Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad w/ Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad with Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I have a tendency to rant. And, more often than not, those rants tend to be about the weather. Remember this gem from February? In my defense, I am from Nova Scotia and complaining about the weather is kinda our thing – it’s kinda a thing for most coastal populations. Although I’ve called Toronto home for nearly 10 years now, sustained exposure to Lake Ontario doesn’t take the Maritimer out of the girl. So today, I’m gunning for spring and it’s diabolical plan to limit my enjoyment of this Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad and its inability to reward me for my heroic survival of winter. 

Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad with Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

Spring, what the f*ck?  Haven’t we suffered enough? It was dark, gray, and depressing all winter long. And now it’s spring and it’s dark, gray and depressing. It’s very unmotivating. You’re not inspiring confidence. I mean, you get bonus points for that sweet spike in temperature but are you holding the sun for ransom? You stunted the potential of this Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad when you forced me to eat it inside. I get that your pissy precipitation makes tulips possible, but you have to know when to let up. At some point you’re not helping, you’re hurting. My daffodils are pretty beaten down from the last downpour and so am I. Toronto is hella green, it doesn’t need any more rain. So, stop! Either bring the sunshine or f*ck off and let summer drive! Rant over.

Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad with Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

As always, my flare of anger is due to disappointment. I got excited about a potentially sunny Friday cookout that didn’t wind up happening because, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, it got rained out. But when I was making this Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad, I did not yet know the fate of my evening plans. Last Thursday had been a spectacular day and summer seemed all but inevitable – I got excited. And when I get excited about summer, I make pasta salad.

Toasted Fennel Seed Vinaigrette - Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad with Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

To me, pasta salad is the ultimate summer side. It transforms pasta from slouchy comfort food to refreshing BBQ companion. And anything that makes pasta an appropriate all-weather food deserves to be worshiped. I also love that pasta salad, like pizza, is a culinary Mad Lib. You can put any combination of any number of things in a pasta salad, which makes it an ideal vehicle for leftovers. Essentially, you can empty your fridge into a bowl and nothing gross will ever lurk in your fridge again… or that’s the dream, anyway.

Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad with Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

This salad is basically a riff on the classic Caprese Salad except the tomatoes have been exchanged for cantaloupe, the balsamic dressing for a toasted fennel vinaigrette and, oh yeah, it’s riddled with pasta. Essentially the only thing Caprese about this Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad is the fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. But, come on! How could I resist a good double alliteration? Cantaloupe Caprese? No one is above picking that name. No one!

Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad with Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

I chose cantaloupe because of its vibrant color and refreshing texture. I’m a melon-fiend! I think the fact that my grocery store offers “Personal” watermelons is a triumph. And, yes, I’m fully aware that calling them “Personal” is just a clever way to charge more for less melon. And, yes, to me a melon of any size has the potential to be a “Personal” melon. But what can I say? Marketing to me is like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyway, the point is cantaloupe = summer goodness, so into the salad it went.

Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad with Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

In reality, this pasta salad was a summer ingredient dream team. To me, any fresh cheese is a summer cheese and basil invades my garden every summer, so just the smell of it manufactures the feeling of sun on my face. With this stacked summer-ready cast, this Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad deserved to be enjoyed outside under a patio umbrella in the blazing sunshine. But instead, my boyfriend BBQed sausages under a RAIN umbrella while I grumbled over this salad inside.

Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad with Toasted Fennel Vinagrette

This Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad deserves its moment in the sun. So, the next time a sunny day strikes the place you call home, do me a solid and give this salad a go. Thanking you in advance.

Enjoy!

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Cantaloupe Caprese Pasta Salad w/ Toasted Fennel Vinaigrette

Serving Size: 4 side salads

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried orecchiette
  • 1/2 cantaloupe
  • 1/4 cucumber, cut into ribbons
  • 1 (200 g or 7 oz) tub of mini bocconcini, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook orecchiette according to package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  2. Cut cantaloupe into balls using a melon baller. Place them in a large bowl.
  3. Add the bocconcini, basil, cucumber and cooled orecchiette.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
  5. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. About 3 minutes.
  6. Add the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes to the skillet and sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  7. Place fennel seed mixture in a small mixing bowl. Add the remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt. Whisk to combine.
  8. Pour the vinaigrette over the cantaloupe/orecchiette mixture. Toss to coat.
  9. Chill the salad for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours meld.
  10. Garnish the finished salad with fresh ground pepper.
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