We took some of our favorite things about summer and combined them into one easy and mouthwatering Caprese Pasta Salad. The class combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil makes the perfect side dish for any BBQ. And the best part? You can make it in 25 minutes!
Summer is here, and that means it is Caprese season AND pasta salad season. I’m always a sucker for a good Caprese salad.
What better side dish could there be than combining the best of summer in one tasty Caprese Pasta Salad recipe! This mouthwatering salad filled with tomatoes from the garden, creamy mozzarella, and fresh basil will be a hit every time.
Why This Recipe Works
- Tomatoes and mozzarella are perfect for each other, and it's no wonder that Caprese is the most popular salad in the world. When farmer's markets and home gardens are abundant with juicy ripe tomatoes, adding fresh mozzarella is all I need for a light summer meal.
- This Caprese pasta salad recipe is simple yet flavorful, making it a great option to go with any grilled food or smoked meat.
- It's outrageously easy to throw together plus you can make it in 25 minutes, making it perfect for last-minute summertime gatherings.
- Pasta - Pick your favorite shape. Just make sure it has curves or ridges to grab the dressing.
- Tomatoes - You can chop whole tomatoes or halve grape tomatoes for this recipe.
- Fresh basil - Fragrant and full of flavor, don’t skimp on this essential ingredient. Dried basil is not a good substitution.
- Fresh mozzarella - You can use either the “pearls” that are readily available or buy a ball and dice it.
- Vinaigrette - Our homemade dressing is a snap to make and perfect for this Caprese pasta salad, but feel free to swap in your favorite store-bought dressing for a quick time saver.
- Cook your pasta according to instructions on the package. Drain and rinse will cool water to chill pasta and stop the cooking process.
- Cut cherry tomatoes in half, chop the red onion and dice mozzarella into equal sizes.
- Toss pasta, dressing, tomatoes, and mozzarella in a serving bowl.
- Roll basil leaves together and slice thin strips with a serrated knife to get the basil chiffonade.
We love the sweetness of cherry or grape tomatoes for this Caprese pasta salad. They also hold their shape better than a regular-sized tomato. But if you're lucky to get a hold of fresh garden tomatoes, you should definitely use them!
If you are using a slicing tomato or a Roma tomato, seed it first so your salad isn't watery.
Yes, you can, but wait to add the fresh tomatoes and basil until right before serving to preserve the integrity of the tomato and the basil bright green.
Simply swap in your favorite gluten-free pasta shape and make the recipe as directed.
You can keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. However, the tomatoes will release their juices overtime and the basil will begin to wilt and lose its bright color. It will still taste great though!
Pro Tips for Making the Best Pasta Salad
Follow these tips to get perfect pasta salad every time
- Pasta: All good pasta salads start with pasta that is cooked and seasoned correctly. Follow the directions on the box for al dente cooking times. And don't forget to salt the water!
- Shapes: Pick a good pasta shape that has ribs on it so the dressing has something to cling to.
- Visual variety: In this salad, I slice tomatoes in half, cube the cheese and julienne the basil.
- Color: People eat with their eyes first so consider having different colors in your salad. Always add fresh herbs right before serving to keep their bright green color.
- Seasoning: The best pasta salads are seasoned early and often. This starts with the cooking process and ends with the final toss before serving.
- Mixing: Use a large bowl to evenly coat all of the pasta salad ingredients with the dressing. This ensures every component of the salad is dressed properly.
More Easy BBQ Side Dishes
Check out all of our fabulous side dish recipes!
Caprese Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces rotini pasta
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt for pasta water
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella diced
- ½ cup fresh basil julienned
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Balsamic dressing
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil, add pasta and cook al dente according to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking combine all ingredients for dressing in a mason jar and shake vigorously to combine. Set aside.
- Drain and rinse pasta with cold water.
- In a large mixing bowl add pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and Balsamic dressing and stir until well coated with dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add fresh basil, stir and serve.
Nutrition info not guaranteed to be accurate.