This easy caprese pasta salad recipe steeps cherry tomatoes in a garlic-infused oil that becomes the dressing over any type of pasta with sliced mozzarella, capers, lemon, and basil making it a healthy potluck recipe that’s perfectly ripe for brunch, lunch, or a dinner everyone will love.
This is a re-do of one of my favorite tomato pasta salad recipes I published my first year of blogging. I’ve been making this caprese pasta salad on repeat ever since the clock struck summer, but it’s very likely that many of you haven’t ever even seen it, and that’s a darn shame because it’s just too good to miss.
So after looking at it so many times already this summer, I thought it could use a refresh. And so here it is once again, with a spit shine, some new photos, and a video to show you easy it will be for you to make it too.
I’m a huge fan of summer’s fresh tomatoes, especially when my garden starts producing my beloved cherry tomatoes I pop straight into my mouth like candy. So back in August of 2011 when I spied this recipe on the Martha Stewart Living cover peeking over the others on the grocery store rack, there wasn’t a question whether the issue would be coming home with me.
And that’s why this salad has been in my summer recipe-making-repertoire ever since.
How to Make this Garlic-Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta Salad
One reason I love this salad so much is that it tastes delicious when served warm (the way Martha suggests), or at room temp (which makes it perfect for taking to a potluck party), or even snacking on it as I stand at the open fridge, with the door swung wide open and the chilled fridge air cooling me down in this summer heat as I eat it straight from the storage container.
Thinly slicing the garlic maximizes their flavor when cooked in the oil. I first gently smash the cloves of garlic with the flat side of a chef’s knife to release their perfumey oil (this knife is my favorite) then I slice them thinly on my indispensable hand-held mandoline.
Then, the slices of fresh garlic are gently poached until golden in olive oil. Don’t be alarmed at the amount of olive oil this recipe calls for because it’s used to marinate the tomatoes and also serves as the dressing. Same goes for the 1 cup of basil leaves. You’ll be surprised at how much flavor they both impart to the salad.
The addition of fresh squeezed lemon juice and capers balances the acid and oil of the salad and gives it just the right pucker and freshness to compliment each and every garlic-spiked bite.
I used long strand bucatini pasta for this recipe. If you’re unfamiliar with bucatini, it’s similar to spaghetti with a hole in the middle, but it’s thicker and sturdier for a more solid bite. But honestly, this recipe could be made with any pasta you prefer or have on hand.
Cook the pasta just until al dente. Cooking the pasta any longer will make the pasta mushy as it sits and absorbs the garlic infused oil.
I used bocconcini balls of mozzarella because I like that they are the same size as the cherry tomatoes. I cut mine in half so they go further. Pearl size mozzarella balls or even slices of a mozzarella log would certainly work just as fine too.
What to Serve With This Salad to Make a Meal
- Classic Gazpacho
- Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe
- 40 Cloves of Garlic Roast Chicken
- Baby Back Ribs In the Instant Pot
- Grilled Salmon Fillet with Cucumber Dill Sauce
- California-Style Bison Burger
- Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
- Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken
- Crispy Parmesan Buttermilk Chicken Tenders
- Classic Three Bean Salad (That’s Really Four)
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons capers
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus more for sprinkling
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound pasta, cooked al dente (I used bucatini but any pasta will do)
- 8 ounces mozzarella bocconcini balls, sliced in half
- In a small saucepan, cook garlic in oil over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes.Let cool.
- Combine the tomatoes, ½ cup basil, capers, lemon zest, red-pepper flakes, and kosher salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour the garlic oil & chips over tomato mixture, marinate for about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
- Cook the pasta, drain, and add to the bowl with the tomato mixture, bocconcini balls and lemon juice and toss gently. Top with remaining ½ cup basil and additional lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- adapted from Martha Stewart Living magazine
More Recipes to Make with Fresh Tomatoes (or just look like them :))
- No-Bake Zucchini Lasagna
- Tomato and Hearts of Palm Salad
- Beer-Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with Peach and Tomato Salsa
- Caprese Tomato Sandwich
- Tomato Avocado Cucumber and Maui Onion Salad
- Stacked Tomato, Summer Vegetable and Grilled Bread Salad
- Heirloom Tomato Cookies
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