Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad

A crowd-pleaser pasta salad made with basil pesto, fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. Perfect to bring to parties, potlucks and BBQs! Easy gluten free substitution included. 

Fusilli pasta, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella with a pesto dressing in a small white plate, with a fork on the side, a white glass and tomatoes in the background.

This salad is a summer staple, and for a good reason: it tastes amazing!

Traditionaly, Caprese salad is an Italian salad made with four simple ingredients: delicious ripe tomatoes, basil leaves, fresh, juicy mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil. Simplicity at its best!

Add some pasta and you have a hearty + filling salad you can serve as a main or as a side dish and that’s perfect to bring to potlucks and BBQs.

A lot of Caprese pasta salad recipes simply use basil leaves, but I like to take it to the next level and really go full on on the Italian flavors by using basil pesto. SO delicious!

Let’s see how easy it is to make!

How to make Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad – Step by Step

Start by cooking 4 cups of small-shaped pasta (I used fusilli). Drain and rinse in cold water until cool. Drain and place in a large salad bowl (step 1).

Add quartered cherry tomatoes and mozzarella to the bowl (step 2) and mix to combine (step 3).

step by step pictures showing how to make a caprese pesto pasta salad with a bowl of cooked pasta, then cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.

Add pesto (step 4) and lemon juice (step 5) to the bowl.

Mix thoroughly until all the pasta, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes are covered with pesto (step 6). 

It’s ready to be devoured!

step by step pictures showing how to make a caprese pesto pasta salad with a bowl of cooked pasta then pesto and lemon juice.

A few tips to make the perfect caprese pesto pasta salad!

  • Pesto: You can use homemade or store-bought pesto for this salad. I personally prefer to use homemade pesto because it tastes so much better than the stuff in a jar! Making pesto at home with fresh basil is very easy – and you can follow my step-by-step recipe here.
  • Pasta: Instead of fusilli, you can also use orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta), penne, rollatini, macaroni or any small shaped pasta.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta: make sure you cook the pasta al dente (the minimum time written on the package). They will be firmer and it’s better when making pasta salad.
  • Make ahead: You can prepare this salad ahead but if you’re using homemade pesto, don’t skip the lemon juice because this is what prevents the pesto from turning black (the change of color is caused by oxidation – it doesn’t change the taste but it’s not super pretty!).
  • Make it gluten free: Instead of wheat pasta, you can use brown rice pasta or Banza pasta (chickpea pasta). It’ll be just as delicious.

Enjoy! 🙂

Fusilli pasta, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella with a pesto dressing in a large white bowl, with a large spoon, tomatoes and half a lemon in the background.

If you tried this caprese pesto pasta salad, don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how it went in the comments below – I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on InstagramPinterest and Facebook for more deliciousness and behind-the-scenes!

Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad

A crowd-pleaser pasta salad made with basil pesto, fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. Perfect to bring to parties, potlucks and BBQs! Easy gluten free substitution included. 

Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword #capresesalad, #pastasalad, #summerpastasalad, #summersalad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 people (as a main)
Calories 391 kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fusilli pasta or another small-shaped pasta - see notes
  • 0.5 lbs 225 g fresh mozzarella cubed or mozzarella balls, aka bocconcini, quartered
  • 2 cup cherry tomatoes , quartered (or halved if they are small)
  • 3/4 cup basil pesto homemade or store-bough – click the link for my easy homemade recipe
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice from about 1 large lemon
  • 0.5 tsp sea salt more or less to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, making sure to cook them al dente so they are still firm (it's better when making pasta salad)

  2. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain again and place in a large salad bowl.

  3. Add the cherry tomatoes and the mozzarella, and mix.

  4. Add basil pesto and lemon juice to the bowl, and mix thoroughly until all the pasta, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes are covered with pesto.

  5. Taste and adjust salt if needed (this will depend on the pesto you used). Serve and enjoy!

  6. Make ahead: you can prepare this salad ahead but if you are using homemade pesto, don’t skip the lemon juice because this is what prevents the pesto from turning black (the change of color is caused by oxidation – it doesn’t change the taste but it’s not super pretty!).

Recipe Notes

  • Pesto: You can use homemade or store-bought pesto for this salad. I personally prefer to use homemade pesto because it tastes so much better than the stuff in a jar! Making pesto at home with fresh basil is very easy – and you can follow my step-by-step recipe here.
  • Pasta: Instead of fusilli, you can also use orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta), penne, rollatini, macaroni or any small shaped pasta.
  • Make it gluten free: Instead of wheat pasta, you can use brown rice pasta or Banza pasta (chickpea pasta). It'll be just as delicious.
Nutrition Facts
Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad
Amount Per Serving (1 /6th (as a main))
Calories 391 Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 31%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Cholesterol 32mg 11%
Sodium 728mg 30%
Potassium 226mg 6%
Total Carbohydrates 35g 12%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 3g
Protein 15g 30%
Vitamin A 22.5%
Vitamin C 16.1%
Calcium 25.5%
Iron 6.7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

More pesto recipes:

UPDATE NOTE: This post was originally published on August 29, 2014 and republished in July 2018 with an updated and simplified recipe, new photos and more tips.

Tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto and pasta is all you need to make this delicious caprese pesto pasta salad. It's a crowd-pleaser! Easy #glutenfree substitution. Recipe on NotEnoughCinnamon.com #salad #summersalad #saladrecipe #capresesalad

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posted in
Italian Inspired Main Dishes Pasta Quick & Easy Meals Recipes Refined Sugar Free Salads Summer Recipes Vegetarian
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