This one goes out to all my Italian family and has a special place in my heart. Growing up, almost all of my extended “family” was Italian. I loved this, because we are not one iota of Italian. A little Czech, a little Native American, a smidge of Irish… but we definitely got to enjoy the family/food-centric-lifestyle of a big Italian family. My mom’s parents owned a mushroom farm, and for decades the mushroom industry was (and still is!) sustained by several prominent Italian families, many of which became our own.
I can tell you, this was absolutely more of a blessing than it was a curse. On the upside – everyone was your ‘cousin’! Go to the grocery store? See your cousins! At a party? Call them all your cousins! Half of them aren’t really your cousins, but it’s easier to explain than saying “my mom grew up with their mom Lisa and she dated Lisa’s brother for a year but then he married Patty… so that’s my Aunt Lisa.”
Generations grew up alongside each other, and the grandparents had their kids, who played alongside each other, married into another big local family, had kids and did the same thing all over again. Your network of people who care about you is your entire town. It’s a great thing.
On the downside… your family is your entire town. You’ve got so many “cousins” that you have to do a family tree run-through just to make sure you’re in the clear if you plan on going on any dates. Speaking for a friend.
While there were plenty of dinners filled lasagnas and raviolis, and Seven Fish feasts to attend at Christmas, nothing is as simple (and equally delicious) as this salad. You don’t need any secret spices or coveted recipes by your Nana (but…. I need to find someone to give me a Gnocchi recipe… i’ll have to do some investigating…), you just need a big platter, the freshest Mozzarella, and some tomatoes and basil from your garden. Throw in some salt, pepper and a splash of balsamic and olive oil, and you have a fancy salad that looks beautiful anywhere.
That was basically a walkthrough of this recipe…. no, really! But i’ll still post how to arrange it. it is literally 2 steps – best simple salad ever.
Serves 6-8, small portions
Prep time: 10 min
- 2 cups small mozzarella balls, in water
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ~ 2 tsp basil, finely chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- pinch of fresh minced garlic (optional – literally just a PINCH – you do not want to overpower the salad)
- Mix mozzarella and cherry tomatoes in a bowl, stirring to get some of the tomato juice around.
- Add garlic (if using), then balsamic vinegar, then olive oil. Stir to coat salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I let mine sit for at least 20 minutes to marinate, but you can serve immediately.