This Caprese Pasta Salad has all the classic flavors. Fresh cherry tomatoes, sliced basil and mozzarella cheese tossed with a quick, easy and balsamic dressing. This recipe makes plenty, so bring it to your next gathering! Yields about 10 cups or 20 (1/2-cup) or 10 (1/2-cup) servings.
Tomato. Basil. Mozzarella. Balsamic.
A beloved combination by many. And is precisely why I grow basil and tomatoes every single summer. My herb garden and tomato plants are like the only thing growing (besides my children of course😉) that I’ve been able to manage without killing. True story. The huge gorgeous hanging flower baskets? Planters of fall mums? Dried up and dead just after 3 weeks.
So by late summer, both my basil and tomato plants are busting at the seams, and this simple salad is a great way to use up a lot of both.
It’s also the perfect dish to bring to a potluck or party because it makes a lot and who doesn’t love all things caprese?
To MAKE THIS CAPRESE PASTA SALAD YOU WILL NEED:
for the dressing:
- garlic – This adds distinct and punchy flavor to the pasta salad.
- kosher salt – You need this in order to draw out flavor.
- freshly ground black pepper – This will add some subtle bite and flavor.
- balsamic vinegar – For tang and acidity.
- olive oil – This adds richness and will round out the dressing.
for the pasta salad:
- orecchiette pasta – Or use any small pasta shape you prefer.
- fine sea salt – This is for salting water and seasoning the pasta while it cooks.
- cherry tomatoes – Adds a burst of sweetness and acidity.
- fresh mozzarella pearls – You could also cut an 8 ounce ball into pieces.
- fresh basil leaves – Will add a fresh herbaceous flavor.
Make the dressing:
In a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid add; 2 cloves grated or minced fresh garlic , 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
Secure the lid and shake well to combine.
The hardest part, and I use that term loosely, is cooking the pasta. I just bring a large pot of water to a boil, dump in a palm-full (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) of fine sea salt and then add in 1 pound of pasta. It’s a good idea to stir the pasta every couple of minutes because these little guys like to stick together or worse, stick on the bottom of the pot.
What Pasta Works in Caprese Pasta Salad?
I like to use orecchiette, but any short pasta will work. I like to use orecchiette because it cradles the mozzarella pearls and the dressing like little cups.
Once fully cooked, drain and instantly rinse with cold water. Doing this rinses off any of the starch clinging to the pasta, which in turn keeps the pasta from sticking together. It also halts any further cooking and cools the pasta down so you can quickly make the salad.
I only ever rinse pasta for cold salads. I believe it’s considered a culinary sin otherwise.
Make The Pasta Salad:
Once the pasta has cooled down, drain it of any excess water and toss into a large bowl with 1 pint cherry tomatoes that have been cut in half, 8 ounces pearled mozzarella and about 1/4 cup of thinly sliced fresh basil.
If you can’t find pearled mozzarella, you can cut an 8 ounce ball of fresh mozzarella into cubes.
Next pour in all of the balsamic dressing.
Toss the pasta salad with the dressing until evenly coated. Taste and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper according to what your taste buds like and serve.
This pasta salad is simple, flavorful and super easy!
TO MAKE IN ADVANCE:
Prepare pasta salad ingredients omitting the basil and dressing 1 day in advance and keep refrigerated. Once you’re ready to serve (or 1 to 2 hours prior to serving), slice and add the basil and pour in the dressing (and any salt and pepper if needed) and serve.
HOW LONG WILL THIS PASTA SALAD KEEP?
If stored in a container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerated, this salad should last for 3 to 5 days!
What To Serve With Caprese Pasta Salad:
- Grilled lemon Basil Chicken
- Your Basic Grilled Chicken Recipe
- Grilled Shrimp
- Grilled Steak
- really anything!
Caprese Pasta Salad
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced or grated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
FOR THE SALAD:
- 1 pound orecchiette pasta
- fine sea salt, for salting water
- 1 pint cherry tomato, halved
- 8 ounces pearl mozzarella, drained (or an 8 ounce ball cut into small pieces)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- kosher salt , to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
MAKE THE DRESSING:
- In a jar, add garlic, salt and pepper, vinegar and oil. Shake to combine.
MAKE THE SALD:
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. During this time I prep the dressing and tomatoes.Once boiling, add in a palm full of sea salt (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) to the water and add in the pasta. Follow the package directions, cooking the pasta as directed, stirring often to avoid the pasta sticking.Once cooked, drain, rinse with cold water and then drain again thoroughly.
- In a large bowl, add the pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Pour in the dressing and toss well to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve immediately or chill up to 1 to 2 hours. See notes for making in advance.
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