Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette (Vegetarian, GF, Vegan Option)

This Caprese pasta salad with pesto vinaigrette is a delicious and veggie-packed summer side dish, perfect for a BBQ, cookout, or holiday party.

It’s just not a BBQ without a pasta salad served as a side dish. As a born and raised Midwesterner, we had a pasta or macaroni salad served at any block party, cookout, holiday party, or BBQ. This Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette is a fun twist on a classic Caprese salad.

This Caprese Pasta Salad Is:

  • Refreshing
  • Packed with flavor
  • Sweet
  • Earthy
  • Garlicky
  • Vegetarian, Gluten Free, and can easily be made vegan
  • Great for entertaining
  • A great make-ahead recipe for pasta salad, so you aren’t cooking the day of the party.

Caprese salad is a classic Italian dish that features fresh mozzarella cheese, Genovese basil, and fresh garden tomatoes. The classic combination can be found on restaurant menu’s everywhere, and is something we love making at home. It’s a great way to use up those extra garden tomatoes!

This pasta salad is simple to make, very cost-effective, and so delicious that everyone at your table will want to dig in. We always have pasta on hand, so I love whipping up a batch of pasta salad for a week’s worth of meal prep lunches. Pasta is about $1 a lb, so its an expensive ingredient that will make many servings with just one box.

What’s In This Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette?

  • Pasta: any shape of your choice. I have a ton of farfalle in my cupboard, so bow-ties it is. I good hearty medium-sized pasta would be great like a penne, rotini, or medium shells.
  • Tomatoes: I used cherry tomatoes, but any variety would be fine. Bonus points if they are from your garden!
  • Fresh Mozzarella balls: packed in water. If you use a larger ball of fresh mozzarella, then make sure to dice the cheese into bite sized pieces. For a vegan option, marinated tofu would also be delish!
  • Spinach: I loaded this salad with fresh spinach because the mild flavor of baby spinach pairs so well with the sweet tomatoes and salty mozzarella. You can use arugula if you’re feeling spicy.
  • Pesto Vinaigrette: I blended a few simple ingredients in the blender to make this dressing. Fresh basil from the garden, a handful of fresh spinach, raw garlic, walnuts, balsamic vinegar for a little sweetness, and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste!

You can use store bought pesto for the dressing too – just make sure to stir in some extra balsamic vinegar and olive oil into the pesto so it has a thinner consistency. That way, the dressing will stick to every nook of the pasta shapes for maximum flavor.

How Do I Make This Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad?

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and add to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and chopped spinach to the pasta, toss to combine.
  3. Add all the dressing ingredients into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour the dressing over the pasta, and toss together well, making sure all the pasta is evenly coated in dressing. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at 2 hours before serving. Drizzle a little extra olive oil and balsamic over the pasta salad right before serving.

This is an awesome summer lunch to meal prep! Make a huge batch on Sunday night, divide into containers, and you can enjoy a simple no-cook lunch throughout the week. For more of a ‘salad’ you can add additional spinach to the pasta salad. And to keep the ingredients fresh and from wilting, you can also divide the dressing into smaller containers instead of mixing it into the salad. That way, the spinach will stay extra crisp throughout the week.

Dietary Modifications

  • This recipe is naturally vegetarian. To make vegan or dairy free, just substitute in cubed marinated tofu instead of the cheese. The dressing is naturally vegan as well, so only the cheese has dairy.
  • For a gluten-free version, make sure to use gluten free pasta. And check to ensure there is no added gluten in the balsamic vinegar.

Other Summer Side Dishes We Love:

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad (Vegan, Gluten Free)
Thai Quinoa Cabbage Salad (Vegan, Gluten Free, Summer Side Dish)
White Fence Farm Coleslaw: Copy Cat Recipe (Vegan, GF)
Vegan Tzatziki Pasta Salad (Gluten Free, Summer Side Dish)
Spicy Peanut Sesame Noodles (Vegan Pantry Staple Recipe, Gluten Free)

As always, if you make this Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette be sure to leave me a comment, rate this recipe, and tag me on Instagram so I can feature you. I love seeing all your photos of my recipe recreations!

Don’t forget to follow over on Pinterest & Instagram – I’d love to connect with you there!

Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette (Vegetarian, GF)

This Caprese pasta salad with pesto vinaigrette is a delicious and veggie-packed summer side dish, perfect for a BBQ, cookout, or holiday party.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Appetizer, Pasta, Salad
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 10 servings

Ingredients
  

For the Salad

  • 1 lb pasta gluten free if GF
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 (16 ouce) container small fresh mozzarella pearls
  • 3 cups fresh spinach chopped

For the Dressing

  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar I used white balsamic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil more if a thinner dressing is preferred
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain, rinse under cold water, and add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and chopped spinach to the pasta, toss to combine.
  • Add all the dressing ingredients into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
  • Pour the dressing over the pasta, and toss together well, making sure all the pasta is evenly coated in dressing.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at 2 hours before serving.  Drizzle a little extra olive oil and balsamic over the pasta salad right before serving.

Notes

For a vegan version, use marinated cubed tofu instead of the mozzarella!  
Keyword Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette, Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad, Pesto Pasta Salad, Tomato Basil Pasta Salad
Did You Make This Recipe?Tag me @theherbeevore in your photo on Instagram so I can feature you!

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