Pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and pasta salad are all summer staples, so why not combine them in one summer-ready dish? This pesto caprese pasta salad comes together in a few minutes and is the perfect side dish for any summer BBQ. It's fresh, tasty, and definitely not your mother's pasta salad (sorry, mom).
This recipe pairs well with lots of our other summer recipes, like our Pan-Seared Chicken and Bruschetta Bowls. If you're looking for other summer sides or appetizers, try our Quick and Easy Bruschetta or our Chipotle Turkey and Ham Picnic Roll Ups. Wash it all down with an Orange Grapefruit Margarita!
What is caprese?
Caprese is a type of Italian salad. It consists of fresh tomatoes, sweet basil, and mozzarella slices. It's seasoned simply, usually just with salt and olive oil. Traditionally, it's served on a plate with the components neatly layered in an alternating pattern.
This pasta salad has all of the components of a caprese salad--basil (in the form of pesto), tomatoes, mozzarella, and olive oil--but with some other ingredients thrown in too. It's not traditional, but it's delicious.
- Pesto- We make our own with our almond butter vegan spinach pesto recipe, but you can use your favorite recipe or buy pre-made pesto. Trader Joe's Vegan Pesto is delicious, and Kirkland Basil Pesto from Costco is a proven favorite too.
- Small pasta- You can use your favorite short pasta. Farfalle, rotini, penne, macaroni, fusilli and cavatappi all work well.
- Cherry or grape tomatoes
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Sliced black olives
- Shredded parmesan cheese
- Other ingredients: black pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice
See recipe card for quantities.
Pasta salad is great because you can make it your own based on what you already have on hand. Here are some ideas for variations:
- Replace the shredded mozzarella with fresh mozzarella pearls or marinated mozzarella pearls. Try our Easy Marinated Mozzarella Pearls for a fun twist!
- Replace the black olives with kalamata olives or green olives
- Replace the fresh tomatoes with sun-dried tomatoes
- Add diced bell peppers
- Add artichokes
Frequently asked questions
You can! Omit the cheese or use vegan mozzarella, and use a batch of our vegan spinach pesto in place of traditional dairy pesto.
Store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It actually tastes better on the second day! If it gets dry, just add a splash of olive oil.
Pasta salad goes great with hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, pulled pork or any other summer BBQ food! We love serving ours with a grilled protein, baked beans, and grilled veggies.
This dish screamed summer! It was fresh, flavorful and really easy to make. I used vegan pesto which worked really well. Definitely will be making this for the next summer get together.