Summer Pasta with Tomato, Arugula, Basil, and Red Onion
1 box ziti or pasta of choice
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, in large dice
1 ½ c. baby arugula
1 c. basil leaves
½ small red onion, chopped
1 ½ T. good quality balsamic vinegar
About ¼ c. olive oil
Salt and fresh black pepper
Cold Fontina cheese (optional)
In a small bowl add vinegar and red onions, stir well and let stand for about 10 minutes.
Next, in a fairly shallow casserole dish, add diced tomatoes, basil, arugula, and onions along with the vinegar. Add about half of the oil. Sprinkle in about a teaspoon of kosher salt and combine. Gently mix as you would a salad, to coat all the veggies with the dressing. While the pasta is cooking continue to gently fold the veggies.
Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil. When the water boils add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Drain the pasta, quickly, and, without rinsing, add it to the casserole dish. Fold the pasta in gently bringing the veggies up from the bottom to the top, until well combined. If desired, add about five gratings, using the larger blade of a box grater, of Fontina cheese. Season with more salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper. Serve at room temperature. This pasta is equally delicious as it cools.
Fontina is a fairly soft cheese, that melts quite nicely. Keeping the cheese cold makes grating or slicing much easier. Macerating* the onions in vinegar not only softens the onions but imparts a subtile and delicious flavor with out any overbearing vinegar flavor.
*Macerating is process used in food preparation where raw, dried or preserved fruit or vegetables are soaked in a seasoned, usually acidic, liquid before cooking. Macerating is often confused with “marinating.” The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, however they have a different purpose. Macerating refers to the softening or breaking down of tough fibers in foods using a liquid. This process not only helps make food more flavorful, it also makes them easier to digest. This is especially helpful with raw onions. Fruit, on the other hand, is usually sprinkled with sugar and a little fresh lemon, then left to sit and release their own juices.