Caprese Pasta Salad

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This make-ahead Caprese pasta salad recipe is filled with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, and perfectly al dente pasta. It’s the perfect thing to serve on a warm day.

This make-ahead Caprese pasta salad recipe is filled with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, and perfectly al dente pasta. It's the perfect thing to serve on a warm day.

I love the dish because it stretches the somewhat pricey ingredients of a pasta salad into a hearty side dish that goes with just about everything you’d want to serve at a BBQ or picnic. If you love classic Caprese salad, you’re going to love it on top of pasta.

What I love about his recipe is that it can be make-ahead or mostly make-ahead. You can combine everything except for the mozzarella and basil and let it sit in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. When it’s time to eat, simply top it with the tomato and mozzarella.

If you make it ahead of time, the noodles may soak up all the dressing. Before you add the tomato and mozzarella, give everything a stir, and then taste. Add more olive oil and lemon if needed. I love the dressing because it’s so simple. I always have a few lemons and olive oil laying around, so all I really need to do is pick out some beautiful tomatoes and creamy mozzarella. If you have a bunch of basil in the garden, this is a great dish to use it up with.

This Caprese Pasta Salad is a great side for whatever you’re eating, but I especially like it paired with grilled chicken or grilled shrimp. You’re going to go nuts over this one.

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Caprese Pasta Salad


  • Author: Allie McDonald
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6

Description

This make-ahead Caprese pasta salad recipe is filled with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, and perfectly al dente pasta. It’s the perfect thing to serve on a warm day.


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ditalini Pasta (or another small shape like elbow macaroni or bow ties)
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice, divided (and maybe a bit more to taste)
  • 5 tbsps olive oil, divided (and probably a bit more to taste)
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus a few extra leaves for garnish
  • ¾ lb. fresh mozzarella

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta.
  2. While the pasta cooks, roughly chop the tomatoes. Transfer the tomatoes, along with any juices that accumulated while chopping, into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of coarse black pepper. Stir.
  4. Add the hot drained pasta to the tomatoes. Stir to combine. (Why add the pasta while it’s hot? It will immediately start sucking up the flavors you added to the bowl while also slightly cooking and softening the tomatoes, which will cause them to release more of their juices into the pasta.)
  5. Allow the pasta salad to cool to room temperature on the counter. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or for as little as 1 hour.
  6. Fifteen minutes before serving, remove the pasta from the fridge.
  7. Add the parsley, basil, the other tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  8. Stir. Taste. Add more salt and pepper to enhance flavors if required. Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil for moisture if required. Add another teaspoon or two of lemon juice for a bit of tang and brightness if required. (I wish I could be more specific about the amounts here but it all has to do with how much liquid the pasta has sucked up, which depends on many things including how long it all rested together before being served. Just taste and trust your instincts. I have faith in you!).
  9. Slice the mozzarella cylinder in half lengthwise and then cut each cylinder into ¼ inch slices. Layer the mozzarella slices over the pasta salad.
  10. Drizzle the mozzarella with the final tablespoon of olive oil before enjoying it with friends.
This post was published in July 2012 and was updated May 2019.