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This easy-to-make Caprese pasta salad is a beautifully bright, sweet and tangy summertime salad that is refreshing light and simply delicious!
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Table of Contents
  1. Homemade Caprese Pasta Salad
  2. Why We Love This Caprese Pasta Salad
  3. Ingredients / Shopping List
  4. How To Make Caprese Pasta Salad
  5. Variations / Options / Add-In's
  6. Tips
  7. Frequently Asked Questions
  8. Other Easy Salads
  9. Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe

This easy-to-make Caprese Pasta Salad recipe has all of the elements and classic Italian flavors of Caprese filled with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella made quickly into a pasta salad! It is a beautifully bright, sweet, and tangy summertime salad that is refreshing light, and simply delicious!

caprese pasta salad hero image

Homemade Caprese Pasta Salad

Our Caprese pasta salad is so much more than macaroni mixed with Italian dressing. It is the perfect marriage of flavors and textures: juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, rounds of creamy mozzarella and then tossed with a heavenly balsamic dressing that lightly coats each pasta noodle.

The ingredients may seem simple, but the combination of sweet and tangy is absolutely delightful. This recipe is the perfect mix of cool food that is meant for warm-weather meals!

The conventional dull pasta salad is often the most bypassed bowl on the picnic table. This Caprese pasta salad is anything but boring and everything delicious. It will completely change the way you think about that often overlooked noodle when you plan your summer menu.

Not only is this salad super easy to prep or make at the last minute, but it is a nutritiously filling dish that can be served as a main course or an accompanying side.

Because pasta is naturally starchy, I love to pair it with protein-rich ingredients to create a well-balanced meal. Mozzarella cheese is a perfect vegetarian protein option and makes this Caprese pasta salad a great meatless meal. However, if you are a meat lover like me, feel free to add grilled chicken for a heartier pasta salad and an extra boost of protein.

Why We Love This Caprese Pasta Salad

  • Simple to make and quick to prepare
  • Juicy tomatoes and fragrant basil add a pop of summer flair
  • When the weather is hot, the food should be light and cool
  • Sweet flavor with each tangy bite
  • Perfect dish for a potluck, picnic, or barbeque
  • Can be served as a side dish or main meal
  • Versatile–you can make it Vegetarian, Vegan or add desired ingredients
  • Great for feeding a crowd
caprese pasta salad in a bowl with fork

Ingredients / Shopping List

  • Bow-tie pasta: Any medium pasta will work. Choose one with crevices and curves so it can hold the dressing. 
  • Fresh mozzarella pearls: Mini mozzarella balls makes the perfect creamy protein. 
  • Grape tomatoes: I prefer grape or cherry tomatoes in this recipe, but any ripe fresh tomato will be delicious.
  • Fresh basil: It is worth using fresh basil in this salad because the flavor is more pronounced.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: I always suggest using the best olive oil you can buy. For this dressing, I prefer a light and bright extra virgin olive oil with fruity notes.
  • Balsamic vinegar: Provides a rich, complex sweetness for the dressing and glaze.
  • Honey: A natural sweetener for the dressing and glaze.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic adds amazing flavor. 
  • Packet of Italian season dressing mix: Adds aromatic seasoning and extra zest to the balsamic dressing.

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How To Make Caprese Pasta Salad

This Caprese Pasta Salad is so easy to make in only 15 minutes–no oven necessary!

Begin by combining the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic and Italian season mix to make the dressing. Mix well and place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the rest of the pasta salad.

combining the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic and Italian season mix mixed in a bowl

Cook and drain the pasta according to package directions.  Place it in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Add the halved grape tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, fresh chopped basil (reserving some of the basil for garnish) to the pasta.

pasta mixed with halved grape tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, fresh chopped basil in a bowl

Mix ½ cup of the prepared balsamic dressing with all the pasta salad ingredients. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

mix the salad in a big mixing bowl

While the pasta salad is chilling, make the balsamic glaze for the garnish by combining the balsamic vinegar and honey. In a small saucepan bring the mixture to a boil on the stove and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture reduces by half. 
Pro Tip: If you do not want to make your own balsamic dressing, feel free to use your favorite store bought brand in place of the dressing in this recipe.

balsamic glaze in a small pan

Transfer the glaze to a glass jar and allow it to cool completely.

transfer the glaze to a jar

Drizzle the balsamic glaze on the chilled pasta salad and garnish it with the reserved chopped basil just prior to serving.

caprese pasta salad on a plate

Variations / Options / Add-In’s

  • Pasta: Shorter cuts of pasta are generally used because they hold the dressing. Feel free to experiment with rotini, farfalle, or orecchiette.
  • Gluten-Free: Feel free to use gluten-free pasta.
  • Substitutes for fresh mozzarella: If mozzarella isn’t available, try a good quality chunky feta or goat cheese instead.
  • Protein: You can make this a non-vegetarian/vegan meal by adding chicken, tuna, or your favorite meat
  • Vegan Protein: For a vegan option, you can use non-dairy cheese, avocado, tofu, or tempeh. Note that honey is used in our dressing and is not part of a Vegan diet.
  • Oil: It is best to use olive oil, but you may substitute with avocado oil if you don’t have olive oil.
  • Vegetables/Fruit: Sliced peppers, onions or black or green olives can also be added to the salad.
  • Balsamic Vinegar: Golden balsamic vinegar can be used in this dressingand will be slightly sweeter than regular balsamic with a less caramelized flavor. Rice wine vinegar can also be substituted.
caprese pasta salad in a bowl

