Whip up a bowl of this easy Caprese Pasta Salad for your next summer BBQ! Made with a handful of simple ingredients like pasta, tomatoes and mozzarella, it’s both an easy and delicious side dish.
This is the pasta salad my mom used to make every summer, and now my kids love it just as much as I used to! If you’re looking for a quick recipe to make for a slow and simple summer, this is your answer!
When I was a little girl (and also when I was a big girl, actually), my mom made exactly one pasta salad during summer. Spoiler alert: It’s this Caprese Pasta Salad one.
This was when everyone else was chopping up ham and cheese, and adding frozen peas to pasta salads. And French dressing, obviously. Uhm wait, I do those things sometimes, too.
My mom was a forward thinker, it seems.
Or maybe she was just too lazy to do much else but slice a few cherry tomatoes during summer. Either way, I’ve always been in love with her pasta salad, even if it was the only thing we ate for days.
But I’m not always so great at this…
Now that I have a family of my own, I find myself trapped in the mom-guilt of serving them the same stuff over and over again at times.
But then I remember how my mom never made any other pasta salad but this one, and how much I loved it (and would have been disappointed if she had tried to switch things up!) and feel a little better about the constant flow of one pot pastas and sheet pan dinners on our menu.
OK, I AM pretty good at one thing:
Making the same base recipe and switching it up to keep things interesting.
This Caprese Pasta Salad is basically the same thing as my Greek Pasta Salad. Just with a few flavor switch-ups.
But the best thing about pasta salads? I can actually let the kids help without suffering through internal anxiety attacks over chopped off fingers and boiling liquids they almost dunk each others heads in (do not even ask). I just prep everything and then let them chuck it all into a bowl and stir.
They feel amazing because they “made dinner” and I feel amazing because it’s an easy way to let them contribute at their age.
My next step:
Now I just need to stop worrying about my family getting bored by me rotating through the same dishes over and over again.
I guess a Caprese Pasta Salad is a easy way to start, because what isn’t fun when it comes to butterfly pasta (my pre-schooler’s term, not mine, but apparently I cannot resist anything unicorn or glitter), little balls of cheese and tomatoes and a delicious dressing?
I say nobody is going to mind eating this kind of side dish over and over again. Also, let’s face it: This is a summer lunch. It’s a vegetarian summer dinner for those ultra-lazy nights. Leftovers are an easy snack.
Who said you couldn’t use it for all these meals? Right, nobody. In fact: Here’s your permission slip.
How to make caprese pasta salad
Well then, buckle up. This is a little complicated so make sure you’re with me here. /sarcasm off
The first step is obviously to boil the pasta.
In the meantime, halve the tomatoes (and the cheese if you want – I always do because I have an irrational fear of my kids choking) and whip up the dressing (or whip it out of the fridge, zero judgement here about bottled salad dressing).
Then, drain the pasta (THIS IS THE HARDEST PART, but you can do it!!) and rinse it under cold water for a few seconds.
Put everything into a bowl and toss. DONE.
I will say that it tastes best after sitting in the fridge for a few hours (up to overnight), but we also eat this right after making it when we’re short on time.
Or I’m flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to our meals, which happens more often than you’d think during the summer…
See how to make caprese pasta salad with your kids:
Watch the video below to see exactly how easy it is for your small kids to help you with this recipe!
FYI, if you’re on your desktop computer or laptop, the video may already be playing in the sidebar on the right!
Grab the printable recipe for this caprese pasta salad:
- 1 pound dry bow tie pasta (or any other short pasta shape), cooked according to package directions, then drained and rinsed under cold water
- 2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 pound mozzarella balls, halved if you like
- 1 1/2 cups Italian dressing (store-bought or homemade - recipe for homemade is in the notes below)
- Handful of fresh basil, leaves torn
- Add all ingredients to a bowl and toss well. SEE I told you this is extremely easy.
- Store in the fridge up to overnight to let the flavors come together, but you can also eat it right away.
To make your own Italian dressing:
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 heaping teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried garlic powder
- black pepper to taste
Want more inspiration to switch up you pasta salad?
You’re in the right place! I love nothing more than making variations of a favorite base recipe, because that way I can switch things up when I feel like it without figuring out a whole new recipe.
Easy Italian Pasta Salad is basically the same as this, just with salami, artichoke hearts and some other delicious goodies added.
Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad is a delicious twist thats extremely easy to make (as are all pasta salads – complicated pasta salad recipes are pasta salad done wrong, if you ask me).
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad is great for when you want a satisfying yet light summer meal. The dressing is made with Greek yogurt and the entire salad tastes totally refreshing!