This easy Caprese pasta salad is made with a simple combination of the most delicious classic trio! Juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. Then combined with cooked pasta and tossed together with a light and zesty dressing.
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With mouthwatering Italian flavors and textures, this Caprese pasta salad is just one of my ways to enjoy a pasta salad this summer! The combination of cooked al dente pasta, juicy cherry tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and fragrant basil all tossed in a zesty balsamic vinaigrette is both satisfying and refreshing. It’s perfect for any gathering or as a light lunch option.
This recipe puts a spin on everyone’s favorite classic Italian appetizer, the Caprese salad. It’s a great way to use up the tomatoes and basil from your garden and makes an easy dish for potlucks and BBQs. It comes together so quickly and doesn’t require heating up the kitchen!
The pasta doesn’t overpower anything in this dish, in fact, it’s a hearty addition that complements and carries the other flavors so well. A homemade sweet and tangy balsamic glaze is the perfect finishing touch!
What is Caprese Salad?
Originating in Italy, a simple Caprese salad has a shortlist of ingredients. It combines tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. It’s classically drizzled with a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt, but some people enjoy the addition of balsamic vinegar. This awesome trio has been adapted to become a part of many dishes, such as a topping of bruschetta caprese, part of a warm creamy Caprese pasta dish, placed on kabobs for a hand-held appetizer, and even stuffed in a grilled Caprese sandwich!
Caprese Pasta Salad Tips
- Use the freshest ingredients possible! If you grow them, use them! The higher the quality of ingredients, the more flavorful this dish will be.
- Use grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. Avoid cutting up larger tomatoes as they may find they contain a lot more juice and water down your pasta.
- If you can’t find mozzarella balls (or pearls), chopped mozzarella will work. Use fresh mozzarella that is much softer than prepackaged which has a completely different harder texture.
- Cook your pasta until it’s al dente. You want sturdy pasta to stand up to all of the other ingredients.
Variations and Substitutions
- To make this a gluten-free dish, use gluten-free pasta noodles.
- I use bowtie pasta, but you can also use fusilli, orecchiette, or elbow macaroni, although I usually save that for my macaroni salad recipe. You just want to make sure it has some shape to it to be able to hold a good amount of dressing!
- Use a different dressing, like this simple vinaigrette or even a store bought brand in a pinch!
- Toasted pine nuts are a fun addition to give it some crunch.
- Add in grilled chicken or bacon strips for added protein.
- For a warm Caprese pasta salad, mix the pasta with everything else as soon as it’s done cooking. Watch that mozzarella melt!
Make Ahead + Storing
Making in advance: The longer this Caprese pasta salad sits, the more the flavors marry, so this is the best dish to make ahead of time! You can definitely make this the day before. If you’re worried about soggy tomatoes, you could toss them in just before serving. Alternatively, you could assemble the salad, but keep the salad dressing separate then toss it together right before eating.
Storing: Keep this salad covered in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Caprese salad, also called Insalata Caprese, is an Italian salad comprised of fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and fresh tomatoes then drizzled with balsamic vinegar. This version also includes pasta for a filling variation.
A soft mozzarella cheese tastes best. This is opposite of a hard, firm mozzarella which can be shredded for pizza. Soft mozzarella is in water and needs to be drained. You can use fresh pearl mozzarella, mozzarella balls or even dice fresh mozzarella cheese logs. If you can’t find fresh mozzarella feta cheese or goat cheese would be great substitutes.
Yes, this is a great idea for a make ahead meal! Just assemble and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. I like to remove it from the fridge 10 minutes before serving and give it a final stir. If I find that the salad has absorbed the dressing, I will add another drizzle to freshen it.
More Summer Salad
Caprese Pasta Salad
Balsamic glaze, for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Set aside to cool.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and dried oregano.
- Add the tomatoes, mozzarella balls and freshly chopped basil to the large bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the tomato mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes. Add more basil or salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with balsamic glaze if desired. Serve warm or chilled.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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