Caprese Pasta Salad

updated May 12, 2021
summer
Caprese Pasta Salad

All the classic components of caprese salad — juicy tomatoes, sweet basil, and milky mozzarella, come together in this crowd-pleasing pasta salad.

Serves8 to 10

Prep10 minutes

Cook10 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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close up of caprese pasta salad in a red dish
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Prepare to put this vibrant pasta salad on repeat this summer. It’s got all the elements of Italian caprese salad — juicy tomatoes, sweet basil, and milky fresh mozzarella — tossed with al dente pasta and a drizzle of balsamic. Better yet, since it utilizes cherry tomatoes (which taste great year-round), you don’t have to wait until peak tomato season to make it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

A Colorful Pasta Salad That’s Flexible to What You’ve Got

This pasta salad is intended to be extra easy and relaxed. It calls for any dried short pasta, which means you can grab what’s in the pantry rather than add it to the grocery list. Orecchiette’s my personal favorite — the pearl-sized fresh mozzarella balls (called perlini mozzarella) fall perfectly inside their cup-like shape. But even if you use larger bite-sized mozzarella balls and a different short pasta, you’ll still end up with winning results.

Caprese Pasta Salad

All the classic components of caprese salad — juicy tomatoes, sweet basil, and milky mozzarella, come together in this crowd-pleasing pasta salad.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    balsamic vinegar, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 1 pound

    dried short pasta, such as orecchiette, fusilli, or medium shells

  • 2 pints

    cherry or grape tomatoes (about 20 ounces or 4 cups total)

  • 1/2 cup

    packed fresh basil leaves

  • 1 pound

    fresh mozzarella cheese pearls (perlini) or mini cherry-size balls (ciliegine)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, mince 2 garlic cloves and place in a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and whisk to combine and emulsify.

  2. Add 1 pound dry short pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or according to package directions. Meanwhile, halve 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes (or quarter if large) and add it to the bowl of dressing.

  3. Drain the pasta in a colander and run briefly under cool water to lightly cool the pasta down. Drain well again. Add to the bowl of dressing and toss thoroughly to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to meld and the pasta to cool to room temperature. Tear 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves into bite-size pieces. Drain 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese pearls or mini cherry-size balls. If using mini balls, halve them.

  4. Add the mozzarella and basil to the pasta salad and gently fold to combine. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, or vinegar as needed.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pasta salad can be made up to 1 day ahead without the basil and refrigerated overnight. Let the salad sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before tasting and seasoning with salt, pepper, and vinegar as needed. Toss in the basil just before serving.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 5 days.