Mezze Penne Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette
This pasta salad combines few of my favorite, seasonal foodie-love-affairs, in one! I mean, who will say no to deliciously fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Caprese Salad, Pasta Salad, and a rich and fragrant Basil Pesto Vinaigrette?! All-in-one!! Anyone?
Even saying "Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto" makes me hungry!
It's Friday!! Finally!
I'm sure you all are in full fun Summer Weekend Mood. Planning summer pool-side party or a road trip?
Ask me? It is so so hot outside, I will not even imagine hitting the road in this weather. However, pool-side party sounds awesome to me :) So I thought, an easy, delicious, summer-favorite, all-in-one salad will be best for the occasion!
Caprese Pasta Salad is not just combination of my favorite flavors, but also a delicious way to enjoy summer picnic or party with friends. I'm sure your friend might have had various variation of Caprese Salad, but this one will be their first! I promise! Also, this crowd pleasear salad is SO self-sufficient that NO guest will go hungry. (I'm thinking about your veggie-lovers friends too!)
Once you have a fresh or good quality store-bought pesto in hand, this Pasta Salad comes together very quickly. The best part is you can make a day ahead! Like if you planning to host a party on Sunday, you can make this salad tomorrow and keep it refrigerated until your guest arrive. Take it out just 15-20 minutes and toss well once before serving! Trust me, with salad like this, you don't need to make a pasta dish and a side salad to accompany for BBQ.
Recipe doubles easily. If serving a bigger crowd, double the quantity and enjoy time with your friends!
Without doubt, July-August is Basil or Greens Bloom Season. So not just basil, I LOVE enjoying all kinds of pesto and pairing them with everything from sandwiches to pastas!
If you planning to make fresh Pesto at home. Here are the links to few Homemade Pesto Recipes:
You know I LOVE salads. But, did I tell you, I also make kitchen-sink salads for lunch, in summers? You know, kind of salads, in which anything or everything, fresh and cooked leftovers, goes in. Of course with some fresh fruit and vegetables!
My first pairing of pesto dressing with caprese was on one such lunch-extravaganza-me-time. ;-) I had some heirloom tomatoes from Farmer's market and I made a fresh and simple, caprese salad to accompany our Italian Pesto Chicken dinner. Next day, I had a part of salad and a few tablespoon of pesto, leftover but no basil!
Now, tell me, what will be a Caprese Salad without basil?! So I decided to make Caprese Salad gone wild with pasta and pesto dressing!!! Ta-da!! First bite, and I was like, why didn't I think of this earlier?! The tang of vinaigrette balanced the rich and creamy texture of mozzarella so well that I fell in love.
Next time, I specially made Pesto, to make a vinaigrette, for my Caprese Pasta Pesto salad. :)
I must tell you, that apricots, just like my most salad recipes, even though are not used in classic caprese, but are important component of this salad. You will LOVE the sweetness apricots add in here. However, If you don't like apricots, feel free to use other juicy fruits like strawberries or plums.
The credit for this salad goes to leftovers. I would not have thought to combine these flavors otherwise. See, sometimes, idea for a delicious meal is hidden in your refrigerator! Check in refrigerator, toss and turn few boxes...
...... meal is ready!
Now, lets head to the recipe! Do let me know how you planning to enjoy the weekend.
I hope you all have a wonderful time! -Savita
A few more Pesto and Pastas from my recipe box:
Mezze Penne Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- 1/2 lbs Tomatoes (hairloom or ripe roma)
- 1/2 lbs Pasta (mezze penne or macaroni)
- 1/3 lbs Mozzarella Cheese (fresh mozzarella, diced into small bite size pieces)
- 1/4 Cup Golden Raisins
- 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts (toasted)
- 1 Cup Basil (fresh leaves)
- 8-10 Apricots (baby apricots, pitted and halved)
- Pesto Dressing
- 4 tbsp Basil Pesto (oil drained)
- 1/4 Salt and Black Pepper (adjust per taste)
- 3 tbsp Lemon (juice and 1 tsp zest)
- 1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes or as per package directions. Additional Notes: Mezze Penne are small tiny penne pasta which cooks in 8 minutes max. Always check package directions for exact cooking time.
- 2. To make Pesto Vinaigrette, in a food processor, add vinegar, lemon juice, and pesto. Now, with motor running, at slow speed, add olive oil in a slow stream to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
- 3. To make salad, in a large salad bowl, add pasta, apricots, tomatoes, and raisins. Top with sliced mozzarella. Pour pesto vinaigrette and toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil leaves. Note: Mix in pine nuts just before serving.
Savita's Recipe Notes:
To Toast Pine Nuts: Heat a dry pan, add pine nuts and toast for 2-3 minutes until slight brown spots appear. Don't leave too long or they burn very quickly.
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