The perfect pasta salad recipe does exist – meet the Basil and Balsamic Pasta Salad. Fresh basil bursting with flavor, creamy fresh mozzarella and the tangy richness of balsamic vinegar come together for a flavor fusion in this quick and easy pasta salad recipe.
As much as you’ll want to keep it for yourself, it’s ideal as a side dish or starter for large groups and easy to bulk up with protein if you want to make it a meal and serve with a side salad. Think of it as your new house pasta salad – and be prepared to share the recipe because it’s sure to steal the spotlight.
There are thousands of delicious pasta salad recipes out there. Here’s why this recipe ranks as one of our favorites.
- It’s easy to make.
- The recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes.
- There’s a lot here, making it perfect for feeding a crowd.
- Nothing beats a simple recipe that features easy-to-find ingredients.
- The pasta can be prepared in advance.
Let’s dive in!
This Basil and Balsamic Pasta Salad recipe reminds me of Caprese pasta salad in that it calls for fresh, simple ingredients with rich flavors and it’s absolutely beautiful. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Fusilli Corti Bucati pasta
- Fresh basil
- White balsamic vinegar
- Balsamic glaze
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Pasta – This pasta salad recipe works well with most varieties of pasta, including but not limited to bowtie/farfalle, bucatini, fusilli, orecchiette or macaroni.
- Vinegar – Swap the white balsamic vinegar for its darker counterpart or try champagne vinegar.
- Tomatoes – Use cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, in place of the vine-ripened tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes are also delicious in this pasta salad recipe.
- Mozzarella – Fresh mozzarella is highly recommended. Use shredded mozzarella in a pinch.
How to Make Basil and Balsamic Pasta Salad
Step 1. Prepare the pasta.
Prepare the pasta al dente, according to the instructions on the package. Use a colander to rinse the pasta under cold water, drain and place in a large bowl. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and minced garlic to the pasta and gently coat the pasta, then allow it to cool completely. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Step 2. Prepare the basil, tomatoes and mozzarella.
As the pasta cooks and cools, prepare the remaining ingredients. Wash, dry and separate the basil leaves from their stems. Slice the tomatoes into quarters, drain the mozzarella and separate the pearls.
Step 3. Bring it all together.
Next, when the pasta has completely cooled, give it another gentle stir before folding in the basil, tomatoes and mozzarella.
Step 4. The best part – garnish and serve!
Finally, garnish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of pine nuts. Top with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.
Allow the pasta to cool completely before adding the remaining ingredients. Basil wilts, tomatoes turn mushy and mozzarella melts when added to warm pasta.
What to Serve with Pasta Salad
This pasta salad side dish recipe can easily be transformed into a flavorful meal with the addition of the protein or additional sides of your choice. Below are some ideas of what to serve with pasta salad.
- Add white beans for a hearty vegetarian meal.
- Serve with a simple green salad or classic Caesar salad.
- Add Italian herbed chicken breast (cubed or sliced) to the pasta salad.
- Serve as a side dish for grilled salmon or chicken skewers.
- Make an Italian-inspired panini with pasta salad on the side.
Make Ahead + Storage
The pasta in this recipe can be prepared in advance if you’re preparing for guests or have a busy week ahead.
Cook the pasta al dente up to 48 hours before serving. Cover and refrigerate. Do not add the remaining ingredients until it’s almost time to serve your family or guests.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Also note that oil hardens when cold, so allow the pasta to come to room temperature before enjoying leftovers.
Serving a Crowd
This easy pasta salad recipe is a flavorful and beautiful recipe to serve at your next gathering. Here are some great opportunities to make Basil and Balsamic Pasta Salad for a large group:
- Potluck parties
- Holiday gatherings
- Graduation celebrations
- Bridal and baby showers
Basil and Balsamic Pasta Salad FAQs
Can fresh basil be replaced with dried basil?
Fresh basil is highly recommended. If it’s not available, consider using a few tablespoons of pre-made basil pesto.
Should I rinse the pasta under cold water?
Yes, because this pasta salad recipe is served cold, it’s perfectly acceptable to cook al dente and then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Allow the pasta to cool completely before adding the remaining ingredients.
What proteins pair well with this recipe?
There are numerous proteins that pair well with Basil and Balsamic Pasta Salad. Try cannellini beans (remember to rinse and drain if you used canned beans), a cup of hearty black lentils, grilled and chopped chicken breast, crispy prosciutto or a small serving of salami.
What vegetables pair well with this pasta salad?
Add fiber to this pasta salad recipe with vegetables like sweet bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh spinach or peppery arugula, artichoke hearts, asparagus or sauteed mushrooms.
Can I serve this recipe warm instead of cold?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, this pasta is delicious served warm, but I don’t recommend you serve it piping hot. To serve warm, let your pasta cool a bit before adding the remaining ingredients if you don’t want your basil to wilt, the tomatoes to get mushy and the mozzarella to melt.
Can this recipe be served as a meal instead of a side dish?
Sure can – and it’s delicious paired with your protein of choice and a simple green side salad.
- 16 ounces Fusilli Corti Bucati pasta, or pasta of choice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 3–4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1–2 cups fresh basil, thoroughly rinsed and dried and leaves separated from stems
- 2 cups small, vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
- Balsamic glaze
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional), for garnish
- Prepare the pasta al dente, according to the instructions on the package. Use a colander to rise the pasta under cold water, drain and place in a large bowl. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and minced garlic to the pasta and gently coat the pasta, then allow it to cool completely. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- As the pasta cooks and cools, prepare the remaining ingredients. Wash, dry and separate the basil leaves from their stems. Slice the tomatoes into quarters, drain any liquid from the mozzarella and separate the pearls.
- When the pasta has completely cooled, give it another gentle stir before folding in the basil, tomatoes and mozzarella.
- Garnish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and a sprinkle of pine nuts. Topo with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 15 mins.
- Cook Time: 10 mins.
- Category: Sides and Starters, Vegetarian
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mediterranean Inspired
- Diet: Vegetarian
Keywords: basil and balsamic pasta salad, balsamic pasta salad recipe, balsamic pasta recipe