This easy Caprese pasta salad is everything summer! Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil make a fresh and crowd-pleasing side dish.

Caprese Pasta Salad

Need a quick and easy summer side dish? Think Caprese Pasta Salad! It’s a simple combination of juicy cherry tomatoes and fresh peppery basil, tossed together with soft mozzarella and chewy farfalle pasta. Because who doesn’t want more excuses to eat that classic Italian Caprese salad? It’s ideal for cookouts, pitch-ins and outdoor gatherings of all kinds: plus, leftovers work well for lunches. It’s basic, but we’re all in for this symphony of summer flavors! Love these flavors? Try a Caprese Sandwich, Caprese Flatbread or Caprese Skewers.

Ingredients in Caprese pasta salad

Nothing about pasta salad is Italian. In fact, it’s an American invention that started with macaroni salad in 1914. Caprese salad is a classic Italian dish from the island of Capri that combines tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves. Put them together, and you’ve got a Caprese pasta salad!

The flavors are basic but who can resist the classic combination of tomatoes and basil? We’ve added a few more ingredients to add a little complexity in flavor. But this is still a very easy pasta salad, much quicker to whip up than our classic, Greek or tortellini pasta salad. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bowtie pasta (farfalle): You can use any short cut pasta, but we like how the farfalle shape mixes with the vegetables and dressing in a pasta salad. (See this Greek Pasta Salad.)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh basil
  • Small mozzarella cheese balls
  • Parmesan cheese
  • White wine vinegar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Neutral oil: grapeseed, organic canola or organic vegetable
Caprese Pasta Salad

For the pasta salad dressing

A few notes on the dressing for this Caprese pasta salad. Some people like to use a balsamic vinegar here, since you often see Caprese salad with a balsamic reduction. But balsamic has a dark color that makes for a muddy-looking pasta salad.

Instead, this dressing is full of bright flavors, with white wine vinegar, garlic, a little sugar to balance, and oil. For the oil, you can use 100% olive oil if you like. But we like to use half olive oil and half neutral oil: it helps to keep the dressing from solidifying during storage.

Makes 10 to 12 servings: or consider a half recipe!

One thing to note about this Caprese pasta salad recipe: it makes a very large batch! It’s enough for 10 to 12 side dish servings, which is ideal for potlucks and cookouts. Keep in mind, you may want to cut this recipe in half if it’s not for a party. It saves well in the refrigerator, but the basil does become dark over time. Keep reading for some notes on storage!

Caprese Pasta Salad

Make ahead and storage for Caprese pasta salad

This Caprese pasta salad is ideal for making ahead for a cookout or barbecue. But there’s one thing to take special note of if you’re storing leftovers or planning to make it in advance. Here’s what to know:

  • Basil becomes brown when refrigerated. It still tastes fine and is safe to eat, but it loses that fresh glow.
  • Making this salad in advance? Omit the basil and add just before serving.
  • Caprese pasta salad lasts for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. It’s ideal for making ahead or healthy lunches throughout the week.
  • After refrigeration, refresh the flavors and basil. To revive leftovers, allow to come to room temperature, then stir in more chopped basil, a drizzle olive oil, handful Parmesan cheese, and a few pinches of salt.

And that’s it! We hope you enjoy this pasta salad at a summer gathering: let us know in the comments below!

More pasta salad recipes

Summer is all about pasta salad! Here are some of our top pasta salad recipes for the season:

This Caprese pasta salad recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.

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Caprese Pasta Salad

Caprese Pasta Salad


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 10 to 12 side dish servings 1x

Description

This easy Caprese pasta salad is everything summer! Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil make a fresh and crowd-pleasing side dish.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound bowtie pasta
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 8 ounces small mozzarella cheese balls (Ciliegine)*
  • ½ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil (like grapeseed or organic canola or vegetable oil**)
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Add-in: stir in a few drizzles Balsamic Reduction

Instructions

  1. Start a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Boil the pasta until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and run cool water over it until it’s room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes in half. Thinly slice the basil. Drain the mozzarella balls.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the white wine vinegar, granulated sugar, garlic powder, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Then whisk in the olive oil and neutral oil.
  4. Once the pasta is done, add it to the large bowl of dressing and toss with the chopped tomatoes, basil (unless you’re making it in advance), mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Taste and add more salt to taste if necessary. Serve immediately. Stores up to 4 days refrigerated, but the basil does become brown over time. If making ahead, omit the basil and add just before serving. To revive leftovers, allow to come to room temperature, then stir in more chopped basil, a drizzle olive oil, handful Parmesan cheese, and a few pinches of salt.

Notes

**You can double the mozzarella quantity if you like a cheesier salad, but we found it was sufficient with one 8-ounce container.

*Using a neutral oil helps so that the dressing doesn’t solidify in the refrigerator. You can also substitute more olive oil.

 

  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Caprese pasta salad

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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