Caprese Orzo Salad is a vibrant summer pasta salad featuring juicy tomatoes, creamy balls of mozzarella, and ribbons of fresh basil, all topped off with a flavorful balsamic vinaigrette!
I live in the south, and if you’ve ever seen Steel Magnolias, you already know that homegrown tomatoes are a religion down here. I don’t have my own garden, but lucky for me, my green thumb of a father-in-law does. And thanks to his benevolence, we are the lucky recipients of a plethora of garden-fresh produce each summer. And guess which variety is my favorite???
We had a hail storm back in April that not only gifted us with a new roof, but it also forced my father-in-law to replant the majority of his garden. So while his tomatoes typically start rolling in come June, he’s just now getting this summer’s tomato bounty in July.
So guess what that means? It’s time for homegrown tomato sandwiches and fresh caprese salads and homemade marinara sauce and every incarnation of tomato glory that you can imagine! Yup, I am so excited that tomato season has arrived. And I am downright thrilled with how delicious this tomato-starring Caprese Orzo Salad turned out!
Let’s be honest here. Caprese anything is a pretty equal opportunity-type recipe. Sure, the tomatoes are important. But so is the creamy, water-packed mozzarella. And so is the fresh, vibrant, chiffonade of basil. In this Caprese Orzo Salad, of course, cute little pieces of orzo pasta play a big role, too, as does a bursting-with-flavor balsamic vinaigrette dressing. In fact, the vinaigrette is amazing on just about any type of salad, so don’t feel like you need to limit its fabulousness to Caprese Orzo Salad…use it on anything and everything!
Bottom line? This pasta salad recipe is so yummy, y’all. Like, happily-eat-it-for-lunch-every-day-until-it’s-gone yummy. Like, watch-it-disappear-at-any-get-together yummy. Like, have-the-recipe-handy-because-everybody’s-bound-to-ask yummy.
Simple ingredients. Bold flavors. Utter summer pasta salad bliss.
Caprese Orzo Salad Recipe
Caprese Orzo Salad
- 1 cup 7-ounces dry orzo
- 8 ounces fresh mozzerella , water-packed mozzarella pearls ("perline," or tiny balls)
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 1/2-ounce bunch fresh basil, sliced in a chiffonade
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Cook the orzo in salted water according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool, tossing occasionally so that the orzo doesn't clump together.
- While the orzo is cooking and cooling, prepare the dressing by combining the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon, honey, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. You may whisk it vigorously in a bowl, shake it in a tightly-sealed jar, or pulse it in a mini food processor.
- Once the orzo is cool, transfer to a large bowl. Carefully mix in fresh mozzarella, tomato halves, basil chiffonade, and about 2/3 of the prepared vinaigrette, or as much as you prefer. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled, stirring in additional dressing just before serving (since the dressing will soak into the pasta while in the fridge).
- After cooking the orzo, I prefer not to rinse it since the starch helps the vinaigrette adhere to the pasta. However, it's important to occasionally toss/stir the orzo as it cools to prevent it from clumping. Alternatively, if you already have the vinaigrette prepared, you can stir in a bit which will also prevent sticking.
- If you can't find mozzarella pearls, it's okay to buy a big ball of fresh mozzarella and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
- If making the vinaigrette with a very high quality balsamic vinegar, the honey may not be necessary.
- I explain how to chiffonade basil (with step-by-step photos) in this post.
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