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 made with tomatoes, marinated fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and a mouthwatering homemade Italian herb vinaigrette! #pastasalad #caprese #tomatobasil #italian #sidedish #potluck #bbq #summer

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!

Caprese pasta salad in black bowl

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.

Serving spoonful of caprese pasta salad

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!

Forkful of pasta salad

OTHER GREAT POTLUCK RECIPES:

Caprese pasta salad made with tomatoes, marinated fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and a mouthwatering homemade Italian herb vinaigrette! #pastasalad #caprese #tomatobasil #italian #sidedish #potluck #bbq #summer

Caprese Pasta Salad

The perfect Caprese pasta salad for a potluck or summer bbq!
5 from 9 votes
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Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins
Total Time: 22 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 564

Ingredients

DRESSING/MARINADE

  • 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

PASTA SALAD

  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Pasta salad can also be served warm.
Right before serving, drizzle with balsamic glaze if desired.
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Caprese pasta salad made with tomatoes, marinated fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and a mouthwatering homemade Italian herb vinaigrette! #pastasalad #caprese #tomatobasil #italian #sidedish #potluck #bbq #summer

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14 comments on “Caprese Pasta Salad – Great Cold or Warm!”

  1. The dressing is fantastic! Would make again.

  2. Great recipe! Balsamic reduction drizzled in top makes it even better! 

  3. Sounds like a completely awesome recipe, but you fell into the food blogger trap of NOT POSTING THE RECIPE FIRST. You get one star, and a chance to correct your failings. I triple dog dare you to post this review.

    You can’t refuse that.

    • It’s not a food blogger “trap”. This website is my business, and the way I can actually make money is by showing advertisements, which show when a user scrolls down the page. Not to mention I give a lot of tips and tricks within the post itself which most people would NEVER scroll down to see. I DO offer a handy “jump to recipe” button right at the top of the page… you must have missed it 😉 I did not however, accept your one star review, as it’s not a review of the actual recipe itself, which is what it’s there for. I do not have the time or inclination to get into a spitting match with you, so you can enjoy my FREE website as is, or go buy a cookbook, which has just the recipe. Enjoy your day!

  4. What dressing do you use on this salad?

  5. This sounds like a great pasta salad! I can’t wait to make this next week.

  6. This is one of my favorites! Absolutely love the flavors!

  7. I know for sure this would be a huge hit in my house!

  8. This pasta salad sounds aaahhhmazing!! I can’t wait to try it!

  9. Do you know how excited I am about this dish? I want it warm for dinner and then as a cold pasta salad for lunch the next day!! Best of both worlds.

  10. This is a delicious recipe!!! Definitely a keeper! Thank you so much for all the info Amanda! Your photos are gorgeous, as always 🙂

  11. This looks amaaaaazing, Amanda! This recipe looks super easy and full of ingredients my family loves. Looking forward to trying soon.

  12. This recipe reminds me of summer, I cannot wait! Will be making this soon!