Tips

  • Store extra balsamic dressing in the refrigerator in a lidded jar for up to 1 month. Use it as a marinade for chicken or on your favorite mixed greens salad.
  • You can use the balsamic glaze to top fresh fruit and greek yogurt. Sprinkled it with toasted almonds to make a delicious snack.
  • Briefly cooking the tomatoes on the stove makes their bright flavor pop. It also releases some juices that combine with the olive oil to turn into a light pasta sauce. 
  • Mozzarella “pearls” are easy to find in most grocery stores (they are little mozzarella balls about the diameter of a dime). If you can’t find them, you can buy a standard mozzarella ball and tear it into smaller pieces, or cut any mid-sized mozzarella ball (Ciliegine) into smaller pieces.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best pasta to use in this recipe?

Just about any style of short pasta works well with this salad. We used bow-tie, but rotini, farfalle, or orecchiette would be great too.

Should I rinse the pasta for this Caprese Pasta Salad?

It is important to rinse the pasta if you are using it for a cold pasta salad. Rinsing will not only cool down the pasta, but it will also stop the cooking process of the pasta. You want the pasta to be Al dente for pasta salads.

How long will my pasta salad remain fresh?

This caprese pasta salad will last in the refrigerator for up to 4 days in a covered container.

Can I make this pasta salad in advance?

Yes! This recipe is a great make-ahead dish to prepare and save in the fridge before it is mixed with the balsamic dressing. Make your dressing and save it on the side until you are ready to serve. It will taste even better after all of the flavors have infused together.

What can I serve with my pasta salad?

Pasta salads are perfect to enjoy as is or you can pair it with other sides or main dishes. Feel free to serve this Caprese Pasta Salad with cold meats, grilled veggies, sandwiches, soups or grilled kabobs.

mixing caprese pasta salad in a bowl

Other Easy Salads

The Best Chicken Salad | Easy Cucumber Salad | BLT Pasta Salad | Mexican Corn Salad (Street Corn) | Watergate Salad | Traditional Potato Salad | Deviled Egg Pasta Salad | Big Mac Salad | Italian Pasta Salad | Corn Salad | Creamy Pasta Salad

5 from 1 vote
caprese salad square image

Caprese Pasta Salad

Serves — 8
This easy-to-make Caprese pasta salad is a beautifully bright, sweet and tangy summertime salad that is refreshing light and simply delicious!
Prep Time 15 mins
Chill Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins

Ingredients
  

Pasta Salad

  • 12 ounce box Bow-tie pasta cooked and drained
  • 8 ounce package of fresh mozzarella pearls (mini mozzarella balls)
  • 2 cups (1 ½ pints) of grape tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 small bunch of fresh basil chopped and divided

Balsamic Dressing

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp grated garlic about 2 cloves
  • 0.6 ounce packet of Italian season dressing mix

Balsamic Glaze(for garnish)

  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp honey

Instructions
 

  • In a small mixing bowl (or a pint size mason jar) combine all the ingredients for the balsamic dressing. Mix well and place in the refrigerator to chill while preparing the rest of the pasta salad.
  • Cook pasta for 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and place cooked pasta into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  • In the large mixing bowl, with the cooked pasta, add the halved grape tomatoes, package of mozzarella pearls, fresh chopped basil (reserving some of the basil for garnish) and ½ cup of the prepared balsamic dressing.
  • Mix all the pasta salad ingredients together, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  • While the pasta salad is chilling, make the balsamic glaze for the garnish, by combining the balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan on the stove top. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture reduces by half. Transfer the glaze to a glass jar and allow to cool completely before drizzling it on the pasta salad just prior to serving.
  • Garnish the chilled pasta salad with the reserved chopped basil and the balsamic glaze.

Jenn’s Notes

Tips/Notes:
  • If you do not want to make your own balsamic dressing, feel free to use your favorite store-bought brand in place of the dressing in this recipe
  • Store extra balsamic dressing in the refrigerator in a lidded jar for up to 1 month. Use it as a marinade for chicken or on your favorite mixed greens salad
  • You can use the balsamic glaze to top fresh fruit and greek yogurt. Sprinkled it with toasted almonds to make a delicious snack
  • Briefly cooking the tomatoes on the stove makes their bright flavor pop. It also releases some juices that combine with the olive oil to turn into a light pasta sauce.
  • Mozzarella “pearls” are easy to find in most grocery stores (they are little mozzarella balls about the diameter of a dime). If you can’t find them, you can buy a standard mozzarella ball and tear it into smaller pieces, or cut any mid-sized mozzarella ball (Ciliegine) into smaller pieces.

    Nutrition Info

    Calories: 370kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 254mg | Potassium: 221mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 313IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 1mg
    Jennifer Fishkind

    About Jenn

    Jenn is a mom to three beautiful boys, wife to an amazing husband, social influencer and blogger. I love all things easy recipes, easy crafts, all things hacks, traveling EVERYWHERE and feeding my Pinterest addiction!

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