I love a good pasta salad. Loaded with veggies and cheese, it is the perfect side to any potluck or barbecue. Top with some fresh herbs – MWA! Delicioso. This Caprese Pasta Salad is so easy yet so delicious. Al dente orzo, creamy mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, and fresh basil all tossed with a light vinaigrette. Better yet? It stores wonderfully! So you can make a big batch and enjoy for multiple nights in a row!
Alright – time for me to get up on my soap box.
I am not a HUGE fan of dressing. Actually, I’ll take that back. I love dressing! But, its not very healthy. So I prefer to enjoy in small quantities. Too much dressing on a salad will cause the lettuce to wilt and make it hard to even tell what you are eating! I like to taste what is ACTUALLY in my salad.
In my opinion, pre-made salads are often overdressed, especially pasta salads. Sometimes you can straight up see the oil pooling in the container! Sure, they taste AMAZING – but they are not healthy in the slightest. Mayo-based pasta salads are even worse. Sometimes I feel like I am eating a straight spoonful of mayo! Bleh – it doesn’t help that I don’t actually like mayo…
Having said all that, it can be very challenging to dress pasta salads correctly! Pasta will naturally absorb oil/dressing/mayo and therefore can taste under-dressed even when it is loaded up with extra fat. It is important to find the right combination of ingredients to suit your personal taste – but it is also important to be aware of how much oil you are using.
This Caprese Pasta Salad is admittedly light on dressing for two reasons – 1. Because I prefer a lightly dressed pasta salad . And 2. Because less, dressing will lead to a healthier salad option. Of course you can ALWAYS add more dressing if you prefer! Feel free to increase the dressing proportions for a more heavily dressed salad.
Realistically, this Caprese Pasta Salad will taste good with ANY amount of dressing on it. Its got all the amazing ingredients that make traditional caprese salads so delish. Fresh mozzarella – Yum. Cherry Tomatoes – YAS. Basil – mhmm thank you!
I chose to use orzo for this recipe because I LOVE ORZO! My mom always made it regularly growing up, sometimes as a pasta salad but most often with caramelized onions and mushrooms. Tossed with butter, salt and pepper, her orzo is so simple but remains one of my ultimate comfort foods to this day!
If you don’t like orzo, or would prefer a different type of pasta – you are welcome to use any kind! Traditional, whole wheat, chickpea, quinoa – you name it, you got it. I would recommend fusili, rotini, or even a shell shape to best absorb and be coated with dressing.
This Caprese Pasta Salad is easy and perfect - Al dente orzo, creamy mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, and fresh basil all tossed with a light vinaigrette.
- 1 1/2 cups orzo uncooked
- 6 oz fresh mozzarella cubed
- 6 oz cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/2 cup fresh basil roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp mustard I like Dijon
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
Prepare orzo according to package directions - once done, run under cold water and re-strain in colander to cool.
While orzo is cooking, prepare mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil as directed. Set aside.
Combine all dressing ingredients into a small bowl, whisk to combine.
Once orzo has been re-strained, pour back into bowl or pot. Add mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and dressing to orzo - stir to evenly coat all ingredients in dressing. Salt and pepper to taste!
Refrigerate until pasta salad has reached satisfactory temperature (I recommend at least 40 minutes). Enjoy!
Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for 3-4 days.