Easy Caprese Pasta Salad (Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad)

5 from 4 votes
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This Caprese pasta salad combines all the fresh ingredients from a Caprese salad in a delicious summer-friendly pasta salad format: ripe tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, fresh basil, and a simple dressing. This tomato mozzarella pasta salad can be enjoyed warm or chilled and can be made gluten-free and vegan. It’s perfect for impressing at picnics, BBQs, potlucks, or can be a simple mid-week meal!

A serving of pasta salad

It seems like I just don’t want to step away from delicious Caprese salad this year. I’ve already posted recipes for a classic Caprese salad, Burrata heirloom Caprese, peach Caprese, and Caprese bruschetta. Now it’s the turn of this summery carby, delicious Caprese pasta salad recipe (aka tomato mozzarella pasta salad)!

If you haven’t tried anything Caprese salad-esque before, you’re in for a treat. The simple combination of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil with a simple olive oil dressing makes for the perfect accompaniment to a pasta dish – delicious when served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

However, the simple combination of flavors also makes this summer pasta salad so versatile that you can easily add extra ingredients and make recipe variations (suggestions listed below), including making this recipe vegan and gluten-free!

Caprese Pasta Salad

Not only is this Caprese pasta ready in just 15 minutes, but it’s super simple and a definite crowd pleaser! It’s also relatively budget-friendly, aside from the mozzarella, which can be a little pricey (but worth it) – pasta, tomatoes, and basil aren’t particularly expensive.

While I 100% recommend enjoying this recipe during summer if you already eat tomatoes year-round, then I’m definitely not opposed to enjoying it during the colder winter months either – it’s that good! To enjoy other fresh and cheesy salads, you might like this herby watermelon feta salad, avocado cucumber tomato salad, beet and goat cheese salad, or summery spinach strawberry salad!

The Caprese Pasta Salad Ingredients

Ingredients for pasta tomato salad
  • Tomatoes: I like to use rainbow cherry/baby plum tomatoes. However, you can use regular versions or even larger tomatoes, diced.
  • Mozzarella: you can use fresh mozzarella that’s chopped/torn into smaller pieces or use mini mozzarella balls (bocconcini) as I have. For a vegan version – use vegan mozzarella. If you can’t use mozzarella, then crumbled feta (or vegan feta) or goat cheese would also pair well with the tomatoes and basil.
  • Onion: you can use red onion or sweet onion for the best flavor (when eating raw). If you want to sauté the onion, then yellow onion would also work. This helps to give a little “kick” to the tomato mozzarella pasta salad.
  • Basil: make sure to use fresh basil for this – dried just won’t be the same.
  • Garlic: I like to use fresh garlic for the best flavor. Feel free to adjust the amount to personal taste.
  • Dressing: all you need for this tomato basil mozzarella pasta salad is a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil (I recommend a light fruity olive oil) and lemon juice. For a little extra flavor, feel free to add some Italian seasoning to the dressing.
  • Pasta: use the pasta of your choice: penne, farfalle, fusilli, orecchiette, etc. – I prefer an option that’s shorter with crevices to pick up the dressing. Use gluten-free/grain-free if preferred, like this oat pasta, lentil pasta, or chickpea pasta. You can also use homemade vegan pasta.
  • Oregano: while technically optional, I love the additional flavor that fresh oregano gives this Caprese pasta salad recipe. You could try parsley or possibly mint in place of oregano – though it won’t be the same obviously.
  • Salt & pepper, for a hint of spice, you can also optionally add a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Optional add-ins and Variations

  • Pesto: pesto Caprese pasta salad is a match made in heaven; I recommend using some fresh pesto (like this Italian pesto or vegan pistachio basil pesto). Use it in place of the olive oil and lemon juice dressing.
  • Balsamic: like balsamic vinegar/balsamic reduction is a popular addition to Caprese salad, the same can be said for this Caprese pasta salad. It’s the piece-de-resistance!
  • Avocado: add some cubed/sliced avocado (1 medium avocado) for extra healthy fats and a creamy element. If you plan to make this Caprese pasta salad in advance, only add the avocado before serving. This will prevent it from browning.
  • Other vegetables: this Caprese pasta salad is very versatile and can easily be bulked up with extra veggies (though it will become less of a Caprese salad dish the more you add to it). Some of my favorite add-ins include broccoli, corn, olives, cucumber, peppers, and mushrooms (sauteed until brown). I recommend adding between 1- 1 ½ cups of additional veggies.
  • Protein: to make more of a complete meal, you can bump up the nutrition in this tomato mozzarella pasta salad with the addition of protein. If you eat meat, then chicken or shrimp will work well. For a meat-free option, I recommend either chickpeas or possibly a marinated tofu.
  • Extra greens: arugula or baby spinach make for great additions to this simple summery vegetarian pasta salad.
  • Pine nuts: I recommend lightly toasting a large handful of pine nuts until fragrant and lightly browned. Other nuts may also work – like pecans or pistachios.
  • Fish: when I first posted this recipe to my Instagram stories, I received a ton of messages from people who’d added sardines or anchovies to the pasta. While I haven’t tried it, it seems to be popular.
  • Fruit: this might seem a little odd, but several fruits would pair well in this summer pasta salad – strawberries, raspberries, or peach are my favorites.

