Caprese Pasta Salad with Avocado Pesto Dressing


THIS CAPRESE PASTA SALAD IS FRESH YET SATISFYINGLY DELICIOUS LOADED WITH BALSAMIC CHICKEN, JUICY TOMATOES, CREAMY MOZZARELLA, FRESH BASIL AND CREAMY AVOCADO PESTO DRESSING!


This Caprese Pasta Salad boasts layers of flavor that elevates it to a MUST MAKE Pasta Salad!  It makes a fabulous light lunch or dinner that is healthy yet tastes luxuriously delicious. 

a spoonful of caprese pasta salad with pesto

WHAT IS CAPRESE SALAD?

Caprese Salad is an Italian Salad that gets its name from the Italian island of Capri. It is loaded with plump, juicy tomatoes, fragrant basil and soft, rich mozzarella complimented by tangy balsamic AKA the quintessence of the perfect bite in my book.  Healthy yet satisfying, fresh yet cheesy, creamy yet tangy.

I love Caprese so much I’ve already celebrated the flavors in my Caprese Chicken Salad, Caprese Pasta with Balsamic Chicken and Sheet Pan Caprese Chicken and Veggies and now we get to celebrate in this Caprese Pasta Salad with Pesto Avocado Dressing!

faraway shot of a spoonful of healthy caprese pasta salad

Caprese Pasta Salad

This Caprese Pasta Salad boasts the classic combination of fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese, BUT it has a few unique twists you will LOVE.

First, we add cooked, shredded chicken to make this Caprese Pasta Salad a complete meal because trust me when I say you are going to want to eat this salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The chicken is tossed in balsamic vinegar which infuses the chicken with tangy balsamic goodness that is keep-sneaking-a-piece-delicious.

top view of a bowl of healthy Caprese pasta salad

 

Caprese Pasta Salad Dressing

The next unique feature of our Caprese Pasta Salad is the dressing. Oh. My. Yum.  I love avocado in my Caprese Salads for the rich, creaminess it adds, so thought, why not make it into a dressing?  Yes, yes and yes.

Our Avocado Pesto Dressing is a simple blend of avocados, basil pesto, Greek yogurt, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and milk to thin.  It is creamy, slightly tangy and herbalicious.  So now our Caprese Pasta Salad gets creamified while still remaining, healthy, light, fresh with just the right amount of cheeeeeeese!

 

showing how to make Caprese Pasta Salad by tossing it with tongs.

Quality Ingredients

Caprese salad is only a handful of ingredients (aside from the dressing), so it is important that you use quality, fresh ingredients.  I found my juicy tomatoes, milky mozzarella pearls, fresh basil and creamy avocados all at Walmart. I loooove that Walmart is a one-stop-shop.  You not only can pick up all your fresh produce but your pasta, balsamic vinegar,  and anything else you might need so you don’t have to run around to three different stores.

Walmart’s fresh produce is restocked at least once a day and comes with a 100% fresh guarantee.  If you’re not satisfied with their produce, they’ll give you a full refund!  Walmart not only offers a variety of in season fresh produce delivered to you daily. Walmart believes in supporting local communities, which I absolutely love!  So if you haven’t checked out Walmart’s fresh produce lately, now is the time and this Caprese Pasta Salad is your first reason why.

showing how to make caprese pasta salad with pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil


up cols of caprese pasta salad with pesto

HOW TO MAKE CAPRESE PASTA SALAD

This Caprese Salad comes together in a flash!

  • Cook pasta. Cook pasta in generously salted water just until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water.  I like to toss my pasta with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together.
  • “Marinate” chicken. Our chicken is the main balsamic component in our Caprese Pasta Salad.   “Marinating” simply means adding some balsamic vinegar, a splash of Dijon mustard and salt to your shredded, cooked chicken then letting it sit while you prep the rest of your ingredients.  You will be AMAZED at the flavor the chicken soaks up in this short amount of time.

showing how to make caprese pasta salad with chicken

  • Make Avocado Pesto Dressing. This dressing is SO easy.  Simply add all of the Avocado Pesto ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.  Add additional milk as needed to thin to pourable consistency.  You want the dressing to be creamy but thin enough to spread.

showing how to make caprese pasta salad with pesto avocado dressing

  • Toss to combine. Add pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and optional pine nuts and stir to combine.  Toss with desired amount of dressing (you may not use all of the dressing) and chill for one hour.  Chilling is essential for the flavors to meld.  If you taste the salad right away you will be disappointed but if you allow the salad to chill, you will be amazed at the drastic change.

top view showing how to make caprese pasta salad with balsamic chicken, spinach tomatoes mozzarella Stir in spinach and EAT!

HELPFUL TIPS TO MAKE PASTA SALAD

  • Make your own Shredded Chicken.  A rotisserie is a nice shortcut in your Caprese Pasta Salad but it more expensive and may requires an extra trip to the grocery store.  Instead, it is super easy to make your own shredded chicken!  I’ve included detailed instructions below.
  • Pasta Substitute.  I like to use rotini pasta because the shape cradles the dressing but bowtie/farfalle pasta or any other medium pasta will also work well.
  • Don’t overcook pasta.  It is important to not overcook your pasta – you want it al dente so it still has a little bite otherwise your Caprese Pasta salad will be soggy/mushy – which no one wants!
  • Stop Pasta from Cooking.  To stop your pasta from cooking after it’s removed from the heat, rinse and drain it in cold water then toss it with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together.
  • Tomatoes: Don’t substitute the cherry tomatoes for Roma or another variety because they will fall apart in the salad.

