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Pasta Salad with Grilled Tuna and Roasted Tomatoes

Serve this lunch salad to a hungry crowd just back from the beach. The ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and tossed with the dressing just before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 8 plum tomatoes, about 1 1/4 lb. total, halved lengthwise
  • 2 Tbs. plus 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. pasta shells
  • 2 lb. tuna fillets, each about 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 450°F. Prepare a hot fire in a grill.

Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and toss with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Arrange them, cut sides up, on the sheet and season with salt. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool, then cut in half crosswise.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold running water and drain again. Set aside.

Brush both sides of the tuna fillets with 1 Tbs. of the oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Place on the grill rack 4 to 6 inches above the fire and grill until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more for medium, or until done to your liking. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool and cut into 3/4-inch cubes.

In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves and the remaining 1/2 cup oil. Pulse or blend until chopped to a coarse puree. Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Pulse or blend until combined.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tomatoes and any accumulated juices, tuna, mozzarella, parsley and the basil dressing. Toss gently and serve. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Outdoors Series, Beach House Cooking, by Charles Pierce (Time-Life Books, 1999).