Ready in less than 20 minutes, this caprese pasta salad is bursting with juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and is smothered in homemade pesto. It’s the perfect side dish for a summer cookout!caprese pasta salad in a bowl with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil

Who doesn’t love a good pasta salad in the summertime?!

It’s a perfect side dish for a summer barbecue or cookout and leftovers make for a delicious lunch the next day.

When I think of the perfect summer flavor combo, it’s gotta be tomato and mozzarella.

Tomatoes are in-season right now, which means they are juicier, tastier, and more vibrant than ever.

You’re going to FLIP for this caprese pasta salad. It’s super easy to make, only calling for a handful of ingredients AND it’s ready in less than 20 minutes! Who doesn’t love a quick weeknight meal or side dish, amirite??

My favorite part about this pasta salad is the silky homemade pesto. It’s not too thick so it coats the pasta perfectly.

And I HIGHLY recommend the optional drizzling with balsamic reduction because pesto and sweet syrupy balsamic is a match made in pasta heaven.

Ingredients You’ll Need

lemon, parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, basil, walnuts and pasta laid out on tabletop

Notes on Ingredients

Pasta: I use bowtie because it’s my favorite variety for a pasta salad – the dressing pools perfectly in the little bowtie divets! But you can use your pasta of choice – fusilli is popular for pasta salads. And if you want a boost of fiber – use a whole-wheat version! Gluten-free? Use a gluten-free pasta!

Tomatoes: I’ve used grape and cherry for this recipe – feel free to use either! Grape tomatoes tend to hold up better. Cherry tomatoes are a little sweeter.

Balsamic reduction: This is optional but highly recommended! It transforms this pasta salad to next level deliciousness. You can find reduction at the grocery store or you can make your own. Bring 2 cups balsamic vinegar to a boil, reduce to simmer until thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool before use.

How to Make Caprese Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is easy to make in less than 20 minutes! While your pasta is cooking, make your pesto! Throw your basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice and zest, and cheese into a food processor and pulse until combined. While the machine is running, slowly pour in your olive oil, and blend until your pesto is smooth.

Rinse off cooked pasta with cold water until pasta is cool to touch! This will help prevent it from continuing to cook. Plus, who likes a warm pasta salad anyway? Yuck.

Toss the cooled pasta with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella and the homemade pesto until pesto evenly coats pasta.

Drizzle the salad with balsamic reduction because it’s sweet and will compliment the pesto and caprese flavors so, so well. It’s well worth the extra step and ingredient.

pesto ingredients in food processor, cooked pasta in a colander, and pasta, tomatoes, and caprese in a bowl

Pasta Salad FAQs

Can I use a different dressing besides pesto?

Sure! You could use a balsamic vinaigrette instead. Or, you could use store bought pesto as a time saver but you will likely need to thin it out with some olive oil.

Can this recipe be made vegan?

Yes! Simply omit the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and substitute with vegan cheese alternatives.

Can this recipe be made gluten free?

Sure can! Simply use a gluten-free pasta as the base.

Is pasta okay to eat?

Of course it is! It’s a carbohydrate which is your brain and body’s preferred source of fuel. If you need help making peace with carbs, check out my free guide to make peace with carbohydrates!

Does pasta have any health benefits?

When pasta is cooked and then cooled (i.e. pasta salad!) it provides a certain type of fiber called resistant starch. Resistant starches resist digestion and are slowly fermented in the large intestine, acting as prebiotics. Studies have shown resistant starch increases bowel movements and bulk of stool, helping prevent constipation. Woot, woot for regularity!

Can I add protein to this pasta salad?

Yes! This pasta salad would be delicious with some grilled chicken and would help make it a more complete meal!

wood spoon in a bowl of caprese pasta salad

For more summer recipe inspo, check out some of my other summer cookout dishes below!

two wood spoons in a bowl of caprese pasta salad with a second bowl of fresh basil

If you like this recipe, please be sure to give it a 5 star rating below. If you make it, share it on instagram and tag me @karalydonrd and I’ll re-share it with my followers! If you want to save this recipe for later, be sure to pin it on Pinterest!

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bowl of caprese pasta salad with fresh basil

Caprese Pasta Salad


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  • Author: Kara @ The Foodie Dietitian
  • Prep Time: 9 minutes
  • Cook Time: 11 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 10 -12 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Ready in less than 20 minutes, this caprese pasta salad is bursting with juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and is smothered in homemade pesto. It’s the perfect side dish for a summer cookout!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 16 oz bowtie pasta
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • ½ tablespoon lemon zest (from one lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 oz ciliegine mozzarella (cherry sized-mozzarella balls), quartered
  • Optional: balsamic reduction, for drizzling

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to instructions on package, about 11-13 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until pasta is cooled.
  2. While pasta is cooking, in a food processor, add basil, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly add olive oil. Blend until pesto is smooth.
  3. In a large serving bowl, toss pasta with tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto until dressing evenly coats the pasta. Serve at room temperature.
  4. Optional: drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Notes

  1. Make this recipe vegan by omitting the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and substitute with vegan cheese alternatives.
  2. You can swap out bowtie pasta for whole-wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta depending on your preferences.
  3. Add some grilled chicken or another protein to make this a complete meal!
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Salad
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: caprese pasta salad, caprese pasta salad with pesto, caprese pasta salad with homemade pesto

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8 Comments

  1. OK if it has caprese and pasta in the title I’m making it and intrigued to try hemp seeds more often. Love the idea of trying them in a pesto!

  2. This pasta looks so satisfying and tasty. Love your “swaps” for BBQ season, too! : )

  3. I’m a huge fan of pasta salad, especially when they are actually healthy! This looks beautiful!

  4. I’ve made pesto a million ways (I think I have 3 recipes on my blog) but never with hemp seeds- must try it!