This pesto caprese pasta salad is a delicious pasta salad that is perfect for your next barbecue, potluck, or a quick weeknight dinner! It combines creamy basil pesto pasta, soft mozzarella pearls, sweet cherry tomatoes, and additional fresh vegetables that make this salad super refreshing and tasty.
Pasta salads are a must-make during summertime! They are simple to make, taste amazing, and are packed with delicious and fresh ingredients. Some of my favorites that I love to make every year include my pesto spaghetti salad and my Italian-style pasta salad with parmesan cheese.
This pesto caprese pasta salad is another pasta salad recipe that I love to make on hot and sunny days! It has a delicious basil pesto, chewy pasta, and fresh vegetables. Plus, it's perfect for feeding a crowd and goes super well with grilled meat and grilled vegetables.
Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad Ingredients
To make this pesto caprese pasta salad you'll need the following ingredients:
- Pasta: Any type of short pasta works well with this recipe. I love to use rotini but you can definitely pick another shape of pasta. If you want to make this recipe gluten-free, use a gluten-free type of pasta such as chickpea pasta.
- Basil pesto: You can use a homemade or store-bought basil pesto. When I have the time, I always make my own pesto as it tastes a lot more flavorful than the store-bought version. Just pick the one that fits your needs best.
- Arugula: Arugula is not part of a classic caprese salad but it's one of my favorite ingredients to add to pasta salads! It tastes super delicious and adds some additional flavor to your meal.
- Cherry tomatoes: This pasta salad uses cherry tomatoes that are sweet and delicious. You can use regular tomatoes or grape tomatoes, just make sure that they are ripe.
- Mozzarella pearls: I love to use mozzarella pearls for pasta salads as they have the perfect size. But you can also use a regular mozzarella ball and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
- Kalamata olives: Olives are another delicious addition that isn't traditionally served as part of a caprese salad. But they taste amazing and give this salad extra flavor and texture.
How to make this pesto caprese pasta salad
Cook the pasta. First, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the package instructions. Then drain and set aside.
Prepare the pesto (optional). In the meantime, add toasted pine nuts, garlic, basil leaves, parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice to a food processor. Blend until the pesto is creamy yet slightly chunky. Refrigerate or freeze the amount of pesto you won't need for this recipe.
Combine pesto and pasta. Next, place the pasta in a large bowl. Add the pesto and toss until combined and evenly covered. Add more pesto if desired.
Stir in the salad ingredients. Now add all remaining salad ingredients and season with salt and black pepper. Toss gently until everything is combined.
Serve and enjoy. You can serve the pesto caprese pasta salad immediately or store it in the refrigerator to serve it later. Enjoy!
Tips & Notes
- Use homemade pesto if possible. Most of the time homemade pesto tastes better than store-bought pesto as the flavors are more intense. So if you can find the time to whip up a fresh basil pesto, I'd highly recommend it. It's super quick to make and definitely worth it!
- Try adding some fresh basil leaves when using store-bought pesto. It's a great way to add fresh basil to the dish without having to whip up your own pesto.
- Use your favorite type of pasta for this recipe. Everyone has their favorite shape, type, and brand of pasta. So pick up something you love. And if you can find fresh pasta in your grocery store, feel free to use it!
- Use other vegetables to make this pesto caprese pasta salad. There are many different vegetables that you can use to make this salad filling and tasty. Other veggies that I love to use are bell peppers, baby spinach, roasted zucchini or eggplant, or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes.
- Add nuts and seeds for additional texture, nutrients, and flavor. Toasted pine nuts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds taste great in salads.
- Pick another type of cheese if you don't like mozzeralla cheese or if you want to try something new. Feta cheese and shaved parmesan cheese are other favorites for making salads that taste amazing!
- Drizzle some balsamic glaze over the salad. I didn't add any blasamic glaze as it can be too much when the pesto is already quite flavorful. But you can certainly add a drizzle to make this pesto caprese pasta salad more similar to a classic Italian caprese salad.
How to serve this pesto caprese pasta salad
- Serve this pasta salad as is or use chickpea pasta for additional protein. You can enjoy this pesto caprese pasta salad as a full meal as it's quite satiating. If you want to increase its protein content, you can use chickpea pasta. And if you want to add extra vegetables to your meal, feel free to add some to this salad.
- Serve it alongside salmon or chicken. I love to use my air fryer to make flaky salmon or juicy air-fried chicken breasts. You could also make parmesan crusted chicken (it's really good and super crispy!) to serve alongside this pesto caprese pasta salad.
- Prepare meat or fish patties to turn this pasta salad into an extra tasty meal. I love to prepare (or thaw, I love meal prep 😄) my chicken patties, tuna patties, or German frikadellen whenever I make a pasta salad or potato salad. They make for a delicious combination!
Frequently Asked Questions
A classic Italian caprese salad is made of mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, balsamic glaze, olive oil, salt, and pepper. This pesto caprese pasta salad is a variation that includes chewy pasta and a fresh basil pesto. It's super delicious and a great way to enjoy caprese salad ingredients such as tomatoes, mozzeralla, and basil.
Yes, but I'd recommend using homemade pesto if you have some extra time. It's usually a lot more flavorful and actually very simple prepare. Some grocery stores also sell freshly prepared pesto.
You can serve it at room temperature or place it in the refrigerator if you prefer it cold. It tastes great either way!
Sure! I'd recommend storing the pasta, pesto, and salad ingredients separately and then combining them when you are ready to serve the salad.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 3-4 days.
More quick and delicious salad recipes
If you are looking for more salad recipes that you can prepare for dinner or your next barbecue, be sure to check out the following recipes!
- Italian-Style Pasta Salad
- Cold Soba Noodle Salad
- Balsamic Summer Pasta Salad
- Dill Pickle Potato Salad
- Herbed Mustard Potato Salad
Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad
Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces short pasta of your choice
- 3 tablespoon basil pesto homemade or store-bought
- 2 cups arugula
- 1 ½ cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 cup mozzarella pearls also called bocconcini, whole or halved
- ⅓ cup kalamata olives sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
Homemade Basil Pesto (Optional)
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts lightly toasted
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 cups basil leaves
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Then drain and set aside.8 ounces short pasta of your choice
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the fresh basil pesto (optional). Add all pesto ingredients to a food processor and blend until creamy. Use the amount of pesto you need for the recipe and store the remaining pesto in an airtight container in your refrigerator.3 tablespoons pine nuts, 1 garlic clove, 2 cups basil leaves, ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice
- Next, place the cooked pasta in a bowl. Add the basil pesto and toss until combined.3 tablespoon basil pesto
- Now add in all pasta salad ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Then toss until combined. Enjoy!2 cups arugula, 1 ½ cup cherry tomatoes, 1 cup mozzarella pearls, ⅓ cup kalamata olives, salt and pepper