowl and mix together, but don’t heat. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper — though go easy on the salt, as the anchovies will add plenty.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, then drop in the pasta. Cook it for about a minute less than the time given on the package so it will be al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, place the bowl with the tomato mixture over the top of the pasta pot, so that the ingredients gently heat without being cooked.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it, but reserve the cooking water. Add the pasta to the bowl with the tomato mixture and toss, then add the rest of the oil and toss again. Add a touch of the cooking water if needed to loosen. Tear the basil leaves, sctatter on top, and toss again. Serve immediately.

Peachy Keen Lentil Salad

I know — this is yet another salad recipe, but it’s the summer and I just want cool, simple dinners these days. I got this recipe from the back of an artsy greeting card with a huge peach on the front in Atlanta about 10 years ago. I put it in my recipe book and never got around to making it until last night. The result was so delicious that it was another case of, “Why on earth did I wait so long?”

Everything works together really well here — the peaches freshen up the lentils, the balsamic brings out the flavor of the fruit, the basil works well with the feta. This is a great salad to serve for lunch, maybe with crispy crackers. On its own, it makes a wonderful meal for vegetarians and those on low-GI and Weight Watchers plans — especially if you can find fat-free feta.

One more thing — this is a great way to use up leftover feta you may have in the fridge. Just adjust the proportions as needed.

Serves 4

1 cup green or Puy lentils*
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup crumbled feta (fat-free if possible)
2 peaches, cubed
2 basil sprigs, chopped
Dash of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Boil a pot of water and add the lentils. Cook about 10 minutes or until the lentils are al dente. Drain and set aside.

When the lentils have cooled, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. And add the lentils and mix gently to combine.

*French Puy lentils and green lentils retain their shape when cooked, so they’re good to use in recipes like this one. Click here for a list of different kinds of lentils.