This Tortellini Caprese has all the classic Italian flavors with sweet juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, and delicious mozzarella. Bump up this classic by tossing in cheese tortellini! And the perfect finish: a drizzle of homemade balsamic glaze.
What is Caprese?
Caprese salad, or Insalata Caprese, is a classic for a reason! It's made with fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese and simply seasoned with salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. It's extremely easy to make but has big flavor thanks to fresh, delicious ingredients. Did you also realize it has the same colors of the Italian flag?
In this Tortellini Caprese, we keep it classic but amp it up with pasta and more cheese. Can you say yum?! The combination of sweet and juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, soft cheese, and tangy balsamic glaze is absolutely delectable. But summer is definitely the best time for this salad! Since caprese salad only consists of a few ingredients, choosing high-quality ingredients, like in-season tomatoes, will really allow them to shine.
This Tortellini Caprese salad is light, refreshing, and super tasty. And it couldn't be any easier! Homemade balsamic glaze sounds fancy but only takes 2 ingredients and a couple minutes on the stove. This is the perfect summer side for a BBQ or picnic because it can be served room temp or even cold. You can also meal prep this for an amazing lunch or dinner all week long!
You only need a handful of ingredients for this summer caprese salad.
- Cheese tortellini: Family-friendly and makes it a heartier salad. I use refrigerated but feel free to use frozen or dried instead. Just make sure it's cooked al dente and completely dry before mixing it with the remaining ingredients.
- Grape or cherry tomatoes: Keeping everything bite-size makes this salad easier to eat (and is way more fun!).
- Mozzarella pearls: Sometimes called mozzarella medallions and usually in a plastic tub. Drain the liquid and they're ready to use! Can't find them? Cube whole milk mozzarella blocks instead.
- Fresh basil: Fresh is really key here. You can tear it for a more rustic vibe or slice it thinly into ribbons.
- Olive oil: Keeps the pasta salad hydrated and gives a more luscious mouthfeel, but totally optional.
- Balsamic vinegar and brown sugar: For the glaze. Super simple and provides a great sweet and sour dressing.
How To Make This Salad
This Tortellini Caprese is literally one of the easiest recipes ever!
- Cook the pasta. Fresh, frozen, and dried tortellini each have different cooking times so follow package instructions. Make sure to salt the water generously, rinse with cold water afterwards to stop the cooking process, and let it cool and dry completely.
- Make the glaze. Simmer the vinegar and sugar until thick. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn and make sure to keep the heat at just a medium. It'll take a few minutes.
- Combine. Add the pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, and a light drizzle of the glaze to a bowl. Mix well and add more balsamic if you want. Finish with the basil.
- Store tomatoes in the pantry, not the fridge. Tomatoes should be stored in a dark area at room temperature. Storing them in the fridge will dull the flavor. And salt tomatoes right before serving - they need a good amount of salt.
- Be patient with the balsamic glaze. It'll take a good 10-15 minutes for the glaze to reduce and thicken. Don't be tempted to turn the heat to high because you can burn it. Just let it reduce slowly, stirring frequently, until it has the consistency of syrup.
- Add the basil in last. If you add the basil in the beginning, you can bruise it while mixing the salad. I like to add it in last for a pop of color, to maintain freshness, and so it mixes evenly instead of sticking to the bottom of the bowl.
Store any remaining Tortellini Caprese in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can serve it cool or at room temperature. I like to add some more fresh basil when re-serving to zhoosh it up.
Most likely, you'll make more balsamic glaze than needed for the salad. Store in an air-tight jar or can in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It can harden when cold so let it come to room temperature or microwave in 10-15 second intervals for easy drizzle-ability.
I would not recommend freezing this salad. Several component of this salad, like the tomatoes and mozzarella balls, do not freeze well and will lose its texture and flavor.
Make It In Advance
This pasta salad is so easy to make so I recommend making it fresh. The texture, flavor, and consistency can change as it sits in the fridge and won't be as delicious!
If you want to save time, cook the tortellini and balsamic glaze ahead of time. You can also prepare the tomatoes but store each component in the fridge separately. The glaze will thicken and harden in the fridge, but microwave it in 10 second intervals for easy drizzling.
Make It Yours
- Got a lot of leftover basil? Make fresh pesto and throw a tablespoon or two into this pasta salad.
- If you want to turn this into a more filling and satiating meal, you can add grilled chicken, avocado, spinach, or arugula as well.
- To make this dairy-free, use dairy-free tortellini and mozzarella-style cheese.
- To make this gluten-free, use gluten-free tortellini.
Absolutely! It has a lot of fresh ingredients and making your own balsamic glaze means there's no funky ingredients. You can also use your favorite brand of cheese tortellini to keep it within your version of healthy.
Caprese simply means "Capri style". It's named after Capri, an island off the southern coast of Italy near Sorrenti and the Amalfi Coast.
No need to! Caprese salad is best served cool or at room temperature. With this Tortellini Caprese, I like to take it out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before eating. The tortellini will soften and tomatoes have more flavor when room temp versus cold.
Looking For More?
Tortellini Caprese is one of my favorite side dishes - it's so easy and everyone loves it! If you want more stellar side dishes, check these out:
- Pea, Burrata, and Prosciutto Pasta Salad
- Spinach and Strawberry Salad
- Classic Cobb Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette
- Winter Citrus Salad
- Seafood Salad
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook tortellini according to package instructions and drain. Rinse with cold water and spread out on a paper-lined plate to dry and cool completely.
- In a small pot, combine the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and syrupy. A spoon should be able to leave a clear path. Let cool.
- Add tortellini, tomatoes, and mozzarella to a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and a splash of olive oil, if using. Drizzle on as much balsamic glaze as preferred and mix well. Top with fresh basil.
- Storing Leftovers: Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can serve it cool or at room temperature.
- Leftover Balsamic Glaze: Store in an air-tight jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. When ready to serve, let come to room temperature or microwave in 10-15 second intervals for easy drizzling.
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