This Caprese Pasta Salad is a quick and easy side dish that is perfect for highlighting fresh, seasonal summer produce. Based on the classic Caprese salad, it’s filled with fresh tomatoes and basil, fresh mozzarella, and perfectly cooked pasta all tossed in our homemade balsamic dressing.
Caprese Pasta Salad
Just like the classic salad, this Caprese Pasta Salad is an ode to fresh, ripe summer tomatoes. If you have a surplus of garden tomatoes, this pasta Caprese salad is perfect for using them up.
Simply cook and cool your pasta, toss in your fresh basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella, then whisk together a simple balsamic dressing. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavors become even more delicious, and bam - you’ve got a perfectly simple side dish for your next get-together.
This Caprese Pasta Salad recipe tastes amazing eaten cold or at room temperature, is perfect for serving any side crowd and can even be made the night before. It’s guaranteed to be a huge hit.
Ingredients in This Pasta Caprese Salad
- Pasta - the typical pasta to use for pasta salad is spiral pasta or rotini. You could also use penne, bowtie pasta, mostaccioli or even macaroni.
- Fresh Tomatoes - you can use any color or type of cherry or grape tomatoes. Typically I cut them in half so that they are easier to eat. If you can get your hands on delicious seasonal heirloom tomatoes, by all means use those instead. Just cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Mozzarella Cheese - you have a few options when it comes to mozzarella cheese for pasta salad. You can cut mozzarella cheese sticks into bite-sized pieces, or cut chunks from a brick of cheese, use fresh mozzarella balls or even use shredded cheese.
- Basil - fresh basil is a must in this salad.
- Olive Oil - this recipe calls for extra virgin olive oil because it is meant to be part of the flavor of the dressing and tastes so much better.
- Lemon Juice - use fresh lemon juice for this recipe, making sure to zest them first.
- Shallots - shallots of a wonderfully sweet onion flavor that tastes amazing in this dressing. You could substitute red onions if you want.
- Garlic - fresh garlic has the best flavor, but you can use the minced jarred garlic if you are in a pinch.
- Lemon Zest - use the zest from the lemons that you juice.
- Sugar - just a little sugar goes a long way in cutting the acidity from the vinegar in this dressing.
- Salt and Pepper
- Balsamic Glaze - you can purchase balsamic glaze from the store, or make your own by reducing balsamic vinegar down by about half. You want the glaze to be about the same consistency as honey, keeping in mind that it will thicken a bit as it cools.
How to Make Caprese Pasta Salad
- Cook and cool pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions, then rinse with cold water until cool.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Transfer drained and rinsed pasta to a large mixing bowl once cooled, then add the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and sliced basil leaves.
- Make the balsamic dressing. To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, minced shallot, minced garlic, lemon zest, sugar, salt, pepper and balsamic glaze in a medium bowl.
- Toss the salad. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and gently mix until everything is evenly coated. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Chill. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! I like to make the salad, but only add about ¾ of the dressing. Store overnight in the fridge, then add the rest of the dressing just before serving.
Since mozzarella is one of the stars in a caprese salad, it’s best to use fresh mozzarella. I love to use small fresh mozzarella balls in this pasta salad. You don’t need to prep them at all - just drain the liquid and toss them in. You can also use larger fresh balls of mozzarella and cut them into smaller pieces. I’ve also been known to cut mozzarella cheese sticks into bite-sized pieces before.
Any short pasta with plenty of nooks and crannies will work best in this pasta salad. Most of the time I will use rotini or spiral pasta, but fusilli, farfalle, macaroni, penne or shell pasta works great too.
Storing and Make-Ahead Instructions
- Refrigerator: store leftover Caprese Pasta Salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Make-Ahead: this can be made ahead from 2-24 hours before serving. If you plan to make the night before, reserve about ¼ of the dressing to add just before serving.
Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe
- 16 oz Spiral Pasta cooked al dente
- 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes cut in half
- 1 cup Fresh Mozzarella Cheese cubed, pearls or sliced cheese sticks
- ½ cup Fresh Basil sliced
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- ⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ¼ cup Lemon Juice
- ¼ cup Shallots minced
- 1 clove Garlic minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons Lemon Zest
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- ¾ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Glaze
- Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions, then rinse with cold water until cool. Transfer drained and rinsed pasta to a large mixing bowl once cooled, then add the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and sliced basil leaves.
- To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, minced shallot, minced garlic, lemon zest, sugar, salt, pepper and balsamic glaze in a medium bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and gently mix until everything is evenly coated. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper as needed.
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!
More Of The Best Summer Salad Recipes
- Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad
- Grilled Chicken BLT Salad
- Broccoli Salad with Bacon
- More Salad Recipes
- More Side Dish Recipes
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This easy Caprese Pasta Salad recipe is quick, easy and perfect for serving crowds of all size. It's based on the classic caprese salad, filled with cooked pasta, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil all tossed in our homemade balsamic dressing.