Caprese pasta salad is a light Italian fresh cold salad that makes a perfect side dish or a light meal or take it to a picnic, potluck, or a quick dinner.
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.
- Pasta – 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.
- Vegetables - juicy tomatoes are the feature of the salad; use cherry tomatoes cut in half. Other vegetables like bell pepper, cucumber, olives, asparagus, or squash could be added.
- Cheese - fresh mozzarella cheese, do not substitute. Use mozzarella balls or pearls. You can also chop larger pieces into bite-size bits.
- Seasoning - fresh garlic and fresh basil
- Dressing - just good extra virgin olive oil is suggested. Possible substitutes are Italian dressing, vinaigrette dressings, balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar.
- Other add-ins - diced or shredded chicken will make it a complete meal. Other good options would be ham or pepperoni.
👨🍳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.
↕️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 pot lucks.
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.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️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.
Haven't tried it yet, but looks delicious! how many does it serve?
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the site.
Unfortunately, this is a large recipe for 12. More for a family gathering than "for two". You can adjust the number of servings in the recipe card.
Hope you enjoy it and thanks for the rating
This is fantastic! I used to buy a similar salad made at Wegman’s, but this is much better!
Welcome to the blog.
I think the fresh ingredients make all the taste difference.
Glad you like it.
Thanks for the note.
Making it again for family gathering. Love it!!!
Made this to take to Saturday nite dance party at my cousin's house. We work up quite the appetite! Easy tasty delious!
Can I make ahead of time and refrig
Yes for a day or two. Of course, the tomatoes will deteriorate some with time.
But add the basil just before serving.
I added shredded chicken & instead of red pepper flakes - I had none - I added epicure sundries tomatoes herbs (1 tap). Delicious!!
Last time I made this, I added left over rotisserie chicken also. It makes it a complete lunch for us.
Thanks for the note.
This sounds delicious! The dressing gives a nice little extra touch to the fruit. I have always made my fruit salad plain, I am definitely going to try it.
Great pasta dish, I like the use of pepper flake, even in small quantities it brings a lot of flavor.
I know some will skip it but really folks, the other tastes will just pop with it.