Caprese Pasta Salad is a light fresh Italian cold salad with tender pasta, fresh tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese with fresh basil and garlic.
It is the perfect side dish, a light meal, or take it to a picnic, potluck, or a quick dinner.
Vegetables—cherry tomatoes, bell pepper
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Fresh garlic and fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
Other add-ins - diced or shredded chicken, ham or pepperoni
Featured comment from Terri:
"This is fantastic! I used to buy a similar salad made at Wegman’s, but this is much better!"
Caprese Pasta Salad is a traditional Italian dish with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, pasta, and olive oil or Italian dressing. Fresh cherry tomatoes are commonly added for color and taste. It is a light dish that screams summer.
For other summer dishes you may like, check out Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Macaroni Salad, Broccoli Slaw, Fresh Spinach Salad, and Waldorf Chicken Salad. For a sweet ending to your light meal, try some Grilled Pineapple or a slice of Fresh Strawberry Pie.
👨🍳How to make this Caprese Pasta Salad
- Cut cherry or grape tomatoes in half and add crushed garlic, olive oil, Kosher salt, crushed red pepper (optional), and black pepper and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Cook pasta to Al Dente, rinse with cold water, then toss with olive oil.
- Chop fresh basil. Chop fresh mozzarella into bite-size pieces.
- Add the pasta, the mozzarella, and the basil to the tomatoes and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours to let flavors blend if you have time.
This is a summary of the steps and ingredients. See the recipe card or the step-by-step photo instructions below for complete instructions.
Use a short pasta is like the mini penne, elbow macaroni, or rotini pasta. Gluten-free pasta can also be used. Cook per the instructions to Al Dente. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking, then toss with a few teaspoons of oil to stop cooking.
Juicy tomatoes are the feature of the salad; cherry tomatoes cut in half. Other vegetables like bell pepper, cucumber, olives, asparagus, or squash could be added.
Fresh mozzarella cheese is a must use—do not substitute. Use mozzarella balls or pearls. You can also chop larger pieces into bite-size bits.
A good extra virgin olive oil is traditional and is perfect for this classic salad. Possible substitutes are Italian dressing, vinaigrette dressings, balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar.
↕️How to make this recipe smaller or larger
This half-size recipe is a more reasonable size but still makes a large amount. You can cut it in half again for only 6 servings, but you will end up wasting some ingredients.
- Use the recipe card and adjust the number of servings to half or double.
- Use the amount of ingredients in the ingredient list, not the instructions—those do not adjust.
It stores well for only a few days but no longer. So not very "cooking for two" friendly for everyday use. So a special occasion dish for a large family get-together, a dish to pass, or a potluck.
Store leftovers covered airtight in the refrigerator. If you store it for a day, toss before serving and taste test, and add more oil and salt/pepper if needed. But two days is pushing it.
It is low in calories, uses healthier oil, and has no simple carbohydrates, so it will fit most healthy diets.
Yes, about 2 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken make an excellent addition and make the salad a complete light meal.
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Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Use the freshest ingredients you can get.
Start by cutting about 1 pound of cherry or grape tomatoes in half.
In a large serving bowl, add tomatoes along with 2-3 cloves crushed garlic, ¼ cup good olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, a pinch of red pepper (optional), and black pepper to taste (about ¼ teaspoon to start) mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Use mini penne or other smaller pasta. Cook 8 oz of pasta according to package instructions for Al Dente. When done, rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Then, toss with a few teaspoons of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Chop 8 oz of fresh mozzarella into bite-size pieces.
Chop 10 leaves of fresh basil.
Add the pasta, the mozzarella, and the basil to the tomatoes and mix well. Refrigerate covered with plastic wrap for a few hours to let flavors blend if you have time.
Caprese Pasta Salad—Fresh and Easy
- 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes
- ½ pound small pasta
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella
- 2-3 cloves garlic - crushed
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper (optional) - about ⅛ teaspoon
- Black pepper to taste - start at ¼ teaspoon
- Use the freshest ingredients you can get.
- Start by cutting about 1 pound of cherry or grape tomatoes in half.
- In a large serving bowl, add tomatoes along with 2-3 cloves crushed garlic, ¼ cup good olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, a pinch of red pepper (optional), and black pepper to taste (about ¼ teaspoon to start) mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Use mini penne or other smaller pasta. Cook 8 oz of pasta according to package instructions for Al Dente. When done, rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Then, toss with a few teaspoons of olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Chop 8 oz of fresh mozzarella into bite-size pieces.
- Chop 10 leaves of fresh basil.
- Add the pasta, the mozzarella, and the basil to the tomatoes and mix well. Refrigerate covered with plastic wrap for a few hours to let flavors blend if you have time.
Your Own Private Notes
- Fresh ingredients are the key to a good result.
- This makes a lot of salad. It has already been decreased. You can decrease more but probably will have lots of partially used containers of ingredients.
- Great for family get-togethers, picnics, take a dish, or potluck.
- The ingredients are not set in stone. Many options are discussed in the recipe post.
- This is very good with added shredded rotisserie chicken—about 2 cups.
- Only good refrigerated for 1-2 days.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Originally Published August 10, 2013. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.