This fresh and easy pasta salad combines the fresh flavors of strawberries, mint, and basil with a simply sweetened balsamic dressing for a pasta spin on the classic caprese.
All summer long, the best caprese salads are more popular at our house than Cinderella at a four year old’s birthday party, and once the warmth of spring hits my sun starved cheeks, I’m craving them hard. But with juicy ripe tomatoes yet to be had, my cravings sometimes have to wait.
That’s when I take combined inspiration from my cantaloupe caprese and caprese pasta salads and wave my magic wand to turn sweet strawberries into an easy substitution for tomatoes mixed with pasta, mozzarella balls, and pungent, leafy herbs in this simple strawberry caprese pasta salad.
What’s In This Strawberry Caprese Pasta Salad
This recipe is the perfect light pasta salad to serve on the side of grilled chicken, shrimp, or even steak, or served as a light lunch or with an egg frittata for brunch. It’s incredibly easy to make, so if you can boil pasta, this salad has your name written all over it.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Short pasta such as spiral, shell, penne
- Mozzarella balls (ciliengine or pearls)
- Red onion
- Fresh mint and basil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Golden balsamic vinegar (I like DeLallo’s golden balsamic vinegar)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
How to Make Strawberry Caprese Pasta Salad
Cook short pasta to al denté and rinse. Just about any style of short pasta works well with this salad and adds bites of sweet berries with every forkful of pasta. Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes less than the package directions so it is tender but still retains a bit of bite. I don’t usually drain my pasta (the gluten helps tomato sauces stick to the noodles) but I do rinse for pasta salads like this one so it doesn’t get sticky.
Don’t skimp on the fresh herbs. An abundance of fresh slivered mint and basil give this pasta salad a touch of bright flavor in every bite. While basil is the traditional herb called for in caprese salads, I love the bright zest mint adds to the combo. Be generous in adding them to the salad, it’s totally worth it.
Red onion adds bite. Onion always adds a little heat to things. In this salad, red onion adds a mellower, sweeter heat than the classic yellow and adds purpled slivers to make it pretty as a picture. Substitute thinly sliced shallot if needed.
How to Make the Balsamic Dressing
Start with the best fruity olive oil you can afford. When it comes to sautéeing, a lower priced olive oil is fine, but for finishing a dish and salad dressings I always use the the best extra virgin olive oils that won’t break the bank. For dressings, I prefer a light and bright extra virgin olive oil with fruity notes.
Golden balsamic vinegar: What’s the difference? I use golden balsamic vinegar in this dressing because it’s slightly sweeter than regular balsamic and has a less caramelized in flavor. With it’s lighter color, it’s also better for salads like this so it doesn’t turn brown. Rice wine vinegar can be substituted instead.
Add honey to sweeten. Whisk honey into the oil and vinegar to make a balanced dressing that isn’t too tart. Or, substitute granulated sugar, agave or maple syrup to taste.
The Best Type of Mozzarella for Caprese Pasta Salad
Use fresh mozzarella. Unlike blocks of mozzarella that’s shredded for pizzas or in lasagna, fresh mozzarella in water (and drained) is best in this recipe. Their tender bite and mellow flavor is a caprese classic. I slice the ciliengine mozzarella balls in half so they go further. If you can find pearl size balls, the combination of both is a pretty purdy display. If you can’t find containers of mozzarella, substitute diced fresh mozzarella in the log form instead.
If mozzarella isn’t available, try a good quality chunky feta or goat cheese instead.
How to Make This Salad Ahead of Time
Because strawberries don’t have a long display time and being to macerate once dressing has been added to them, this salad is best when eaten within a few hours of being made.
If making ahead of time, prep all of the ingredients up to 24 hours in advance, then compose the salad up to an hour or so before serving.
What to Serve with Strawberry Caprese Pasta Salad
- Easy Quiche Lorraine
- The Best Greek Chicken
- How To Make The Best Grilled Salmon
- Easy Chicken Gyros With Tzatziki Sauce
- How To Make The Best Grilled Corn On The Cob
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Strawberry Caprese Pasta Salad
- 1 pound short pasta
- 1 pound strawberries , sliced
- 16 ounces mozzarella balls , drained
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/3 cup thinly slivered fresh basil
- 1/3 cup thinly slivered fresh mint
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a pot water to boil and season generously with salt. Boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander. Lightly rinse so the pasta doesn't stick, then cool.
- While the pasta is cooking, slice the strawberries and onions then add to a large bowl with the drained mozzarella balls and herbs. Add the cooled pasta.
- In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, honey, golden balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the pasta and gently toss. Add more salt and pepper to taste and serve.
More Favorite Salad Ideas
- How to Make the Very BEST Potato Salad
- Classic Macaroni Salad
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- Thai Quinoa Salad
- How To Make The Best Broccoli Salad
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