showing how to make caprese pasta salad with tomatoes

  • Spinach: Take care to use baby spinach otherwise be sure to tear your spinach into smaller pieces.
  • Pine Nuts:  I highly recommend pine nuts for this Caprese pasta Salad recipe but they are not essential if you don’t have them on hand.
  • Mozzarella:  Mozzarella pearls are the perfect size for a salad but you can also use mozzarella snacking balls and quarter them.  You can also use fresh mozzarella (not the block you shred) and cube it.  The soft and buttery mozzarella are and melt-in-your-mouth YUM. I promise you will be combing through the pasta salad just to find these pearls of satisfaction.

showing how to make caprese pasta salad with mozzarella

  • Add-Ins.  I’ve kept this Caprese Pasta Salad pretty traditional (aside from the dressing) but don’t be afraid to add in more of your favorite vegetables. Sweet corn, red bell peppers, cucumbers and bacon would all be fabulous, just to name a few ideas.
  • Cool Pasta.  Unlike vinaigrette dressings, you will want to make sure the pasta is completely cool before mixing in the creamy dressing to ensure the dressing doesn’t separate.

up close of a spoonful of healthy caprese pasta salad

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SHREDDED CHICKEN

To make your own shredded chicken for Caprese Pasta Salad:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 1 pound chicken breasts pounded thin and cook 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.
  3. Flip chicken and add 1 ½ cups chicken broth. Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes, then flip chicken over and continue to cook 5-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked though and tender enough to shred.  You may need to add more chicken broth if it is already absorbed when you flip your chicken over.
  4. Remove chicken from skillet and let rest 5 minutes before shredding. Use 2 cups for the Caprese Pasta Salad.

far away view of a plate of caprese pasta salad with chicken

HOW TO PREP CAPRESE PASTA SALAD IN ADVANCE

  • You make the pasta and prep the rest of the Caprese Salad ingredients except for the Avocado Dressing up to 2 days in advance and keep them in separate, sealable containers in the refrigerator.
  • Don’t make the Avocado Dressing until ready to serve because the avocado will cause the dressing to discolor.
  • If you expect leftovers, then I would half the dressing and make fresh dressing for the leftover Caprese Pasta Salad.

top view of a plate of caprese pasta salad with balsamic chicken

*Locally fresh produce varies by location.

LOOKING FOR MORE PASTA SALAD RECIPES?

Want to try this Caprese Pasta Salad Recipe?

Pin it to your SIDES, SALADS or PASTA Board to SAVE for later!

Find me on Pinterest for more great recipes!  I am always pinning :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

 

top view of a plate of caprese pasta salad with balsamic chicken

 

top view showing how to make caprese pasta salad with balsamic chicken, spinach tomatoes mozzarella

Caprese Pasta Salad

This Caprese Pasta Salad is fresh yet satisfyingly delicious loaded with balsamic chicken, juicy tomatoes, buttery mozzarella, fresh basil and creamy Avocado Pesto Dressing! This salad boasts layers of flavor that elevates it to a MUST MAKE Pasta Salad!  It makes a fabulous light lunch or dinner that is healthy yet tastes luxuriously delicious. 
Servings: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Pasta Salad

  • 16 oz. rigatoni pasta
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 8 oz. mozzarella pearls
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts optional

Balsamic Chicken

Avocado Pesto Dressing

  • 2 small avocados peeled and pitted (not large Haas)
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Cook pasta in generously salted water just until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water.
  • Meanwhile, add chicken to a large serving bowl (whatever you are going to make salad in). Add 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Add All of the Avocado Pesto ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. Add additional milk if needed to thin to pourable consistency.
  • Add pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and pine nuts to a bowl and toss to combine. Stir in desired amount of dressing (you may not use all of the dressing). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Chill any remaining dressing separately. When ready to serve, stir in spinach and additional dressing if needed. Best if served within one hour.

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs

Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!

©Carlsbad Cravings Original

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Walmart. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

Never miss a Carlsbad Cravings Creation:

Facebook /  Google+ / Instagram /  Pinterest / Twitter  

CRAVE MORE RECIPES HERE

dinner-ideas-650-final

Looking for More Salad Recipes?

Perfect Fruit Salad with Honey Citrus Dressing

top view of best fruit salad in bowl with pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwis, grapes and oranges

Chinese Chicken Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing

side view of healthy Chinese chicken salad with ramen noodles, mandarin oranges, peanuts napa cabbage, wontons, carrots, snow peas, red bell peppers and sesame ginger dressing

Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad

I couldn't stop eating this Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad!  Its bursting with tender, juicy chicken and the sweet & tangy Creamy Baja Catalina Dressing is out of this world delicious!  This combo is pure heaven!

Honey Mustard Chicken Cobb Salad

top view of Cobb salad with lettuce, hard boiled eggs, avocados, bacon, tomatoes and blue cheese

Teriyaki Chicken Salad with Pineapple Sesame Dressing

Teriyaki Chicken Salad - This salad is to live for! Packed with refreshing pineapple, macadamia nuts and coconut all doused with the most AMAZING Pineapple Sesame Dressing and the Sweet Chili Teriyaki Chicken is incredible! But my favorite part is you drizzle the leftover Teriyaki glaze all over the salad! Definitely a keeper!

Southwest Pepper Jack Salad

Reader Interactions

leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 Comments

  1. 2pots2cook says

    When preparing minestrone, I usually add some chicken meat to upgrade the flavours. This salad makes perfect frugal office lunch once I take the meat out and serve minestrone. Thank you so much !

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome! It will be delicious with your minestrone!

  2. Brandi says

    I made this last night with whole wheat pasta, I served it warm and added the cheese at the end. It was delicious my family loved it! I will definitely make this again! Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Brandi, I’m so pleased it was a winner with the whole family!