This delicious Italian pasta salad is made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, fresh mozzarella, and penne pasta. It has the most delicious and simple balsamic and olive sauce to pull it all together and it is so easy to make. Make it for picnics or easy summer meals.
Though the ingredients are simple and similar to other pasta salad recipes, the techniques when making this Italian pasta salad are what really make it shine. This Italian pasta salad is also called a Caprese pasta and it is my go-to summer recipe to bring to almost any gathering I attend and everyone always loves it.
I love making this as a lighter meal during the summer months for my family as well. It has all of the flavors of summer in it like tomatoes, basil, and garlic.
The flavors in this Italian pasta salad are a little zesty from the balsamic vinegar, a little heat from the garlic and cayenne, and delicious freshness from the mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.
Another great thing about this recipe is that it is perfect for a day at the beach or for an outing in the warmer months.
I also love that this pasta salad uses penne pasta which I find more substantial than traditional pasta salad and I prefer the larger pasta shape! I use it in my pesto pasta and in my pasta with broccoli in truffle cream sauce.
- Pasta. You need a shaped pasta like penne, ziti, or bow tie pasta when making Caprese pasta.
- Fresh Basil.
- Fresh mozzarella. Any fresh mozzarella shape works. Just make sure to cut the mozzarella all to the same size.
- Olive oil.
- Balsamic vinegar. If I have time to make it, I like to make a balsamic reduction. This is a little extra but a tasty addition.
- Fresh garlic.
- Cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper in this pasta salad adds a little zing but it will not be spicy!
- Kosher salt.
I do not recommend substituting any of the ingredients. The fresh ingredients, spices, and balsamic are what make this pasta salad so amazing.
How to make
The reason this pasta salad is so good is because of the techniques used to make it.
- Cook your pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, salt it well and cook until al dente.
- Prep your ingredients: Slice your garlic, dice up your tomatoes, make your balsamic sauce, and cut up your fresh mozzarella.
- Toss it all together: When your pasta is cooked, add it to your bowl with the sauce and toss well. Taste for seasoning. Once it is perfectly seasoned to your taste, add your fresh mozzarella.
- Plate and serve!
Recipe Tip: When making this balsamic pasta salad, you want to make sure you are using only fresh mozzarella, not dried or shredded. You can use Buffalo mozzarella or cow milk mozzarella. Either is fine for this recipe
No, rinsing the pasta is not necessary and the starches left behind from not rinsing will help the sauce stick.
For this Caprese pasta salad, you do not need to make it the day before. Other mayonnaise-based recipes would have you do that but this can be made the day it is ready to be eaten.
Making this ahead of time
Caprese pasta salad is best made and served the same day since it is freshest. If you do want to make it ahead of time, here is how I would do it:
- Make the dressing and prep the garlic, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
- Store dressing in the fridge in a sealed container.
- Store the other ingredients in the fridge in another container.
- When ready to make, cook the pasta then add all of the prepped ingredients and dressing to the cooked pasta.
There are so many things that go well with this pasta salad. This Italian pasta salad can be served on its own as well. My favorite things to pair with this Italian pasta salad are:
You can also check out these other Easy Italian Pasta Recipes:
- For classic recipes like this, our Pasta Carbonara our Pork Bolognese our Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil, and Traditional Bolognese are perfect.
- If you love fresh pasta ideas, our Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and our Checca Sauce are recipes you will love.
- More pasta salad ideas: No Mayo tuna pasta salad and peanut pasta salad.
Italian Pasta Salad With Balsamic
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1 ½ cups ripe tomatoes diced I like to use roma tomatoes
- 8 ounces large ball of fresh mozzarella you can also use small mozzarella balls (called bocconcini) and dice them up.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh basil sliced thin
- 3 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar plus more to taste
- 4 cloves of garlic sliced paper thin
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper more if you like the heat
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt plus more to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Boil your pasta according to instructions on box for al dente.1 pound penne pasta
- While the pasta is cooking, slice your garlic as thin as possible and place in a large bowl.4 cloves of garlic sliced paper thin
- Add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and basil to the bowl then mix and let it sit to let the flavors come together.3 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, ¼ cup fresh basil sliced thin
- Next dice up your tomatoes and add them to the bowl.1 ½ cups ripe tomatoes diced
- Dice fresh mozzarella into small ½ inch cubes and put aside.8 ounces large ball of fresh mozzarella
- When your pasta is cooked, add it to your bowl with the marinade and toss well.
- Taste for seasoning such as salt, more balsamic etc. based on your taste. I almost always add a pinch or dash of something at this stage since I like a lot of cayenne pepper and lots of balsamic.
- Once it is perfectly seasoned to your taste, add your fresh mozzarella cubes and toss again.
- Plate and serve!
Nutrition Values are estimates only.See full nutrition disclaimer here
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