Pesto Caprese pasta salad is an easy cold side dish to serve for a crowd.  This vegetarian Mediterranean recipe combines pesto, farfalle, basil, mozzarella and tomatoes with a balsamic dressing.  It's a hit with kids, and is simple to make ahead for your next party.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
spoonful of Caprese pasta salad
Pasta, Salad, Vegetarian Main Course

Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad

We handpicked the products and tools linked in this post. If you buy from one of these affiliate links, we may earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting Savor the Flavour!

Craving pasta, but want a twist?  Why not serve your pasta cold tonight.  Pesto Caprese pasta salad is a simple side dish that you can easily elevate to a main course with  grilled chicken or salami.  Throw in some marinated artichoke hearts and sliced avocado and you have a hearty salad that will be gobbled up fast.

holding a bowl of Caprese pasta salad

Can you make Caprese pasta salad in advance?

Yes, you certainly can.  It actually tastes best if it has time to chill in the fridge.  Here’s some tips on what to do if you want to make it the night before.

  • Rinse and slice the tomatoes.  Separate the mozzarella pearls.  Zest the lemon.  Place each ingredient in their own bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
  • Shake up the marinade for the tomatoes and mozzarella in a mason jar.
  • Cook the pasta, add olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and the pesto to the pasta.  Stir, cover, and chill overnight.
  • 15 minutes before serving, marinade the tomatoes and mozzarella.
  • Taste the pasta salad and adjust seasonings.
  • Chiffonade the basil (see question below), then stir it into the pasta.  Garnish with lemon zest.

holding a spoonful of Caprese pasta salad

How do you chiffonade basil?

Want to know how to get evenly sized ribbons of basil for your salad?  Try this easy cutting technique called chiffonade.

  • Rinse and pat dry the fresh basil.
  • Stack leaves that are similar in size.
  • Roll up into a tight log.
  • Slice with a sharp knife.
  • Separate the strips with your fingers.

holding a bowl of Caprese pasta salad

How to Make Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad

Gather all the ingredients.  Start by mincing the garlic, then zesting and juicing a lemon.

ingredients for Caprese pasta salad

Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise, and measure out rest of the ingredients.  Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, capers, garlic, and green onion to make a marinade.

whisking the dressing for Caprese pasta salad

Put the mozzarella pearls and the tomatoes in a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over top, stir, and let it marinade for 15 minutes.

adding dressing to mozzarella and tomatoes for Caprese pasta salad

After 15 minutes, you’ll see and taste the difference a marinade can make–especially if you are eating this right after making it.

tossing the mozzarella and tomatoes for Caprese pasta salad

While you’re prepping the salad ingredients, cook the pasta to al dente, then run the pasta under cold water.  This will stop the cooking process and helps chill the pasta.   Drain well and mix in some olive oil to prevent it from sticking.

tossing Caprese pasta salad

Next, add the pesto.

adding pesto to Caprese pasta salad

Pour in the white balsamic vinegar.  Trust me, you’ll want to have extra vinegar on hand because the pasta soaks it up like a sponge!

adding balsamic vinegar to Caprese pasta salad

Add the marinated tomatoes and mozzarella and stir until combined.  Cover and chill in the fridge.  (If you are in a hurry, skip the chilling part.)

adding the mozzarella and tomatoes to Caprese pasta salad

Just before serving, cut up the basil and stir it into the salad.  Taste the pasta and adjust seasonings, adding a sprinkle of salt and black pepper if desired.  The pasta will absorb the marinade and vinegar as it cools, so you’ll want to add more white balsamic vinegar and possibly a little more oil or lemon juice.  Garnish with a sprinkle of lemon zest and some more basil.

bowl of Caprese pasta salad with spoon

Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad is an easy salad to make when you’re craving a cold pasta dish.  Why not make it tonight?

Pro Tips

  • Want to add meat?  Try grilled chicken or salami.
  • Don’t like the look of faralle pasta?  Swap it out with rotini, orecchiette or cellentani, but choose noodles that will hold the pesto dressing.
  • Want to add more vegetables?  How about avocado, artichoke hearts, or red onion?
  • Need to make it healthier?  Use light olive oil and whole wheat organic pasta.

Be the star of the BBQ with these creamy cold salads.

person holding a bowl of macaroni salad black spoon in a bowl of southern potato salad holding a bowl of pea salad

Did you make this pesto Caprese pasta salad?  Please leave a star rating below to share how you enjoyed it.

Print
spoonful of Caprese pasta salad

Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad


  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 28 minutes
  • Yield: 10 cups 1x

Description

Pesto Caprese pasta salad is an easy cold side dish to serve for a crowd.  This vegetarian Mediterranean recipe combines pesto, farfalle, basil, mozzarella and tomatoes with a balsamic dressing.  It’s a hit with kids, and is simple to make ahead for your next party.


Scale

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • 1 pound dried farfalle pasta (453g)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 18 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise (510g)
  • 8 ounce package of mozzarella pearls (226g)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (60 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon spring onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon capers, chopped
  • 1 cup basil pesto (382g)
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • sprinkle of salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons

For Garnish

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, capers, and green onion.  Toss it with the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella pearls, then let it marinade for 15 minutes.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water according to the directions on the package.  Rinse with cold water.  Drain and stir in a little olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking.
  3. Pour the pasta into a large bowl and mix in the pesto and white balsamic vinegar.  Gently stir in the marinated tomatoes and mozzarella pearls, then cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Cut the basil by stacking the leaves, rolling it into a log, and slicing it with a sharp knife.  Separate the ribbons with your fingers, then stir the ribbons into the salad.
  5. Taste the salad and adjust seasonings.  Sprinkle in additional salt and black pepper, vinegar, oil, or lemon juice as desired.  The pasta will absorb a lot of the dressing as it cools.
  6. Garnish with lemon zest and fresh basil.  Serve cold.

Notes

  • Make this salad heartier by adding grilled chicken, salami, marinated artichoke hearts, or sliced avocado.
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: pasta salad, BBQ

Recipe Card powered by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.