We have officially hit the time of the year when all I want to consume is cold foods. The temperatures here in Florida are around 90 degrees already, and they will only continue to climb as the summer arrives. Therefore, it is time to break out my arsenal of filling, flavorful, and fun meal options that will satisfy but keep me cool in temperature. My friends, this mozzarella, tomato, and basil couscous salad with arugula fits the bill perfectly.
In more recent years I’ve become quite addicted to fresh salad greens topped with various grain option. Couscous, quinoa, even rice – I’m all about combining the two for a hearty meal. They’re great plain, but then I got to thinking: what if I combined two glorious things…fresh green salad and pasta salad…into one fabulous dish? It just might work.
When it comes to summer, the flavors of caprese salad are definitely what I crave, so creating a caprese style pasta salad just seemed like the right thing to do. The pearled couscous is perfect for topping salad greens, ensuring you get a little bit of pasta with each forkful. The couscous is tossed with Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes freshly picked from my garden, fresh basil (also from my garden), and fresh mozzarella cheese. This flavor combination is one that has always delivered rave reviews from the family, and is one that they never seem to tire of, myself included.
Let’s take a minute to talk about fresh mozzarella Wisconsin Cheese. It is hands down one of my all time favorite cheese varieties to enjoy. It’s creamy, soft, and mild in flavor. Mozzarella cheese is always a perfect pairing with tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, so adding in a generous amount of cheese to this pasta salad (and garnishing your finished plate with a few more chunks) just seems right! I also love that it has a slightly elastic texture – the mouthfeel is fantastic, and you can tell it is fresh when you take a bite!
I’m not going to lie – I could simply consume this pasta salad on its own. And the good thing is that you can do that, no problem! But adding it to a bed of fresh, peppery arugula is the perfect complement to the pasta salad, in my humble opinion. It takes the pasta salad from a side dish to a full meal. If you have certain family members who aren’t a fan of arugula, you could also use spring mix or baby spinach. And if you want to add in some meat to the dish, adding a grilled chicken breast or other protein would be fantastic. Options: you have them!
Another reason I’ll give this dish a big thumbs up is for how easy it is to put together – you can prepare the pasta salad in advance and leave it to chill in the fridge. Then, when it comes time for your meal, all you have to do is scoop and go! It’s a great meal for the summer season when you want to spend time with your friends and family. I personally like to make an extra large batch of pasta salad so I can have it for my meal, but also have some later for a side dish on another day (or maybe another salad!).
Do you have a favorite Wisconsin Cheese? What variety can you not live without?
- 1 cup uncooked pearled couscous
- 7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 cups water
- 1 pound mozzarella, cubed
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade
- ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, julienned (and divided)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Fresh arugula (approximately 1 cup per salad)
- First, prepare the pearled couscous. Heat a medium sauce pot over medium high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pearled couscous and stir gently to coat. Lightly brown the couscous for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Then, add the 4 cups of water and turn the burner to high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle boil (simmer), cover, and continue cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is tender, about 15-17 minutes.
- Remove the couscous from heat and allow it to cool completely. You can speed up the process by placing it in the refrigerator, if necessary.
- Meanwhile, create the sundried tomato vinaigrette. Add sundried tomatoes, 6 tablespoons olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Process the ingredients until smooth.
- When the pasta has cooled, add it to a large bowl along with the cubed mozzarella, diced cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. Add 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and stir to coat. You can keep the remainder of the vinaigrette for dressing your salad, if desired!
- Scoop desired amount of pasta salad on top of a bed of arugula leaves. If desired, dress with some of the leftover sundried tomato vinaigrette. Enjoy!
If you’re looking for more Wisconsin Cheese inspiration, make sure you check out our Pinterest board! Wisconsin cheese also happens to be sponsoring a recipe contest for the Food and Wine Conference this year – make sure you click here to take a look at the details! You have until June 19th to enter your own recipe creation. You can visit Wisconsin Cheese on their website, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
This post is sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.
Also – make sure you get inspired by the other delectable recipes featuring Wisconsin Cheese today for Sunday Supper! With so many options you are sure to find one that is perfect for your family table!
- Cheese Crispies by Shockingly Delicious
- Cheese Fondue by Recipes Food and Cooking
- Prosciutto Havarti Spinach Bundles by Daily Dish Recipes
Main Dishes with Cheese:
- Cheese Curd Stuffed Meatball Sliders by The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
- Cheesy Crab Stuffed Peppers by FoodieTots
- Cheesy Skillet Lasagna by Life Tastes Good
- Cheesy Vegetable Enchiladas by Alida’s Kitchen
- Fontina Chorizo Spinach Quiche by Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch
- Ham, Blackberry Ricotta, and Fresh Mozzarella Grilled Cheese by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Korean-style Poutine 2.0 by kimchi MOM
- Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Couscous Salad with Arugula by Ruffles & Truffles
- Pimento Cheese Potato Soup by Cosmopolitan Cornbread
- Sausage and Burrata Pasta by Family Foodie
Cheese Side Dishes:
- Cheesy Jalapeno and Bacon Potato Au Gratin by Peanut Butter and Peppers
- Chipotle Beer Mac & Cheese by One Sweet Mess
- White Mac and Cheese by Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen
- Coconut Lime Cheese Crepes with Brandied Cherry Topping by The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch
- Ricotta Cheesecake Brownies by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
10 Ideas for Cheese Dip Dippers by Sunday Supper Movement
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