Caprese Pesto Pasta salad is full of bright colours and fragrant flavours. Quick and easy to make, vegetarian and working as a side or main it's a tomato mozzarella pesto salad with pasta. Hearty with flavour, texture and full of yum, you will love the combination and want to make it again and again. This pesto caprese pasta salad has a log going on, ensuring maximum flavour with minimal effort!
The Cold Stuffed Tomatoes are a 5 min no bake recipe which works as the perfect healthy appetizer 😉👍.
🤍 Recipe Highlights
- Italian origins: This recipe honours the much loved and popular Caprese salad.
- Back to basics: a simple combination usually consisting of cherry tomatoes, basil, soft white cheese (mozzarella in the form of bocconcini balls) and often paired with balsamic vinegar or glaze, the combination of flavours is simply heavenly.
- Taste and texture: sometimes you want a light salad and sometimes you want something a little more hearty.
- Protein and carbs: this salad delivers the light bright component and pasta for the satisfyingly well fed component.
The ingredients for this recipe are simple and easy to find. The photo below is a handy visual guide to refer to when shopping. The printable recipe card at the bottom of the post has exact measurements and detailed instructions.
As you can see, the recipe calls for:
- Dried pasta (you can use your favorite): there is a wide variety of pastas that you can use for the recipe. Think bite sized like macaroni, twirls, penne or rigatoni. Stay way from long spaghetti, fettuccini or linguini as then it is really a pasta dish as opposed to a pasta salad recipe 👍😉😘.
- Pesto (store bought or homemade is fine): the cold dip version of basil pesto from the fridge section is a popular choice and so easy. It also has more texture than the jarred on shelf with pastas pesto which I tend to avoid.
- Cherry tomatoes: bright red pops of colour and flavour come from these!
- Grape tomatoes: bursting with juice, these add another colour and contrast to the other salad ingredients.
- Mozzarella balls (bocconcini balls): these are sold in a small tub with brine. That can be discarded. So drain before use but there is no need to rinse.
- Basil: fragrant and aromatic, this herbs brings a delightful zesty-ness to the salad as well as vibrant green colour.
- Olive oil: we add this to the salt and pepper used to coat the tomatoes and give them a lovely slick seasoning.
- Salt and pepper: we use a little bit of these 2 ingredients to season the salad. You can choose to serve it with additional cracked pepper.
Tasty tip: If you grow your own herbs, feel free to use homegrown basil. There is nothing more delightful when spending time in the kitchen, with a quick step outside to the garden, snipping some herbs and adding them to whatever you are cooking. I am using homegrown basil for this recipe 😉👍.
Here are the step by step instructions to make the recipe. You will need a medium sized mixing bowl to start combining the tomatoes, cheese and basil leaves.
- Add tomatoes and mozzarella to a medium bowl, season with salt, pepper and olive oil (Photo 1)
- Add basil to seasoned ingredients (Photo 2)
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to packet instructions (Photo 3)
- Drain pasta, reserve ½ cup of the water, dollop in the pesto, pour in the water and stir to combine (Photo 4)
👩🍳 How to Make Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad
To make the salad, combine the tomato mixture and then set aside and you cook the pasta. Reserve some of the pasta water, add it and the pesto to the cooked pasta then combine in a large salad bowl with the tomato mozzarella mixture.
Tasty Tip: A tip I have learnt over time with making this salad is that you can make it ahead of time and if you do, it is best not to slice all of the tomatoes in half. This saves a soggy salad!
- Pour the reserved pasta water into the pesto pasta (Photo 5)
- Stir to combine (Photo 6)
- Add both the seasoned ingredients and the pesto pasta to the salad bowl (Photo 7)
- Use salad servers to toss the salad (Photo 8)
🍽 Serving Suggestions
This salad works well at BBQ's, pot lucks and on the table for Sunday brunch. Serve as a main on its own, or if you consider it a side, try serving it paired with of the following recipes:
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Store the salad in the fridge with cling wrap until ready to serve.
It is not suitable to freeze and is best serve cold or at room temperature.
💡 Tasty Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks intended to help you master the recipe from the 1st time you try and each consecutive time you make it:
- If making the salad ahead of time, don't slice all of the tomatoes in half as this will make the salad soggy, keep all whole and slice a few in half at the time of serving.
- Add only the basil leaves, discard the basil stems.
- Use a tube type pasta to allow for the pesto sauce to enter the pasta and bring delight.
- When seasoning the tomatoes and cheese, use a gentle approach when stirring as these are fragile ingredients and we want to keep them looking their best.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
Do you add pesto to hot or cold pasta?
Pesto is the hero ingredient in this dish. We add it to freshly cooked (drained) pasta and pour in a little leftover pasta water to get a silky smooth sauce.
You can use store bought pesto and for full disclosure, I am using a Basil Pesto I purchased from the store.
Can you eat pesto straight from the jar?
Pesto is fine to eat straight from the jar...however there is a little 'but' to this.
Most commonly used for stirring through pasta, pesto is a versatile ingredient and lends itself to a variety of uses.
Whilst it can be eaten straight from the jar, it depends on the context, brand, type and intention that you are using it for.
It is better to use a store bought dip type pesto if you want to use it as a dip or eat the pesto as is.
On the other hand, if you use a jar of pesto, these are best stirred through cooked, drained pasta, before tasting as their flavour is much more concentrated and doesn't lend itself to snacking the way the dip version does.
Much food or should I say pesto for your consideration!
😍 More Easy Salad Recipes
If getting salad on your fork is your favourite thing to go, I understand where you are coming from. Here are some more ideas, I think you will also love ❤:
- Herb Salad
- Sardine Salad
- Roast Chicken Salad
- Boiled Egg Salad
- Healthy Panzanella Salad
- Watermelon Cucumber Feta Salad
You can also find all of my salad recipes in the one spot. Pesto for your thoughts my friend? xx
Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad
- 1 Salad bowl
- 2 Salad servers
- 1 Mixing bowl
- 1 Chopping block
- 1 Knife
- 1 Medium size sauce pan
- 1 Colander
- 500 grams/ 1 pound dried pasta
- ½ cup basil pesto
- 1 cup baby bocconcini balls
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Pasta: cook pasta according to packet instructions in a pot of boiling, salted water.
- Drain pasta: use oven mits to remove the sauce pan from the stove, drain using a colander and reserve ½ cup pasta water.
- Salad: add the tomatoes, bocconcini, salt, pepper and olive oil to a medium size bowl and stir to combine.
- Combine: add cooked pasta to a heavy based medium pot, dollop in pesto and pasta water, stir to combine. Add tomato and mozzarella mix to pesto pasta, stir to combine.
- Serve and enjoy: provide salad servers for serving and plates to portion.