Caprese Pasta Salad

We love a good pasta salad.  We love summer-fresh vegetables.  This salad is a match made in Heaven.

Juicy, vibrant tomatoes, combined with fresh basil, mozzarella, and toasted pine nuts are just part of what makes this salad always such a hit every time we serve it.   This really is the perfect side dish for an outdoor BBQ, picnic, or any time you’re in the mood for a wonderful pasta salad.

An overhead view of a white serving bowl filled with a Caprese pasta salad with a wooden spoon in the salad next to a patterned napkin and a bowl of cherry tomatoes.

HOW TO MAKE CAPRESE PASTA SALAD

This salad really is a snap to prepare and can easily be made in advance.

We love using small cherry tomatoes for this salad, but you can certainly use large (slicer) tomatoes, too.  Simply core the tomato, and then cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

EXPERT TIP: For the mozzarella, we definitely recommend fresh.  This is often found in the deli section of most well-stocked supermarkets.  You can tell it’s fresh because the mozzarella is submerged in water.  Often in the gourmet cheese section of your market, you can find small balls of fresh mozzarella called Ciliengine (the size of a cherry) and Bocconcini (the size of a small egg). Buffalo mozzarella is a wonderful option, too.

THE PERFECT CAPRESE MARINADE

You may be asking, what is Caprese?  It hails from Capri, the stunningly beautiful island in the Bay of Naples, Italy.  If reflects the Capri way of life: The ingredients are everything.  Simple, yet intense and deeply satisfying.  Learn more about it’s history here.

All great pasta salads need a great marinade.

The combination of aged balsamic, extra-virgin olive oil, and minced garlic makes this Caprese Pasta Salad come to life.

A hand using a whisk to combine a marinade in a glass bowl next to small glass bowls of herbs, mozzarella, and tomatoes.

The addition of toasted pine nuts not only adds great flavor but a wonderful texture to the salad as well.

We stir in most of the toasted pine nuts when we are mixing the salad together. But, we also like to reserve some to top the salad with.

EXPERT TIP: Toasting the pine nuts brings out the nutty delicious flavor of the nuts. Place them on a small baking pan and put them in a preheated oven at 350°F. KEEP AN EYE ON THEM! They only take a couple minutes until they are lightly toasted. Pine nuts go from a light toasting to burned very quickly!

A large wooden spoon being held up and filled with toasted pine nuts over a pan with pine nuts in it.

CLASSIC CAPRESE TASTE

A classic Caprese Salad is known for its simple, yet bold taste.

This salad captures the essence of the salad wonderfully.

We add in capers and snipped chives for added depth to the pasta salad.

EXPERT TIP: We love using farfalle pasta, which looks like little bow ties. But you could use any type of small pasta, including penne, fusilli, orecchiette, or elbow. After cooking the pasta according to package instructions, we simply drain the pasta and then run cool tap water over it to cool it before mixing together the salad ingredients.

A person pouring a balsamic marinade into a large glass bowl filled with chopped tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, herbs, and pine nuts.

This is a great pasta salad for serving guests.

Once the salad has been mixed, you can cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.

EXPERT TIP: If making a day or two in advance, we recommend letting the salad sit at room temperature for an hour on the counter. If the salad seems a little dry, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, or water, and give it another good mixing.

A person using two wooden spoons to mix together a caprese pasta salad in a large glass bowl.

CAPRESE PASTA SALAD IS PERFECT FOR ENTERTAINING

This salad is the perfect side dish at your next backyard BBQ.

Looking for other amazing side dishes? Check these out:

But, of course, you can never go wrong with the amazing salad:

A close-up view of a caprese pasta salad in a large white serving bowl with a wooden spoon in the salad.

Every time we serve this Caprese Pasta Salad, it gets rave reviews.

It travels well, too.

Serve this at your next backyard BBQ, and watch how quickly folks eat it up!

A large wooden spoon holding up a helping of Caprese pasta salad over a large bowl holding the salad.

Ready to make the best pasta salad this side of Capri? Go for it!

And when you do, be sure to take a photo of it, post it on Instagram, and tag @howtofeedaloon and hashtag #howtofeedaloon!

A close-up view of a caprese pasta salad in a large white serving bowl with a wooden spoon in the salad.

Caprese Pasta Salad

This pasta salad has all the wonderful qualities of that amazingly delicious Italian masterpiece: The Caprese Salad. Fresh and vibrant, this pasta salad is always a hit when served to guests. And it can easily be made up to a day in advance.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American / Italian
Keyword: BBQ Side, Caprese pasta salad recipe, easy pasta salad
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 534kcal

Ingredients

FOR THE MARINADE

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper freshly ground

FOR THE SALAD

  • 16 oz farfalle pasta cooked and cooled
  • ½ cup pine nuts toasted, divided
  • 3 tbsp capers drained
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • 12 oz mozzarella fresh, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¾ cup basil fresh, chopped
  • ¼ cup chives chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley fresh, chopped

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, make the marinade by whisking together the extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  • Place all of the salad ingredients (reserving 1 or 2 tbsp of the pine nuts) in a large bowl. Pour the marinade in the bowl and use two large spoons to gently mix the salad together.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle the reserved toasted pine nuts on top. Serve at once, or cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Video

Notes

We love using small cherry tomatoes that we cut in half for this salad, but fresh, large tomatoes are great, too. Simply core them and then cut into bite-size pieces.
Keep an eye on the pine nuts when you are toasting them!  They turn a slightly darker brown color very quickly.  We toast them on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 350°F for only 1 to 2 minutes.
After the pasta has cooked, we drain it and place it in a colander and then run cool tap water over it until it is no longer warm. 
We have served this pasta salad with hot pasta, which is a nice variation, too.  The cheese melts a little, but it's wonderful served warm or at room temperature.
If making the salad a day or two in advance, we recommend setting it out on the counter for about an hour before serving.  You can add a little oil, or tap water, to the salad if its a little dry.  Give it a good mixing before serving. 
The pasta salad will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up 1 week.  We don't recommend freezing pasta salad.  

Nutrition

Calories: 534kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 280mg | Potassium: 361mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 892IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 245mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!

7 Comments

  • Hi Kris and Wesley,
    I made this amazing salad, even doubled the recipe, and five people ate every single bite. I thought I would be able to enjoy it for a couple of days, but nope. It was beyond fantastic. My first time using fresh mozzarella and toasting pine nuts. I was leary, but the flavour blend is divine. Thank you for a new family favourite.
    Janet

  • Caprese is the best… Spent 3 years in Naples, Italy courtesy of the US Navy and have rarely found anything close to the fresh buffalo mozzarella you find there (I mean, that’s where it comes from!)

      • I credit the military with providing me the opportunity to visit some really wild destinations and places I would probably never have been able to see otherwise. Naples has good and bad (I was a military cop so I got to see both, for sure!) but the Amalfi Coast, Ischia and Capri, the Bay of Naples, a lot of old WWII military relics, Vesuvius, and even Rome is only 2 hours north by train and that is not a killer on the wallet. I was there from 89 – 92 and while I know things have changed, it is one area of the world where change is slow and generally not overwhelming. I’ve looked on Google maps streetview and many of the areas that I lived and worked haven’t physically changed even though the military has moved on to the airport vs downtown and such. Overall the art and the food would bring me back again easily!

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