A quick and simple Italian Caprese Pasta Salad recipe is a perfect side dish for any meal. It can easily be doubled for when you are entertaining, and it travels well when you need a dish to pass.
I am always on the hunt for a versatile side dish. I am very fond of pasta salads for that very reason. There are so many different ways to have a pasta salad that you never need to have the same one twice…although, I think you’re going to like this one enough to make it again and again.
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I have been making this recipe for Caprese Pasta Salad since the 90’s when I was first introduced to a similar Greek Pasta Salad. I loved the idea – but my kids didn’t care much for kalamata olives or feta cheese. So, I wondered how I could switch it up with things they liked and came up with this salad idea.
Caprese Pasta Salad
Truth be told, I never called it a Caprese Pasta Salad until I had to give it a name for this post! I usually just called it the “Italian style Greek Salad.” Ha! But Caprese seems to fit well. Caprese salad is believed to have been created as a symbol of the Italian flag with green, white, and red elements – basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes.
16 ounces farfalle pasta (bow ties)
2 cups fresh baby spinach
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella mini balls (or cubed mozzarella)
1 pint of grape tomatoes, cubed
6 ounces of black olives, sliced
4 ounces of basil pesto
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste
Variations of the Caprese Pasta Salad
Use your favorite small to medium-sized pasta. I’ve used penne, small shells, tri-color rotini, and tortellini and all have worked very well.
I’ve mentioned I am not a fan of Kalamata olives, but they will work well in this dish if that’s what you prefer. You may also choose to add green olives, but they have a stronger bitter and salty taste than black olives.
I often switch between using fresh mini mozzarella balls and cubing a brick of mozzarella. I generally use the cubes when I want to add a bit more mozzarella into the salad.
I use grape tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes will work also. You can use roma or beefsteak, also, just be sure to slice them into bite-size pieces.
A true Caprese salad contains basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella. I like to use fresh baby spinach leaves, but by all means, feel free to use fresh basil leaves instead. I do add basil pesto to this Caprese pasta salad recipe, so the flavor of basil is still present.
Oil & Vinegar:
Feel free to replace this with your favorite Italian dressing mix, if desired.
Make the farfalle (or pasta of your choice) according to the directions on the package. While that is cooking, cut your tomatoes in half and slice your black olives.
Add in the baby spinach. Be sure to rip the leaves if they are too large. Toss in the tomatoes, mozzarella and black olives, and give it a stir.
Add in your pesto. Here’s a quick rundown on how to make your own basil pesto. Pour in the olive oil and Balsamic vinegar and mix well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
You can serve this immediately, or refrigerate until you are ready to serve. It will hold up very well in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Check out my other Caprese recipes:
And my other pasta salads:
I know you will enjoy this very versatile Caprese Pasta Salad as much as I do! It really is the perfect cold summer pasta salad.
Did you try this cold pasta salad? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Caprese Pasta Salad
- 16 oz farfalle pasta
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- 8 oz mozzarella fresh balls or cubed
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
- 6 oz black olives sliced
- 4 oz basil pesto
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Make pasta according to package.
- Cut tomatoes in half. Slice black olives.
- When pasta is done cooking, drain. Run cold water over pasta to cool and transfer to large bowl.
- Add baby spinach, ripping leaves in half if too large. Stir in tomatoes, mozzarella and black olives. Add in pesto, oil, vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste. Mix well.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate in airtight container until ready to serve.