This caprese pasta salad only needs a few ingredients, yet is super tasty. Made with fresh mozzarella cheese and juicy tomatoes, this pasta salad is an ideal side dish.
Pasta salads are the perfect side dish for summer. Some of our favorites are creamy shrimp pasta salad and tortellini pasta salad. This caprese pasta salad is an easy recipe that you can make in no time, perfect for any party or gathering.
When it comes to 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, anything from a basic lemon and olive oil vinaigrette to balsamic or even pesto will do the trick.
Why this recipe works
There are a few reasons why this is one of our very favorite pasta salads:
- It's very easy to make, just like our classic caprese salad.
- The recipe calls for just five ingredients.
- You can make it ahead of time and serve it later.
- It's vegetarian-friendly and easily modified to other preferences.
What does caprese mean?
Caprese is a popular Italian salad made with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil with some olive oil, salt and pepper. This combination is so refreshing and can work with many different recipes such as caprese stuffed chicken breast, avocado caprese sandwich and caprese gnocchi - any of which can be dinner recipes perfect for a family weeknight dinner.
To make this recipe, you need the following ingredients:
- Pasta - I used bow tie pasta, but you can use any other type such as rotini, macaroni or orecchiette pasta.
- Tomatoes - Grape or cherry tomatoes work perfect for this recipe.
- Fresh basil: In summer, you can use your garden basil to make this salad!
- Fresh mozzarella - You can either use mini mozzarella balls (bocconcini) or cut large mozzarella slices into small pieces.
- Olive oil: Opt for extra virgin olive oil if possible.
- Garlic: A little bit of finely minced garlic adds so much flavor!
- Pesto - Homemade or store bought would work.
- Make the pasta according to the packaging in salted water. Drain and let it cool completely. Place in a large bowl.
- Slice the mozzarella into 1-inch pieces and add it the bowl.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the pasta.
- Chop fresh basil and add it to pasta, tomato and mozzarella.
- Add the olive oil, garlic and pesto to the salad. Mix well so all the ingredients are combined.
- Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve cold.
Pro tip: It's best to wait until the last minute to chop and add the basil since it browns easily.
Can I make this ahead of time?
It's possible to make this recipe ahead of time. I suggest you add the tomatoes at the very last minute before serving to prevent them from getting watery. Besides that, you can make the rest of the salad easily beforehand.
A little note: Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper to refresh the salad before serving.
Cold pasta salad recipes like this one are perfect for summer barbecue parties. You can serve this pasta salad with any kind of barbecued meat such as chicken shish kabob, beef kebab and shrimp kabobs. This is also a delicious vegetarian pasta salad for your friends who don't eat meat.
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 make it a full, delicious meal.
- Spinach: Caprese pasta salad with spinach is one of our favorite alternatives.
- Avocado: Make a creamy pasta salad by adding chunks of avocado.
- Sun dried tomato: Fresh tomatoes are always delicious, but you can give this salad a kick by adding sun dried tomatoes, especially when fresh ones are not in season.
- Shrimp: Cooked or grilled shrimp goes so well with the rest of the ingredients.
- Veggies: Bell peppers, olives and peas are great choices for adding a little extra flavor.
Notes and tips
- Rinse the cooked pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process, and drizzle some olive oil on the pasta and stir it to prevent it from sticking together.
- To make this pasta salad with balsamic vinaigrette, swap basil pesto for a balsamic vinaigrette made with balsamic glaze, olive oil and a dash of salt.
- You can use homemade basil oil instead of pesto for this recipe.
- Making this recipe for a crowd? Simply double or triple this recipe and taste as you go to make sure it has enough seasoning.
- To make a good pasta salad, always use fresh ingredients. Make sure your caprese pasta salad has enough dressing and if you feel it's a bit dry, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
Caprese Pasta Salad
- 1 lb bow tie pasta
- 1 ½ cups fresh mozzarella cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cup cherry tomatoes cut in halves
- 1 cup fresh basil
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup basil pesto homemade or store bought
- Cook bow tie pasta according to the packaging. Rinse with cold water and drizzle with a little olive oil. Stir well to prevent sticking. Place the cooked pasta in a large bowl.
- Add the mozzarella and tomatoes to the pasta.
- Chop the basil leaves and add them to the pasta salad.
- Mix the ingredients gently using a spoon.
- Add the olive oil, garlic and pesto to the salad. Mix well.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve cold.
- You can use any kind of pasta you have at hand such as penne, rigatoni, or macaroni.
- You can add more or less mozzarella. You can also use mozzarella pearls for this recipe.
- Add more pesto if you like your caprese pasta salad to have a stronger flavor.
- Leave out pesto and add balsamic vinaigrette (balsamic glaze, 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.