Caprese pasta salad is a basic Italian pasta salad made with basil, tomatoes and pesto. It’s the best pasta salad for summer parties and gatherings. This Italian pasta salad recipe uses just a few ingredients and is ready in no time.
Pasta salads are the perfect side dish for summer. Some of our favorite pasta salads are creamy shrimp pasta salad and tortellini pasta salad. This caprese pasta salad is such an easy pasta salad recipe that you can make in no time and is perfect for your summer barbecue!
The best pasta salad for summer
When it comes to summer parties, a pasta salad is always a good idea. It can be made with many different ingredients and you can add different proteins and vegetables to it to make it tastier. As for the dressing and flavor, anything from a basic lemon and olive oil vinaigrette to balsamic or even pesto would work well.
You can usually make the pasta salad ahead of time and mix it with the dressing right before serving. I love making this caprese pasta salad with pesto in summer because it keeps well and if I’m making homemade pesto, I can use fresh basil which is always a plus.
What does caprese mean?
Caprese is a popular Italian salad made with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil with some olive oil, salt and pepper. The combination of mozzarella, basil and tomato is so refreshing and it can be made into different recipes such as caprese stuffed chicken breast, avocado caprese sandwich and caprese gnocchi which are easy dinner recipes perfect for a family weeknight dinner.
Caprese pasta salad ingredients
Caprese is a simple Italian combination of fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil. This caprese pasta salad recipe is flavored with some fresh pesto as well.
You can make this easy pasta salad two ways:
- Caprese pasta salad with pesto: this is the one I’ve made right here. Use any basil pesto (store bought or homemade) to give some flavor to the pasta salad.
- Caprse pasta salad with balsamic vinaigrette: swap basil pesto for a balsamic vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper for a fresh pasta salad. This one wouldn’t be as pretty because of the color, but it’s definitely delicious!
Can I make pasta salad ahead of time?
You sure can. I suggest you add the tomatoes at the very last minute before serving to avoid having them mushy, but beside that, you can make the rest of the salad easily beforehand. I suggest you add a couple table spoons of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper to refresh the salad before serving.
How do you make a good pasta salad?
Always use fresh ingredients. That’s the key to good pasta salad. Also, your pasta salad shouldn’t be dry therefore make sure you’re using enough fat like olive oil or dressings in the recipe.
Because pasta itself doesn’t contain much salt, it’s important that you add enough salt and spices to your pasta salad. Taste as you go and make sure that your pasta salad has enough salt and is not bland.
What to serve caprese pasta salad with
Cold pasta salad recipes are perfect for summer barbecue parties. You can serve this caprese pasta salad with any kind of barbecued meat such as shish kabob. This is also a delicious vegetarian pasta salad for your friends who don’t eat meat.
Want to jazz things up in this pasta caprese salad?
You can add the following ingredients to this basic Italian pasta salad for more flavor, or you can easily mix and match!
- Chicken: add grilled chicken to this pasta salad to make it a full, delicious meal.
- Spinach: the combination of fresh spinach and basil is perfect in this salad.
- Avocado: have a creamy pasta salad by adding chunks of avocado to this recipe.
- Sun dried tomato: Fresh tomatoes are always delicious, but you can give this salad a kick by adding sun dried tomatoes.
- Shrimp: cooked or grilled shrimp goes so well with the rest of the ingredients in this caprese pasta salad.
- Veggies: bell peppers, olives and peas add a little bit more flavor and texture to this summer pasta salad.
Notes and tips for this Italian pasta salad recipe
- Cook the pasta according to the packaging. For this recipe, I used bow tie pasta but you can use macaroni, shells, rigatoni, penne, or any other type of pasta that you have at hand.
- I always rinse pasta after cooking to discard the excess starch, and then drizzle some olive oil on the pasta and stir it to prevent it from sticking together.
- You can use homemade pesto for this caprese pasta salad. Check out New York Time’s basic pesto recipe.
- For a new flavor, use Italian dressing instead of pesto for this pasta salad.
- Use fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and fresh tomatoes for this pasta salad recipe. Fresh ingredients are the key to a delicious, simple dish.
Caprese Pasta Salad
Caprese pasta salad is a basic Italian pasta salad made with basil, tomatoes and pesto. It's the best pasta salad for summer parties and gatherings. This Italian pasta salad recipe uses just a few ingredients and is ready in no time.
- 1 lb bow tie pasta
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella pearls
- 2 cup Cherry tomatoes cut in halves
- 1 cups fresh basil chopped
- 1/2 cup basil pesto homemade or store bought
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
Cook bow tie pasta according to the packaging. Rinse and drizzle with a little olive oil. Stir well to prevent sticking.
In a bowl, stir together cooked pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella pearls and fresh basil.
Add basil pesto, salt and pepper. Stir well.
Cover and chill in the fridge for thirty minutes.
- You can use any kind of pasta you have at hand such as penne, rigatoni, or macaroni.
- You can add more or less mozzarella pearls. You can also cut a ball of mozzarella into small pieces.
- Add more pesto if you like your caprese pasta salad to have a stronger flavor.
- Leave out pesto and add balsamic vinaigrette (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper) if you're not a pesto fan.
- Add a couple of tablespoons olive oil to the salad if it looks dry.