Caprese Pasta Salad is light, fresh, and super easy to whip up. Bring along as a gluten-free appetizer to your next potluck or picnic!
Yesterday Ben unexpectedly walked in the door for lunch (it was his usual You Pick Two day at Panera so naturally I wasn’t expecting him,) and found me shoveling Caprese Pasta Salad in my face from the serving bowl like a complete animal.
“Serving size one?” he asked.
“If I try hard and believe in myself.” I replied.
Just kidding, I wish I was that smooth but the reality is this pasta salad is so unbelievable that there’s no time to waste getting BOWLS out like a civilized human before devouring. No time, I say!
I have what feels like a gazillion spins on the classic Caprese Salad recipe here on IGE, but just like a bottle of wine and a group of girlfriends, there’s always room for one more, right?
Speaking of girlfriends, one of my very best got married last weekend (she was hands down the most elegant bride I have ever seen!) and included in her evening cocktail and hor dourves reception was the classic Caprese salad. Fat slices of Roma tomatoes layered with pillowy portions of mozzarella cheese, big basil leaves, and a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I refilled my plate three times – the summery flavors combined with the beautiful, 75+ degree day (and flowy bridesmaids dresses – hallelujah!) were a perfect match.
The plate(s) I enjoyed at Lindsey’s wedding inspired me to create the fresh Caprese combination of gluten-free pasta mixed with mini fresh mozzarella cheese balls, TONS of chopped fresh basil (dare you not to smell it and think of hot summer days!) sliced sweet cherry tomatoes, spicy baby arugula, and a luscious homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette to tie everything together. Out of the 15+ Caprese-inspired recipes I have in the recipe archives, this is definitely my favorite (in case the face shoveling via serving bowl fact didn’t give it away.) The secret’s in the homemade balsamic vinaigrette – it really makes this pasta salad special.
Caprese Pasta Salad is great for any night of the week, but is especially perfect for a party, picnic, or potluck. The ingredients hold up really well to sitting at room temperature for at least an hour, though I guarantee it won’t last that long. One word of advice – this pasta salad is best eaten the day it’s assembled. Gluten-free pasta tends to get hard and mealy when refrigerated overnight, though it’ll be fine if you make then refrigerate the salad one or two hours before serving. Either way, you’ll adore it!
Start by cooking 8oz (1/2lb) gluten-free pasta in heavily salted boiling water until its al dente. You could use any cut you like – I used penne but rotini would be fab too. Drain the pasta then rinse under cold water until it’s completely cool.
In the meantime, combine 1 pint cherry tomatoes (spring for cherry over grape – the sweet taste really pops!) that have been sliced in half, 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves that have been chopped, 8oz mini mozzarella cheese balls (sometimes called “pearls”) and 1 cup packed baby arugula in a large bowl.
Add the rinsed pasta to the bowl then drizzle on the luuuuuuuscious homemade balsamic vinaigrette that ties the whole thing together. It’s crazy how much I love each individual ingredient in this pasta salad, but the vinaigrette really steals the show and is so. simple. Just 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 Tablespoon honey, 1 microplaned or minced garlic clove, salt, and pepper shaken up in a jar. YUM!
Season the pasta salad with salt and pepper then toss to combine and serve immediately. If your dinner/picnic/potluck isn’t for another couple of hours, stash the bowl in the fridge (just don’t refrigerate overnight as the gluten-free pasta will harden,) then toss with more dressing just before serving!
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Caprese Pasta Salad
Caprese Pasta Salad is light and fresh – the perfect gluten-free spring and summer potluck or picnic salad!
- 8oz medium-cut gluten-free pasta like penne or rotini
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 8oz mozzarella pearls
- 1 cup packed baby arugula
- 1/2 cup lightly packed basil, chopped
- For the Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 clove garlic, microplaned or minced
- salt and pepper
- Combine ingredients for Balsamic Vinaigrette in a jar or container with a tight fitting lid then shake to combine and set aside.
- Add pasta to a large pot of salted, boiling water then cook until al dente. Drain then rinse under cold water until completely cool. Add pasta to a large bowl with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, arugula, and basil, season with salt and pepper, then drizzle on desired amount of vinaigrette and toss to coat. If eating several hours after assembling, toss with more vinaigrette just prior to serving.
- Since cooked gluten-free pasta can harden when refrigerated overnight, this pasta salad is best eaten the same day it’s made. Can be made then refrigerated for a few hours before your meal or event.
- If you can’t find baby arugula in your area, or just don’t love it, feel free to omit – the pasta salad is just as good without it.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
Summertime is coming, and I promise this Caprese Pasta Salad is going to be your go-to all season long. Enjoy!