Caprese Pasta Salad
This Caprese Pasta Salad has a classic combination of fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese, tied together with a simple vinaigrette. It’s perfect for summer potlucks and picnics, and you can make it a meal by adding a protein like Grilled Chicken Breast!
The Caprese flavor combination is one of those ultimate pairings that never goes out of style.
When warm weather hits, I always look forward to eating lots of Caprese themed foods, whether it’s simply sliced tomatoes with mozzarella, basil, oil, and balsamic, or if it’s the Caprese theme applied to other foods, like this Caprese Pasta Salad.
This recipe is one of my go-to dishes for potlucks and picnics, as it travels really well, and nearly everyone loves caprese. In my collection of 24 Potluck Salads that are perfect for summer, it’s one of the recipes I make the most.
This pasta salad is very simple, but the caprese combination shouldn’t be messed with too much. Tomato + fresh mozzarella + basil are the stars here.
A variation I’ll do from time to time is add a 1/2 cup of basil pesto to amplify the caprese theme, when I have it on hand. Or, I will stir in a big heap of fresh Tapenade because olives are such a complementary flavor.
Other times I will add crispy, crumbled bacon, which might sound odd here but actually adds a wonderful salty, meaty heartiness to the salad. But that’s as far as my variations go. Sometimes classics should stay classic.
How to Make Caprese Pasta Salad:
To get started, make the vinaigrette by combining a good, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper:
This is definitely a dish where the deliciousness is majorly impacted by the quality of ingredients used.
Next, gather up some good tomatoes and cut them in half. I like the heirloom grape and cherry tomatoes:
Next, cook some bowtie pasta according to package directions, then rinse under cold running water. We actually want to rinse the excess starch off the pasta, and it will also help the pasta cool down:
Next get some fresh basil leaves:
Chop them up, then add the basil, tomatoes, and some fresh cieligini mozzarella balls:
I buy the ones that are already marinated for some extra flavor, but plain mozzarella balls will work too.
Toss it all together:
Now it’s ready to serve and enjoy!
For more dishes that hold up well, I have 24 more potluck salad recipes.
Can you make Caprese Pasta Salad ahead of time? Yes, make it up to 6 hours in advance and keep it chilled in the fridge. You can technically do it even a day ahead, but the tomatoes will get a bit mealy from the cold refrigeration and the pasta will soften slightly, so for optimal flavor, make it closer to serving.
Caprese Pasta Salad
- 1 lb bowtie pasta
- 3 tbsp good quality vinegar (apple cider, sherry, or balsamic)
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- black pepper freshly ground
- 25 large basil leaves chopped
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
- 16 oz fresh mozzarella cieligini*
- Bring a big pot of water to a boil, then salt it generously, with a few tablespoons of salt. Taste the water to make sure it tastes like seawater.
- Cook your pasta to al dente per package instructions, then drain and rinse the pasta.
- In a large bowl, whisk to combine the vinegar, mustard, garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add the basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, and pasta to the bowl, and toss well. Make your final seasoning adjustments and serve. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Updated from the archives with new photos and writing in July 2018. Originally posted September 2011.