Caprese Pasta Salad – Great Cold or Warm!
Caprese pasta salad made with juicy tomatoes, marinated fresh mozzarella cheese, fragrant fresh basil, and a mouthwatering homemade Italian herb vinaigrette!
The perfect caprese pasta salad for a potluck, summer bbq or as a side dish for dinner!
Caprese Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is an incredibly popular versatile side dish! Whether the salad is based in oil or mayo, it’s always a hit at potlucks. This version is a fabulous natural make-ahead dish and combines the classic American pasta salad with the Italian Caprese flavors!
what is caprese?
By definition, caprese is a salad comprised of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. You may have seen salads like this on the menu at your favorite Italian restaurant. Some caprese salads also include a drizzle of a balsamic glaze or reduction, which is fabulously tasty!
can pasta salad be made ahead of time?
Absolutely! In fact, in order for the flavors to all combine and round out, it’s best if you make pasta salad anywhere from a few hours to a day or two ahead of time. Personally, I always make my pasta salad the night before, reserve a little of the dressing, then give it a good toss with the extra dressing before serving. It makes it taste nice and fresh.
what to put in a pasta salad
The beauty of a great pasta salad is that you can truly make it your own invention. Here are the basics:
- Pasta – generally shorter cuts of pasta are used, like rotini, farfalle, or in this case, orecchiette.
- Vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, olives, squash, etc.
- Protein – cheese, pepperoni, diced ham, etc.
- Dressing – greek, Italian, vinaigrettes, mayo-based, bottled or homemade
You can definitely mix and match to create a pasta salad you love!
pro tips for making caprese pasta salad
- Use the freshest ingredients when possible. There are relatively few ingredients in this pasta salad (aside from the dressing), so using fresh and quality ingredients is key. Use ripe, juicy tomatoes, quality fresh mozzarella, and beautiful fresh herbs.
- Cook your pasta to al dente, according to the package directions. Each shape of pasta has a different cooking time, so check the package for the exact time. Once finished cooking, drain and toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together. If possible, stir it several times as it cools to keep the sticking at bay.
- Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette and toss it with the salad right before serving to give a make-ahead pasta salad a fresh feel.
- Speaking of the dressing, it does double duty in this recipe, as it’s also the marinade for the mozzarella!
OTHER GREAT POTLUCK RECIPES:
- Cranberry Almond Broccoli Salad
- Perfect Potluck Potato Salad
- Homemade Freezer Pickles
- Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- Crockpot Beef BBQ
- Bourbon BBQ Smoked Chicken Wings
Caprese Pasta Salad
- 2/3 cup olive oil (extra virgin is best)
- 4 - 5 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 8 oz bocconcini mozzarella (or fresh mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
- 12 oz dried orecchiette pasta (or other short cut pasta)
- 3 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
- In a large mixing bowl, add dressing ingredients and whisk until well combined. Reserve 2 Tbsp of dressing, place in an airtight container and set aside.
- Add cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to mixing bowl with the dressing and toss to combine. Let sit and marinate approximately 30 minutes.
- While the cheese and tomatoes are marinating, boil pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and toss with a drizzle of olive oil. Let cool slightly.
- Add pasta to mixing bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to serving container, cover and refrigerate 1-2 days. Before serving, toss pasta salad with reserved dressing and serve.