Caprese Salad Rice Paper Rolls with Kale Pesto

I took these to a ‘ladies night’ at a friend’s house last week, and when I announced that they were ‘Caprese Salad Rice Paper Rolls’, I saw more than a few eyes widen. I knew what they were thinking. Not only did this crazy Aussie woman bastardize rice paper rolls, but she also did the unthinkable to the humble-but-brilliant caprese salad. But before we go wild with accusations and recriminations, just think about this rationally for a little bit…can we ever really go wrong with rice paper rolls or caprese? Two such winning, no-fail food concepts. Put them together, and trust me, there is magic on your plate.

A few hours on, and a few bottles of rosé later, the ladies were lauding my dish (maybe the alcohol helped?). I was more than a little relieved, and a whole lot thrilled, that my little east-meets-mediterranean experiment succeeded.

The next day, I served these rolls to my kids (no alchohol this time), with a side of kale pesto because my kids will eat anything with pesto…and another win! To be honest, I knew they would love it. They can’t get enough of rice paper rolls and they are caprese fiends.

The secret of this caprese salad roll is the oozy, super sweet shrunken tomatoes that I slow cook in the oven at a low temperature for 1-2 hours. That’s right, it takes some time, but I promise you, it is worth it. And at this time of year, when the greenmarkets are just teeming with tomatoes in the lead up to Fall, this is really the perfect way to use up as many tomatoes as you can, any way you can! You can slow-roast any and all varieties of tomatoes, and keep them in the fridge (cover in a little vegetable oil to help preserve) to add to pasta, sandwiches or frittatas.


Caprese Salad Rice Paper Rolls with Kale Pesto

If you are vegan, you can substitute the cheese with tofu or even avocado (though you would need to eat immediately if using avo to avoid discolouring!). It is just as delicious.

If you don’t have 1-2 hours to spare on the tomatoes, use store bought sun-dried tomatoes sliced up!

Serves 4

  • 12-16 sheets rice paper
  • 1-2 cups cooked kale
  • 1 lb/450g fresh mozzarella (bocconcini are ok)
  • ½ cup (tightly packed) basil leaves
  • 2-3 cups cooked rice noodles or mung bean vermicelli

Slow roasted tomatoes

  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • ½ clove garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch dried basil or oregano leaves
  • sea salt and black pepper

Kale Pesto (Makes 1.5 cups)

  • 100g kale
  • 1 cup (tightly packed) basil leaves
  • 1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • black pepper
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

You can make the tomatoes ahead of time and keep them in the fridge To make the kale pesto, add the kale, basil and garlic to the bowl of a food processor or blender and whizz it up. Next add the pepitas, sea salt and a grind of black pepper; whizz again. Give it a mix around to make sure everything is incorporated. Then pour in the olive oil and blend it all together. Pour it into a small bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese.

For the slow roasted tomatoes, place the halved cherry tomatoes on a baking tray. Sprinkle over sea salt, black pepper, a few dried basil leaves, garlic and the thyme. Roast in a low oven – about 140˚C / 285˚F – for 1-2 hours until the tomatoes are shrunken and sweet.

To assemble, fill a large, wide shallow dish with warm water. Dunk the rice paper into the water and allow to soften for 1 minute – don’t let it get too soft as it will break when rolling. When soft enough to roll, lay it out flat on a chopping board and start to assemble your filling. Starting at the edge of the rice paper closest to you (and leaving enough room to begin the rolling process), place a small handful of noodles. Then layer the tomato, kale, mozzarella and basil. To roll, bring the edge closest to you over the filling – pull it tight to keep everything in place. Fold over once, then fold in the sides and continue to roll until you have a nice, tightly bound roll. Continue rolling until you have run out of sheets and/or fillings.

To serve, cut each roll in half, with the kale pesto on the side as a dipping sauce.


SNACKHetty McKinnon