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Pasta Caprese

2 - 3 servings
Prep info
45 min
Prep time
45 minutes
Cook time
3 minutes
Time required
48 minutes
Oven preheat
pasta vegetarian


  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice (up to 2t, as needed)
  • 1/2 t minced garlic
  • 1 T finely chopped shallot
  • 3/4 t Salt (Sea)
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 lb fresh tomatoes (cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2" dice)
  • 125 g fresh mozzarella cheese (cut into 1/2" cubes)
  • 150 g pasta (penne or other short tubular or curly pasta such as fusili or campanelle)
  • 2 T chopped basil (fresh)
  • 1/2 t sugar (as needed)


1. Whisk oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, garlic, shallot, salt, and pepper together in a bowl.  Add tomatoes and gently toss to combine; set aside.  Do not marinate tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.

 2. While tomatoes are marinating, place mozzarella on plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 45 minutes.  Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot.  Add 1 Tbsp salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente.  Drain well.

3. Add pasta and mozzarella to tomato mixture and gently toss to combine.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately. 


Notes from Source:

The problem with most of the pasta caprese recipes we tried was that the cheese clumped into an intractable softball-size wad in the bottom of the pasta bowl. We found the solution to this problem in the freezer. Dicing supermarket cheese and placing it in the freezer for a few minutes before combining it with the hot pasta allowed the cheese to soften but kept it from fully melting (and turning chewy) during cooking.

This dish will be very warm, not hot. The success of this recipe depends on high-quality ingredients, including ripe, in-season tomatoes and a fruity olive oil (the test kitchen prefers Columela Extra-Virgin). Don’t skip the step of freezing the mozzarella, as freezing prevents it from turning chewy when it comes in contact with the hot pasta. If handmade buffalo- or cow’s-milk mozzarella is available (it’s commonly found in gourmet and cheese shops packed in water), we highly recommend using it, but skip the step of freezing and add it to the tomatoes while marinating. Additional lemon juice or up to 1 teaspoon sugar can be added at the end to taste, depending on the ripeness of the tomatoes. 

SJ Note 1 Aug 2011: This is really tasty!  By the time it's served, it's room temperature, rather than hot, which makes it perfect on a hot day.  Depending on how hungry you are, it could easily be a main dish.  It didn't need extra lemon juice or sugar for us, though it did need plenty of extra salt and pepper; I've upped the amounts here.  I tried our new smoked mozzarella cheese in this, and did the freezing step; while it was tasty, there were several medium clumps of goo in the end - we simply cut these up at the table, so it wasn't a big deal, but it would probably benefit next time from longer freezing.

SJ Note 25 July 2012: Froze the cheese for 45 minutes this time (and marinated the tomatoes for the same time); worked beautifully.  I've upped it in the recipe from 10 to 45 minutes.  This time I used plain cow's milk mozzarella, as that's what I can get now.


  • This version (Sat, 29 Feb 2020 22:46)
  • Pasta Caprese (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 22:22)