Caprese Pasta Salad with juicy tomatoes, creamy fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil is a great salad for the summer. It’s light and cool, loaded with fresh flavors Italian cold pasta recipe, and goes great with grilled meats or all on its own for an easy meal.
I look forward to a lot of things during the summer and one of them is pasta salads. They’re easy to make and satisfy a pasta craving without a lot of work. This caprese pasta salad has everything I love about caprese salad but served as a delicious cool pasta salad instead.
What is caprese pasta salad?
It has the same ingredients as a traditional caprese salad – fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil but with pasta added in. It’s served cold or at room temperature and is perfect for a warm summer day.
I also love to make my hot caprese pasta but not when it’s very warm. During the summer, it’s all about cold pasta for me!
This is a great recipe to make for potlucks, a picnic, or cookouts. I love it as a side dish for grilled chicken and steak or just serve it on its own with some delicious homemade Italian bread on the side.
- Pasta – Most short pasta shapes are good. I like to use spiral pasta, bowties, or gemelli for this recipe. Penne would also work well.
- Basil pesto – This is optional, but adds a nice flavor. You can use Homemade Pesto or store bought.
- Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes – halve them first before you add them to the salad.
- Fresh mozzarella – cut it into bite-sized pieces. Or you can use mozzarella pearls which are small balls.
- Olive oil
- Chopped fresh basil leaves
- Dried oregano
Mix the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, oregano, oil and salt in a large bowl. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This will allow the juices from the tomatoes to mix with the seasonings for the best flavor.
Boil the pasta in a large pot until al dente. Drain it and let it cool. Add the cooled pasta and pesto to the tomato mixture. Toss to combine.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the pasta salad for at least one hour before serving it.
Should you rinse pasta for pasta salad?
No, you should never rinse pasta. Instead, you should drain it and then let it cool. To keep the pasta from sticking, toss it with pesto or olive oil.
Can you make this salad ahead?
You can make it up to a day in advance and keep it in the refrigerator. If the salad is a little dry before you serve it, toss it with a little extra pesto or olive oil.
Other Mix-Ins to Add
This caprese pasta salad is delicious as is, but you can add other mix-ins if you like. These aren’t things you’ll find in a traditional caprese, but they are good! Here are some ideas:
- Add some chopped toasted pine nuts.
- Sprinkle in some freshly ground black pepper.
- You might like some chopped roasted garlic.
- Mix in some grated Parmesan cheese.
- Add a little balsamic vinegar or drizzle in some balsamic glaze.
- If you want to make it a filling main dish, add a protein like grilled chicken.
It’s not summer until you make a pasta salad, so give this caprese pasta salad recipe a try soon. It’s so light and the flavor combination is so good. Buon Appetito!
More Pasta Salad Recipes
Italian Caprese Pasta Salad
- 25 cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)
- 9-10 ounces fresh mozzarella (large chopped or small balls halved) 300
- 5-6 leaves fresh basil chopped (or more if desired)
- ¼-½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼-½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups cooked al dente pasta (butterfly, spiral or gemelli pasta)
- 2-3 tablespoons pesto (optional)*
*You can use Homemade Pesto or store bought.
- In a medium bowl mix together the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, oregano, salt and oil. Let sit 30 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine the slightly cooled al dente pasta and pesto. Add the tomato mixture and gently combine well. Cover well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Enjoy!