Balsamic Tortellini Caprese Salad
This tortellini Caprese salad is fresh, fast, and full of bright summer flavors! A simple balsamic dressing elevates these classic ingredients. Serve for a quick lunch, easy dinner, or picnic fare and earn rave reviews.
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Summer is all about simple meals and big flavors, and ideally, those two intersecting at every available opportunity. You already know I’m a tortellini addict, so the idea of pairing the pillowy pasta with some of the most classic and appealing flavors of summer — juicy tomatoes, vibrant greens, fresh mozzarella — is a no-brainer.
Cue this tortellini Caprese salad. It’s crazy easy to throw together and works well for all kinds of occasions. Serve it for a breezy lunch, a light dinner or side dish, pack it for a potluck or picnic in the park. No matter what, it’ll be a big hit.
Tortellini Caprese ingredients
- Tortellini: I use a large (20 ounce) package of fresh tortellini. You can definitely sub dried tortellini, I simply prefer the taste of fresh, and because they can be stored in the freezer, find them no less convenient. Any filling works; our go-to is cheese or spinach.
- Cherry tomatoes: No need to be too particular about the amount; aim for between 1 and 2 cups.
- Baby spinach: Again, no need to be too exact about the amount. Aim for about 2 cups — or just 2 big handfuls.
- Fresh basil: This adds amazing fresh summer flavor! You’ll want roughly 1/4 of a cup.
- Mozzarella: Can’t have a Caprese without mozzarella! If I’m making this salad, I try to pick up an 8 ounce container of the very small mozzarella balls, known as Ciliengine. They are the perfect size without any cutting or slicing. Of course you can also use any other type of mozzarella you have on hand or prefer.
- For the dressing: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
- Optional but amazing: balsamic glaze. If you love the tangy flavor of balsamic, drizzling on a little glaze at the end adds a dreamy extra dimension — plus it looks pretty!
How to make it: tips and tricks
Caprese tortellini salad is a prep-and-stir-it-together situation, but a few simple tips do make a difference.
- Salty like the sea! Use well-salted water to cook the tortellini — I usually add at least 1 full teaspoon of kosher salt, if not more, per large stockpot of water. This ensures the cooking water is salty enough to impart subtle flavor to the pasta, and is especially important in a simple dish like this one, where each component needs to carry its weight. A foundation of good cooking is to appropriately season every layer, and this includes the simple ones like pasta!
- No stick, please: If your tortellini is done cooking much before you get around to halving the tomatoes and chopping the spinach, go ahead and toss the drained tortellini with the balsamic dressing in the interim. This prevents the dreaded stuck-together-pasta effect.
- Drain mozzarella well: If using Ciliengine or another type of mozzarella that comes packed in water, be sure to drain it well and even dab lightly with a kitchen or paper towel to remove excess water before adding it to the other ingredients. This helps the cheese absorb the other flavors.
Can I make this ahead?
This keeps very well — we often eat it for lunches throughout the week — and so is also well-suited to making ahead. Store in the fridge until ready to eat, and serve cold or bring to room temperature.
More easy pasta salads
If you enjoy this recipe, you might also like my cheesy tortellini Italian pasta salad, an easy Caprese pasta salad with prosciutto, pasta salad with chickpeas and roasted red peppers, and this simple tortellini with roasted veggies and basil vinaigrette.
If you try this tortellini Caprese salad, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Balsamic Tortellini Caprese Salad
- 1 (20 ounce) package fresh tortellini any flavor
- 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
- 2 cups baby spinach coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup slivered basil
- 8 ounces mozzarella pearls or pieces see note
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 10-12 cranks fresh-ground black pepper
- balsamic glaze optional
- Boil a large pot of well-salted water and cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- While tortellini cooks, chop the tomatoes, spinach, and basil. Drain mozzarella, if packed in water, or chop into pieces if using a block.
- In a small jar or liquid measuring cup, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Shake or stir well to combine.
- Combine drained pasta, tomatoes, spinach, basil, mozzarella, and dressing in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Taste, add more salt and pepper, if desired, and serve.
- Mozzarella: If I’m making this salad, I try to pick up an 8 ounce container of the very small mozzarella balls, known as Ciliengine. They are the perfect size without any cutting or slicing. Of course you can also use any other type of mozzarella you have on hand or prefer.
- Substitutions: This is also excellent with baby arugula, if you prefer that to spinach.
- Storage: This keeps very well. Store in the fridge up to 3 days and serve cold or bring to room temperature.