How to Make Caprese Pasta Salad?

Step 1: Cook the pasta

First, cook the pasta according to the package instructions in salted water.

If you want to enjoy the Caprese pasta salad immediately and not warm, then it’s best to do this in advance to give the pasta some time to cool down.

Cooked farfalle pasta

Step 2: Prepare the ingredients

Meanwhile, as the pasta cooks, chop the tomatoes in half, and add the salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh oregano to a bowl and combine, leaving it to “marinate.”

If you want more of a tomato sauce for the Caprese pasta salad, I recommend adding this mixture (minus the lemon juice and oregano) to a skillet and lightly frying until the tomatoes soften and start to release their juices. Then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Tomatoes in a bowl with dressing

Then slice the onion and add that to the bowl.

Step 3: Assemble the tomato basil mozzarella pasta salad

Once the pasta has cooked, rinse it with cold water for about a minute (then drain) to get it to cool down faster. Then add it to the bowl along with the bocconcini and some basil (I add the leaves whole; however, you could also chiffonade them) – enjoy!

Pasta salad in a bowl

How to Make Ahead and Store Pasta Salad

Make ahead: to prepare this tomato mozzarella pasta salad in advance, I recommend assembling everything apart from the fresh herbs (which should be added just before serving). In fact, I recommend making it a day in advance if you can. When left to “marinate,” this simple pasta salad tastes even better!

However, if you want to make it more than a day in advance, I recommend storing it undressed until about an hour before serving.

Store: store any leftover Caprese pasta salad in an airtight/plastic-wrapped container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Enjoy the leftovers chilled or heat them in the microwave or on the stovetop for a warmed Caprese pasta.

Stir it before serving to make sure all the sauce and juices distribute throughout the pasta. The tomatoes will release juices as the salad sits – so stirring it helps to re-coat everything.

Caprese tomato pasta salad

How to Serve?

You can enjoy this Caprese pasta salad warm, at room temperature, or chilled, alone, over a bed of greens (like arugula or lettuce) or with/as a side dish – including alongside grilled proteins. Luckily, this pasta salad also pairs well with meat, fish, or tofu!

You can also enjoy it with some homemade crusty bread or pita bread.

Top Recipe Tips

  • For mellow onion/garlic: feel free to lightly sauté the onion and garlic until translucent for a mellower flavor. You can do so while the pasta is cooking. It should only take several (3-4) minutes with a bit of olive oil. If you plan on cooking the tomatoes slightly, you can add them to the pan at the same time.
  • Make sure to cook the pasta al dente: if you overcook pasta for pasta salads, it can become mushy and stick together. That’s not what we want! So instead, cook the pasta al dente – so there’s a little bite to it still. 7-8 minutes tends to work with lots of dried pasta.
  • Save some dressing: if you are making this Caprese pasta salad ahead or plan to have leftovers, I recommend saving some of the dressing to one side to toss into the salad before serving the second time. Alternatively, you can just add a little additional olive oil and lemon juice (and possibly extra herbs, too) before serving.

More Healthy Summer Salad Recipes

If you try this fresh Caprese pasta salad recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Caprese Pasta Salad (Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad)

5 from 4 votes
By: Samira
This Caprese pasta salad combines all the fresh ingredients from a Caprese salad in a delicious summer-friendly pasta salad format: ripe tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, fresh basil, and a simple dressing. This tomato mozzarella pasta salad can be enjoyed warm or chilled and can be made gluten-free and vegan. It's perfect for impressing at picnics, BBQs, potlucks, or can be a simple mid-week meal.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients 
 

  • 9 oz tomatoes cherry tomatoes or mini plum
  • 5.3 oz Bocconcini mini mozzarella or larger fresh mozzarella (torn or chopped)
  • 3.5 oz pasta short pasta is best – farfalle, penne, orecchiette
  • 1 medium onion or 2 small
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil extra virgin (light and fruity)
  • 1/2 lemon 1.5 Tbsp juice
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh basil
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh oregano optional
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions 

Step 1: Cook the pasta

  • Cook the pasta according to the package instructions in salted water.
    If you want to enjoy the Caprese pasta salad immediately and not warm, then it's best to do this in advance to give the pasta some time to cool down.

