Full of fresh flavour, this Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad will be a winning side dish at potlucks or barbecues. This nutritious and easy-to-make salad contains juicy cherry tomatoes, mini mozzarella balls, red onion, fresh basil, pesto, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. It’s great for meal prep, too!

DISCLAIMER: This post was developed in partnership with the Dairy Processors Association of Canada, however all opinions are my own.

pesto caprese pasta salad in a bowl

Why You’ll Love Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad:

I love a good pasta salad. Especially when it involves fresh veggies and of course, cheese! Some of my favourites include my Easy Italian Pasta Salad, Creamy Healthy Tuna Pasta Salad, and this Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad.

It’s super quick and easy to make (especially if you use store-bought pesto), and nutrient-dense thanks to fresh veggies, pasta (yes, pasta is nutritious!), and cheese.

Dairy products like cheese offer us a variety of important nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals that help us live a healthy and active lifestyle, no matter what your age is!

What is Caprese Salad Anyways?

Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad dish traditionally made with sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil. It is usually seasoned with olive oil and salt, and sometimes finished off with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

I love Caprese salad! Although my family isn’t Italian, my mom has been making her own version of Caprese in the summertime since I was a kid. She serves hers up with balsamic vinegar and a textured basil pesto. Her salad was the inspiration behind this Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad!

pesto caprese pasta salad in a bowl

Ingredients for Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad:

To make this Caprese-inspired pesto pasta salad, you’ll need:

  • A box of pasta
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Mini mozzarella balls (also known as bocconcini)
  • Fresh basil
  • Basil pesto (you can use a homemade or store-bought variety)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Black pepper (optional)

What Kind of Pasta Should I Use?

You can use any short pasta noodles that you like, such as rotini, fusilli, rigatoni, farfalle (bowtie pasta), orecchiette, or macaroni. I used rotini pasta in mine and it was perfect.

You can also choose between traditional pasta, whole grain pasta, or even a legume-based pasta like chickpea pasta to increase the protein content of the salad.

ingredients for caprese pasta salad with pesto

Nutrition Benefits of Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto:

As a dietitian, you know I like to nerd out on all things nutrition. Here’s a look at what makes this salad nutritious!

  • Enriched pasta (all pastas in Canada are enriched) offers a variety of vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and iron.
  • Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and folate. They also contain the antioxidant lycopene.
  • Red onions also offer a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium, magnesium, and more.
  • Dairy products like cheese used in this recipe are high in the vitamins and minerals that many Canadian adults do not get enough of. This includes magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D. The cheese also adds some protein and fat to this recipe, which help to make it more filling and satisfying.
pesto caprese pasta salad in a bowl

Substitution/Addition Suggestions:

  • For cherry tomatoes, you can substitute grape tomatoes or chop up larger tomatoes like off the vine or beefsteak varieties.
  • If you don’t have fresh basil, you can omit altogether (you’ll still get basil flavour through the pesto) or stir in a basil paste (the kind that comes in a squeeze tube)
  • For mini mozzarella balls (also known as bocconcini), you can use chopped up fresh mozzarella cheese.
  • If you’d like, you can add extra vegetables like leafy greens (try arugula or baby spinach) or chopped up cucumber.

Tips for Meal Prep & Storing Leftovers:

Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad is not only a great side dish for potlucks and barbecues, it also makes a great meal-prep lunch option too!

If you are planning to meal-prep this salad, I recommend reserving the balsamic vinegar until serving. This way, the balsamic flavour will be fresh and it’s less likely to turn your salad brown.

You can store your pasta salad leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep up to 5 days.

pesto caprese pasta salad in a bowl
pesto caprese pasta salad in a bowl

Easy Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad

Full of fresh flavour, this Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad will be a winning side dish at potlucks or barbecues. This nutritious and easy-to-make salad contains juicy cherry tomatoes, mini mozzarella balls, red onion, fresh basil, pesto, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. It's great for meal prep, too!
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Ingredients

  • 1 375g package pasta
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 200g container mini mozzarella (bocconcini) balls, drained of liquid
  • 1 package basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 heaping tbsp basil pesto
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • black pepper, to taste

Instructions 

  • Cook pasta according to package directions and let cool.
  • Add cooked pasta, tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella and basil to a large mixing bowl.
    pesto caprese pasta salad ingredients in a bowl
  • Toss mixing bowl ingredients together with basil pesto.
    pesto caprese pasta salad ingredients in a bowl with basil pesto on top
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with black pepper before serving. Enjoy!
    pesto caprese pasta salad in a mixing bowl

Notes

If you are planning to meal-prep this salad, I recommend reserving the balsamic vinegar until serving. This way, the balsamic flavour will be fresh and it’s less likely to turn your salad brown.
You can store your pasta salad leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep up to 5 days.
Did you make this recipe?Be sure to take a photo and tag me at @hannahmagee_rd so I can see!

Connect with Hannah Magee, RD!

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do. If you try it, let me know what you think by leaving a rating and a review in the comments below. Oh, and be sure to take a photo and tag me on @hannahmagee_rd so I can re-share on my stories!

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DISCLAIMER: This post was developed in partnership with the Dairy Processors Association of Canada, however all opinions are my own.