Traditional Caprese salad…in pasta salad form! This Caprese Pasta Salad is filled with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. It’s a great summer side dish!
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Every spring we get outside on the first warm(ish) weekend and do the annual yard clean up. We pick up sticks that fell from trees during the winter storms. We rake up any remaining leaves that stubbornly waited until after I had put away the rakes. And we also prep our garden for the coming summer.
We’ve been planting a garden every summer since way back when we lived in Atlanta. In Atlanta, we could almost just throw seeds on the ground and watch them grow. (We had to water more often down there due to the heat, but plants just grew well.)
Up in upstate New York? It’s a different story when it comes to the garden. For the first several years, I tried planting larger tomato varieties. However, I would only get a couple of ripe tomatoes before the first frost came along. The plants would be loaded with large, green tomatoes, but I had to pick them before the frost. I do love fried green tomatoes, but it was always sad to pick those tomatoes before they were ripe.
Finally I realized I had to make a choice. Either start those larger tomato plants indoors in the winter, or just quit trying to grow larger tomatoes. I opted for the second route, and now we only plant cherry tomatoes in our garden. Lots and lots of cherry tomatoes. (Since they are smaller, cherry tomatoes ripen much faster than their larger cousins.)
Caprese Pasta Salad
And those cherry tomatoes are what led to this Caprese Pasta Salad. A Caprese salad is a traditional Italian antipasto dish featuring sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. It’s typically arranged on a plate and served with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Laura and I have visited Italy a couple of times, and we almost always order a Caprese salad every night with a glass of wine as an appetizer.
The other day, I was looking at an entire basket full of cherry tomatoes that I picked from our garden. So many cherry tomatoes. What was I going to do with all of these cherry tomatoes!? That’s when it hit me – Caprese Pasta Salad. I could take the flavors of Caprese salad but serve it in pasta salad form instead.
For this Caprese Pasta Salad, you can use any short pasta you like. I chose orecchiette because it has a slightly thicker texture – perfect for pasta salads. (I also chose orecchiette because I had an extra box in the pantry!) You could use farfalle, mini penne or really any short pasta you like.
The key to this pasta salad is ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and good olive oil. We typically keep two different extra-virgin olive oils in our kitchen – one for cooking and a nicer one for drizzling on top of finished dishes. Use the nicer one for this pasta salad! The flavor will be noticeably different.
Like most pasta salads, this Caprese Pasta Salad will taste better on Day 2 after the flavors have had time to come together overnight. We ended up serving this pasta salad with grilled chicken, and it was fantastic! In fact, I’m thinking about making this pasta salad again, but adding grilled, cubed chicken to the recipe. This is a tasty recipe that goes well with summer grilled foods – and it’s a great use of extra cherry tomatoes! Enjoy!
Did you make a batch of this Caprese Pasta Salad? Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog) – I’d love to see your version!
Caprese Pasta Salad
For the Pasta Salad
For the Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Rinse and drain pasta in cold water.
- Transfer cooked pasta into a large bowl and add remaining Pasta Salad ingredients (mozzarella, tomatoes, bell pepper, celery, onions, basil, chives and Italian parsley); stir until well combined.
For the Dressing
- Using a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, capers, garlic and black pepper.
- Pour dressing over salad and toss until well coated.
- Refrigerate until cold; serve cold.
Looking for more tasty pasta salad recipes? Check out these other favorites, too: