Caprese pasta salad is easy to prepare and adds a fresh, summery feel! Ripe tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, tender basil, and olives make the perfect combination. Balsamic reduction gives the dish a unique zing! Before serving, I add plenty of shredded Parmesan for enhanced flavor.
I’m all about summer-y, delicious, no-fuss recipes you can throw together in a short amount of time for lunch, potlucks, or weeknight dinners. Satisfy your cravings with this caprese pasta salad recipe that is simple, easy, and quick. After all, who doesn’t love a fresh, healthy salad?
I often get requests to share my pasta recipes like the Tex Mex Chicken Spaghetti which became an instant crowd favorite. Today, I’ll share my caprese pasta salad recipe, one of the best summer dishes that pairs well with BBQ Baby Back Ribs. It’s so yummy, really easy to make, and has proven itself as an excellent side dish.
What do I love about it? Tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, and olive oil. Add a drizzle of balsamic reduction and fresh black pepper, and I’m in heaven!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Pasta – The star of the salad! You can use penne, fusilli or rotini pasta for this caprese pasta salad recipe. If you plan on preparing it ahead of time, cook the noodles to al dente as they will soften the longer they sit.
- Tomatoes – Get teardrop or cherry tomatoes and slice them lengthwise. Ripe, juicy tomatoes are the best!
- Mozzarella – Fresh, sliced mozzarella cheese is always the first choice, but lately, I discovered that small round mozzarella balls work wonders.
- Basil – Torn, fresh basil leaves are a must. The best fresh basil replacements are spinach, mint, and oregano but taste profile may differ.
- Olives – This recipe calls for a cup of black olives drained, or you can substitute with capers.
- Parmesan Cheese – Delicious on its own, parmesan cheese adds a dash of umami characteristic to pasta. Nutritional yeast, romano cheese, and asiago cheese are great substitutes for parmesan.
- Olive Oil – A small amount of olive oil is essential to a good pasta sauce or dressing texture. You can also use canola, vegetable, or sunflower oil which all have a neutral flavor.
- Balsamic Reduction – Sometimes goes by the name of balsamic glaze andcan be picked up at most grocery stores, Costco and Trader Joes. Alternative for this caprese pasta salad recipe: For every tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, substitute an equal amount of cider vinegar or red wine vinegar plus ½ teaspoon of sugar.
HOW TO MAKE CAPRESE PASTA SALAD
- Cook the Pasta. Follow the directions on the package, then drain and transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Add Veggies and Dressing. Stir the mozzarella, tomatoes, and olives into the pasta. Drizzle olive oil over the top, then add the cheese, salt, and pepper. Toss until everything is well combined.
- Garnish. Transfer your caprese pasta salad to a serving platter and top with torn basil leaves and balsamic reduction. Sometimes I even zest half a lemon over the top. Serve immediately or cover and chill until guests arrive.
How do you make balsamic reduction?
Also known as balsamic glaze, a balsamic reduction is made by simmering balsamic vinegar in a saucepan for about 15 minutes until it is reduced by half. It has the consistency of maple syrup or warm honey, and the result will be a more concentrated balsamic flavor. The longer you let the vinegar simmer, the thicker it will get.
Can caprese pasta salad be made ahead of time?
Yes! Because this doesn’t have a mixed dressing like most pasta salad recipes, make ahead preparation can be a bit trickier. You can chill this dish fully assembled for a few hours before serving. Otherwise, I would store each component separately and throw it all together just before guests arrive.
How do you fix dry pasta salad?
Pasta does not actually absorb oil; however, it does absorb water in large quantities. Put a little olive oil on your pasta before mixing it with the rest of your ingredients. If it is still dry after preparing, add more olive oil to your dressing as well.
Leftovers can often use a refresh as well. Again, add a drizzle of oil and maybe a bit more balsamic reduction before digging in (or extra dressing if the recipe calls for that).
What goes well with caprese pasta salad?
Delicious and filling on its own, this dish can also be served alongside smoky grilled meats and even flavorful seafood dishes. Add some crusty bread to soak up the extra balsamic glaze, and you’re all set! Here are a few of my favorite pairings:
Caprese Pasta Salad
- 8 oz mini penne pasta cooked, drained and cooled
- 16 oz teardrop tomatoes sliced lengthwise
- 16 oz mozzarella balls
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves torn
- 1 cup black olives drained
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- balsamic reduction
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta per package directions. Drain and place in a large salad bowl to cool.
- Add tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, olives, cheese, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
- Spoon salad onto a platter and scatter with torn basil leaves and balsamic reduction on top. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.