Caprese pasta salad is loaded with fresh tomatoes, soft mozzarella and sweet basil and tossed with balsamic vinaigrette for an easy, bright and delicious summer side dish!
We had a really relaxing weekend here. Some walks and bike rides, some pool time, some movie nights and some good family hang out time.
I'm thankful, too, because it's gonna be a busy week. I counted 10 appointments we have just this week, between swim lessons and doctor's appointments and summer tutoring... eek!
Thankfully, we have a wonderful nanny (a teacher from the kids' preschool) who is with us in the mornings while I'm on deadline for my day job as a health and nutrition editor. She's a huge help and the kids just adore her (as do I)!
But let's get to the fun stuff... the FOOD!
Today’s Caprese pasta salad celebrates my love of all things Caprese!
It started with a trip to Capri, Italy, after I graduated college.
That little Italian island is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
And in addition to all the gelato we ate (!), there was plenty of Caprese salad to enjoy.
The juicy ripe tomatoes, the soft, fresh mozzarella slices, the bright sweet basil. Oh swoon!!
And this Caprese salad with pasta recipe is another way to enjoy that classic!
It’s super simple, which really lets the bright, fresh flavors of the ingredients shine through.
I love, too, that the salad is just 4 basic ingredients.
(So is easy Caprese bruschetta if you want an easy, delicious appetizer this summer.)
And the homemade balsamic dressing is just 3 more on-hand ingredients! And gives it such a big PUNCH of flavor!
It’s such a crowd-pleaser, too. Makes it a great one to take to all the summer parties, potlucks, picnics and BBQs! 😊
Now, I’ve got some notes and FAQs coming up for this recipe. Just tryin’ to be helpful.
If you want to jump on down to the recipe, simply scroll right on through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
What is Caprese salad?
Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad made with fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil that’s usually layered and arranged on a plate. It’s seasoned with salt and olive oil and sometimes balsamic vinegar.
What kind of tomatoes do I need for Caprese salad?
Summer heirloom tomatoes are always delicious if you can find them. However, cherry or grape tomatoes are also great for this recipe. Regular vine-ripe tomatoes or Roma tomatoes will work well here too.
What kind of pasta should I use for Caprese pasta salad?
I love orzo here because it gets well coated in the vinaigrette and is easy to scoop into a bite with everything else in the salad.
You could also use a small shell pasta or macaroni. Even a penne or bowtie pasta would work.
So now let’s bring all of this together!
Notes on making Caprese pasta salad:
- The pasta needs to be cooked and then cooled to make the salad. Please plan accordingly.
- I love the Ciliegine or cherry size balls of fresh mozzarella for this salad. However, if you can only find larger balls or a full ball of fresh mozzarella, just chop that up into smaller pieces. (I did that when I made this for these photos.)
- The homemade balsamic vinaigrette is super easy to make but you could certainly substitute a store-bought balsamic vinaigrette.
- This salad is best served right after it’s mixed so everything is as fresh as possible.
- But you can prep everything for this salad ahead of time and then combine it before ready to serve.
And if you have leftovers and want to freshen them up the next day, just add some extra balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil and mix it all together well.
It's ready to go again!
Oh, and one last note… if you are looking to make this for the 4th of July, you could use purple basil to have a red, white and blue kinda theme going on. 🇺🇸👍
So there you have it!
I hope you give this Caprese pasta salad a try for an easy side dish or to take to a party this summer.
P.S. Stay tuned for my quinoa Caprese salad coming soon. Yes, I am Caprese obsessed!
(You can sign up for my free weekly e-newsletter to get all new recipes delivered to your inbox. I’ll even send you my free e-cookbook, Healthy Weeknight Dinners, as a thank you!)
For the salad:
- 8-10 oz. orzo (see notes)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes (mixed colors or red), halved
- 1 8 oz. container mini mozzarella balls, halved (see notes)
- 1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ clove garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until just al dente. Drain and let cool completely. (You can drizzle it with some olive oil to avoid it clumping together.) Season the cooled pasta with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients. (I recommend waiting to chop the basil until you are ready to use it.)
- To make the dressing, add all of the vinaigrette ingredients to a small jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well to combine.
- Combine the cooled pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately.
The pasta needs to be cooked and then cooled to make the salad. Please plan accordingly.
I love using orzo here because it gets well coated in the vinaigrette and is easy to scoop into a bite with everything else in the salad. You could also use a small shell pasta or macaroni. Even a penne or bowtie pasta would work.
I love the Ciliegine or cherry size balls of fresh mozzarella for this salad. However, if you can only find larger balls or a full ball of fresh mozzarella, just chop that up into smaller pieces.
The homemade balsamic vinaigrette is super easy to make but you could certainly substitute a store-bought balsamic vinaigrette.
This salad is best served right after it’s mixed so everything is as fresh as possible. But you can prep everything for this salad ahead and then combine it before ready to serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 544