Caprese Pasta Salad

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!

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!

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.)

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!

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.)

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!

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.

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!

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.

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!

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!

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!

Caprese Pasta Salad

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!
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 331kcal

Ingredients

For the Pasta Salad

  • 16 oz. orecchiette or bow-tie pasta
  • 16 oz. perline or small mozzarella balls
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes halved (i.e. 2 pints)
  • ½ green bell pepper diced
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • ½ cup diced yellow onions
  • ½ cup fresh basil chopped
  • ¼ cup chives chopped
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley chopped

For the Dressing

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp capers drained
  • ½ Tbsp dried Italian seasonings
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

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.

Notes

For a fun twist, you could drizzle balsamic glaze on top of this pasta salad before serving.
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!

Looking for more tasty pasta salad recipes? Check out these other favorites, too:

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18 Comments

  1. cant wait to make this soon for me for the salad can i use vegan cheese and skip green bell pepper as am a not a big fan of green bell pepper i never had caprese pasta salad before i love pasta soooooooooo much perfect for my after office meals love your recipes as always brightens up my day everyday after work

    1. You can certainly make whatever adjustments you’d like to this recipe, Ramya – perhaps using a red bell pepper would be a little sweeter if green bell peppers aren’t your thing? Caprese salad is delicious, and this pasta salad version is perfect for hot summer days!

  2. I only plant cherry/grape tomatoes where I live as well, because the larger tomatoes will split in the heat. This is a great pasta salad, and I like the pasta you chose!

    1. We’ve had the same problem with larger tomatoes splitting – I never knew why. Cherry tomatoes are the way to go! (Although now that we live in Asheville, I might try planting some larger tomatoes next year just to see what happens…) Thanks, Mimi!

  3. 5 stars
    Who does not like a good caprese or a pasta salad? I haven’t met such people (Have you?) And combining two already tasty dishes into something utterly delicious is a great idea, David!
    The Salad King approves 🙂

    1. My thoughts exactly, Ben – pasta salad is delicious; caprese salad is delicious. Therefore we should combine them into one! I’m honored that the Salad King has approved this recipe! 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    Such a light and refreshing pasta, perfect for summertime BBQs! Love your choice of orecchiette too — they have such cute divots, although I am partial to bowtie 😉

    1. The flavors in Caprese are so spot-on and delicious! This pasta salad version channels those same flavors, and it’s a good one for summer side dishes. Thanks, Raymund!

    1. Your daughter and I would get along well, Kathy – the flavors in Caprese are delicious, and they’re a summer favorite in our house! This pasta salad version is a great summer side dish. I hope your daughter likes it!!

  5. i know Ben won’t believe it but as you may remember david i am not a fan of pasta or tomatoes. Yes i can hear the screeches now… THis does look nice and fresh of course but i may have to say no to the dish 🙂 Tee hee. Get it? like that tv show? say yes to the dress…

  6. 5 stars
    I would love to grow tomatoes, but not quite sure we have the weather for them to grow outside. Perhaps if we had a greenhouse. 🙂 Nothing like summer tomatoes, is there? And this caprese pasta salad looks like a summertime must try! Love all that cheese in there too – yum!!

    1. So I’m hearing you say that you need to build a greenhouse. 🙂 Go for it! Summer tomatoes truly are the best, and this caprese salad really highlights that summer flavor. It’s delicious!! (Also, more cheese = more better!)

  7. 5 stars
    With an unexpected heatwave here in Scotland at the moment I’m all about quick light and refreshing pasta dishes at the moment. Exactly like this one! Lynne will love this. What a great excuse for another glass of cold white wine to go with it too!

    1. It’s been hot here, too, Neil – of course, part of that might be because we moved south! Either way, dishes like this pasta salad have been perfect lately. And definitely a glass of white wine – haha! Cheers, buddy!

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