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Why I love this recipe for Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad
This Caprese pasta salad is filled with ripe grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and cool mozzarella tossed in a pesto vinaigrette. It can be drizzled with a tangy balsamic glaze. It combines your favorite flavors of a fresh, summertime Caprese salad for a familiar backyard BBQ pasta salad. This is the ultimate summer potluck salad.
RELATED: Feta Bruschetta Pasta Salad
What you’ll need to make this easy summer pasta salad
This salad is so simple and has only 8 ingredients that are easy to find at any grocery store!
- Pasta (I like rotini, but you can use any kind you prefer)
- Basil pesto(either homemade or prepared)
- Olive oil
- Mozzarella pearls
- Cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes)
- Fresh basil
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
For the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions, please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to make pesto caprese pasta salad
Step 1: Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the pesto, olive oil, and garlic.
Step 3: To the large bowl, add the pasta and toss to coat in the pesto dressing.
Step 4: Into the pasta, fold in the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Season with salt and black pepper as desired.
Serve immediately or chill in fridge until ready to serve.
Tips and Substitutions
- Pesto: You can either make a homemade basil pesto or you can use a store-bought pesto for a simplified version.
- Tomatoes: I suggest using cherry tomatoes for this cold pasta salad, but grape tomatoes also work. Fresh tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes will also work, as long as you chop them up.
- Mozzarella: I make this pasta salad with mozzarella balls (aka mozzarella pearls). However, you could also buy a package of fresh mozzarella cheese and cut it into small pieces. No matter what kind of mozzarella you use, make sure it’s fresh.
- Pasta: I use rotini pasta for this recipe, but virtually any pasta will work—including spaghetti, orzo, bow tie pasta, and gluten-free pasta options such as quinoa pasta and brown rice pasta.
- Black olives: If desired, you can add a layer of saltiness to your caprese pesto pasta salad recipe by adding black olives or chopped kalamata olives. The Mediterranean feel of this variation is delectable.
- Balsamic glaze: It is optional but if you want to continue with the Italian flavors, follow the traditional Caprese salad recipe and finish it off with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
How to store this salad
Storage: Pesto pasta will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Freezing: Though possible, I don’t recommend freezing this pasta salad recipe. The pasta will lose its texture and not taste as great when thawed.
Other pasta salad recipes to try
- Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad – delicious and easy, this Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad is packed with fresh summer vegetables like fresh seasonal corn, radishes, zucchini, heirloom tomatoes straight from the Farmer’s Market or even from your garden – it’s coated with a simple dressing, making a tasty side dish.
- Vegetarian Mexican Inspired Pasta Salad – ender pasta is combined with Mexican-inspired flavors that’s loaded with corn, black beans, tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro, and a creamy lime dressing for a perfect summer time salad, great for barbecues, picnics, grilled meats or fish and more!
- Greek Pasta Salad – out of all the pasta salads to have in your recipe box, this is one of the best to wow a crowd! Cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, onion and feta cheese are mixed with pasta and drizzled with a homemade Greek salad dressing to create this colorful and appetizing pasta salad!
- Creamy Ranch BLT Pasta Salad – The perfect fresh side dish for any potluck, this Creamy Ranch BLT Pasta Salad not only has juicy cherry tomatoes, chopped bacon, and —you guessed it—crisp romaine, but is made even better by a lightened up greek yogurt ranch dressing.