Step 2: Prepare the ingredients

  • Meanwhile, as the pasta cooks, chop the tomatoes in half, and add the salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh oregano to a bowl and combine, leaving it to "marinate."
    If you want more of a tomato sauce for the Caprese pasta salad, I recommend adding this mixture (minus the lemon juice and oregano) to a skillet and lightly frying until the tomatoes soften and start to release their juices. Then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Slice the onion and add it to the bowl with the tomatoes.

Step 3: Assemble the tomato basil mozzarella pasta salad

  • Once the pasta has cooked, rinse it with cold water for about a minute (then drain) to get it to cool down faster.
  • Add the pasta to the tomatoes along with the bocconcini and some basil (I add the leaves whole; however, you could also chiffonade them) – enjoy!

How to Store?

  • Make ahead: to prepare this pasta salad in advance, I recommend assembling everything apart from the fresh herbs (which should be added just before serving). In fact, I recommend making it a day in advance if you can. When left to "marinate," this simple salad tastes even better!
    However, if you want to make it more than a day in advance, I recommend storing it undressed until about an hour before serving.
  • Store: store any leftovers salad in an airtight/plastic-wrapped container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Enjoy the leftovers chilled or heat them in the microwave or on the stovetop for a warmed Caprese pasta salad.
    Stir it before serving to make sure all the sauce and juices distribute throughout the pasta. The tomatoes will release juices as the salad sits – so stirring it helps to re-coat everything.

Notes

  • For mellow onion/garlic: feel free to lightly sauté the onion and garlic until translucent for a mellower flavor. You can do so while the pasta is cooking – it should only take several (3-4) minutes with a bit of olive oil. If you plan on cooking the tomatoes slightly, you can add them to the pan at the same time.
  • Make sure to cook the pasta al dente: if you overcook pasta for pasta salads, it can become mushy and stick together. That’s not what we want! So instead, cook the pasta al dente – so there’s a little bite to it still. 7-8 minutes tends to work with lots of dried pasta.
  • Save some dressing: if you are making this pasta salad ahead or plan to have leftovers, I recommend saving some of the dressing to one side to toss into the salad before serving the second time. Alternatively, you can just add a little additional olive oil and lemon juice (and possibly extra herbs, too) before serving.
 
 
Optional add-ins and Variations:
  • Pesto: pesto Caprese pasta salad is a match made in heaven; I recommend using some fresh pesto (like this Italian pesto or vegan pistachio basil pesto). Use it in place of the olive oil and lemon juice dressing.
  • Balsamic: balsamic vinegar/balsamic reduction is a popular addition to Caprese salad, the same can be said for this pasta salad. It’s the piece-de-resistance!  
  • Avocado: add some cubed/sliced avocado (1 medium avocado) for extra healthy fats and a creamy element. If you plan to make this salad in advance, only add the avocado before serving, so it doesn’t brown.
  • Other vegetables: this salad is very versatile and can easily be bulked up with extra veggies (though it will become less of a Caprese salad dish the more you add to it). Some of my favorite add-ins include broccoli, corn, olives, cucumber, peppers, and mushrooms (sauteed until brown). I recommend adding between 1- 1 ½ cups of additional veggies.
  • Protein: to make more of a complete meal, you can bump up the nutrition of this salad with the addition of protein. If you eat meat, then chicken or shrimp will work well. For a meat-free option, I recommend either chickpeas or possibly a marinated tofu.
  • Extra greens: arugula or baby spinach make for great additions.
  • Pine nuts: I recommend lightly toasting a large handful of pine nuts until fragrant and lightly browned. Other nuts may also work – like pecans or pistachios.
  • Fish: sardines or anchovies seem to be popular additions (though I haven’t tried).
  • Fruit: this might seem a little odd, but several fruits would pair well in this summer pasta salad – strawberries, raspberries, or peach are my favorites.
 
 
Check the blog post for more tips and serving suggestions.
Course: Appetizer, Main, Salad, Side
Cuisine: Italian
Freezer friendly: No
Shelf life: 4-5 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 561kcal, Carbohydrates: 53g, Protein: 23g, Fat: 31g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 649mg, Potassium: 618mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 1120IU, Vitamin C: 36mg, Calcium: 392mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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