Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto

5 from 77 votes

The ultimate summer potluck dish, this caprese pasta salad is made with chunks of pearl mozzarella, juicy cherry tomatoes and tossed in a bright pesto sauce!

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It’s not summer without a good pasta salad! I’ve got your covered with the Sundried Tomatoes Pasta Salad, Vegan Macaroni Salad and now this Caprese Pasta Salad. I wasn’t gonna leave you hanging at your summer cookout and all those potluck dinners without a feelgood pasta salad!

close up of Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto in a white bowl

What is caprese?

It’s basically a salad made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. It’s usually common at Italian restaurants. Super basic in ingredients but super not-basic in flavor! In my caprese pasta salad, I used those common ingredients and basically tossed them with pasta and pesto sauce to really amplify that basil flavor. Does that scream summer or what?!

How to make caprese pasta salad

Pick your favorite pasta and cook it al dente. Why al dente? Because you want it to have a firm but tender bite without being too soft and potentially mushy with the sauce. I’m using orecchiette pasta because my kids get a kick out of learning all the different pasta shapes. And this was an important culinary lesson for them!

Orecchiette pasta uncooked in a large black pot

Next I quartered some grape tomatoes and drained the pearl mozzarella cheese from the liquid in the container it came in.

Cutting board with small mozzarella pearls, cherry tomatoes cut in half and fresh basil leaves

Next I make the pesto in a food processor. I throw all the ingredients in except for the olive oil. I like slowly drizzling that while the machine is running to help emulsify the sauce. That is key I found to getting the perfectly smooth consistent texture.

Food processor with ingredients to make pesto - Basil, walnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice

Green gorgeousness amiright?! It’s a mouthwatering fresh and bright homemade pesto that you can whip up in a couple minutes. (Goooooogly eyes all over thissssssssss….)

Small wide mason jar of finished pesto with a spoon full of pesto next to it and a couple basil leaves.

When I toss the pesto with the pasta I usually start with half the sauce and add as needed. There’s no harm in leftover pesto sauce. EVER.

Orecchiette pasta in a large bowl mixed with the pesto sauce

Then I add in those tomatoes, mozzarella pearls and fresh and fragrant basil and I’m basically done with the caprese pasta salad! It’s fun to serve it deconstructed like this, or you can give it a good toss to incorporate everything well.

Large shallow white bowl of the orecchiette pasta tossed in the pesto sauce topped with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves

Tips for the Best Caprese Pasta Salad

  1. Use high quality ingredients. As much as possible, try using peak seasonal tomatoes, good quality mozzarella (the kind that is packed in water, not the kind that you can shred), fresh basil and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. That is really going to make a difference in bringing out the bright fresh flavor of this summer pasta salad.
  2. Cook pasta al dente. This will ensure that the pasta doesn’t get mushy when you toss it with the pesto and will give you the best results for storing this pasta for days and days!
  3. Rinse the pasta. I know this is not recommended for warm pasta dishes. But when it comes to pasta salads, rinsing with cold water helps stop the cooking process immediately. You can also toss it in olive oil, but sometimes that just adds unnecessary dressing (and calories)
  4. Add fresh basil leaves before serving. This will give this make-ahead pasta salad a fresh and bright taste.

Want to turn this into a full meal? Add some grilled chicken or grilled shrimp for a heartier pasta option that can serve as a complete meal.

More pasta salad recipes

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Caprese Pasta Salad recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto

The ultimate summer potluck dish, this caprese pasta salad is made with chunks of pearl mozzarella, juicy cherry tomatoes and tossed in a bright pesto sauce!
5 from 77 votes
Servings 6 servings
Course Main Course
Calories 460
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 20 mins


Caprese Pasta Salad

  • 12 oz Orecchiette pasta
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes halved or quartered
  • 8 oz small pearlini fresh mozzarella balls, drained
  • Few leaves fresh basil for garnish

Walnut Pesto Sauce


  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; cook the orecchiette pasta according to package instructions al dente; drain and rinse the pasta under cool water to prevent them from sticking to one another, and set aside.
  • To prepare the pesto sauce, place the basil, garlic, walnuts and Parmesan cheese in the food processor; season with salt and pepper, to taste, and blend.
  • While the food processor is on, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. Stop to scrape down the sides as necessary, and continue to mix until the pesto is well-blended and smooth.
  • Toss the half of the pesto sauce (or more) with the cooked orecchiette pasta. Fold in the grape tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil.
  • Serve cold or at room temperature.


  • Mozzarella “pearls” are widely available at most grocery stores these days. If you have a hard time finding them, you can substitute with a standard mozzarella ball cut up into smaller chunks. Don’t substitute with shredded mozzarella because it won’t have the same effect.
  • If you prefer not to use walnuts, you can substitute with pine nuts or almonds or almost any other nut.
  • This pasta salad does not need to be chilled before serving, but chilling it doesn’t hurt.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Store any leftover pesto sauce in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • You can make this salad up to 24 hours ahead of time. Just add the fresh basil leaves immediately before serving for best taste.


Serving: 1g, Calories: 460kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Sodium: 58mg, Potassium: 265mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 765IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 188mg, Iron: 1.3mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

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top down shot of Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto in a large white bowl

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  1. Thanks for this recipe. I just made it for a small family barbecue. They jokingly said ahead of time they were expecting a spectacular salad. They got it! I made it with some gluten free pasta and the rest with durum wheat pasta–a little more work but worth it for folks who need to eat gf and are often left out of the good stuff.

  2. I made this pesto caprese pasta! and it was FANTASTIC! love the recipe and will be using it again for sure!