30-Minute Dinner/ Dinner/ Italian Recipes/ pasta/ vegetarian dinner

Caprese pasta – tomato, mozzarella, and basil pasta

29 June 2021 | Last Updated: 11 June 2022 By Aleksandra

Caprese pasta is a tasty summer dinner, ready in 20 minutes. On a hot summer day that‘s all we need. This easy hot pasta dish was inspired by Caprese salad. It’s made with just a few ingredients, but it‘s really packed with flavor. Al dente pasta, ripe and juicy summer tomatoes, garlicky butter olive oil sauce, creamy mozzarella, and aromatic fresh basil. This pasta is so good, you won’t believe how quickly it comes together!

Pasta Caprese in a frying pan. Kitchen cloth and basil in the background.


To make the best pasta Caprese just use fresh, good quality ingredients!

  • Pasta: you don‘t need to use fusilli, but I really like this pasta here. Instead of fusilli, you could use penne. I think fusilli perfectly catches the sauce here. What’s important – the pasta should be perfectly cooked – al dente, it should be cooked through but also have a bite to it. When draining the pasta, don‘t forget to reserve a little pasta cooking water, it thickens the sauce!
  • Olive oil: use an extra-virgin olive oil, the garlic and tomatoes will be only briefly cooked in olive oil so you can use the cold-pressed one, like for a salad. It should taste light, fruity, and not bitter.
  • Butter: adds more flavor, but can use just olive oil.
  • Tomatoes: it’s important to use fresh, summer tomatoes, that are ripe and sweet. Use good-quality canned tomatoes if fresh tomatoes are out of season.
  • Mozzarella cheese – you can use the regular mozzarella in a brine (fresh mozzarella, NOT low-moisture “yellow” mozzarella), but I especially recommend the mozzarella di bufala – it‘s very soft and creamy, it literally melts in your mouth!
  • Basil – fresh and aromatic leaves add lots of flavor to your pasta. This is not just a finishing touch but an essential ingredient of this dish.
  • Lemon juice and zest – they lighten up the whole dish, add a tangy and citrusy note, don‘t omit them!

You could also add pan-fried chicken or shrimp to this dish. You could season them with Italian herbs and garlic powder.

All these ingredients make a light and packed with flavor summer dinner!

Ingredients needed to make pasta Caprese on a table.

Step by step instructions

Start with cooking your pasta al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water (!).

Chopped tomatoes and sliced garlic on a wooden board. Garlic with butter and olive oil in a frying pan.

STEP 1: Peel and chop the tomatoes, cut garlic into thin slices.

How to easily peel the tomatoes: place them in a bowl, slice a shallow X into the bottom of tomatoes, pour in boiling water, set aside for a minute, then drain the water. The peel should be very easy to pull off.

STEP 2: Heat butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for 30-60 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant.

Tomatoes are being cooked in a frying pan.

STEP 3: Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices to the pan. Add pasta cooking water, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

STEP 4: Cook the tomatoes until sauce forms, but the tomatoes should still be a little chunky. It should take about 3-4 minutes.

Pasta with tomato sauce, torn mozzarella and basil leaves in a frying pan.

STEP 5: Take the pan off the heat. Tear the mozzarella into bite-sized pieces. Add the cooked pasta, cheese, and basil leaves (cut bigger leaves into smaller pieces) to the pan.

STEP 6: Stir everything together until combined. Don’t cook the dish further – mozzarella will become stingy (it should only slightly melt) and basil leaves will be less aromatic. Season the pasta with salt and pepper.


Pasta Caprese in a frying pan. Kitchen cloth, lemons, and basil leaves in the background.


This dish reheats well but like with any pasta dish, the pasta will soak up the sauce and become a little bit mushy. It’s always best to store the sauce and pasta separately (if you plan ahead) and combine them just before serving.

More quick weeknight dinner recipes

Pasta Caprese in a white bowl with blue fork on the side.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Pasta Caprese Recipe – tomato mozzarella basil pasta

Light summer dinner, ready in about 20 minutes, it’s all you need on a hot summer day!
Pasta Caprese in a frying pan.
Print Recipe


(click on the stars)

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Calories 716kcal
Author Aleksandra


  • 6.5 oz fusilli pasta (185g)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 4 medium tomatoes 1 lb (450g)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or to taste
  • a few tablespoons pasta cooking water
  • 7 oz mozzarella (200g) preferably mozzarella di bufala
  • a small handful of fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook the pasta al dente (it should have a little bite to it but be cooked through). Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water (!).
  • Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Using a sharp knife, slice a shallow X into the bottom of tomatos. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, leave them for a minute in hot water, then drain. Peel the tomatoes and cut into ½ inch (1.5 cm) cubes.
  • Peel and cut the garlic into thin slices.
  • Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan, add the garlic, cook over medium heat for about a minute.
  • Add the tomatoes with their juices, pasta cooking water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes form a sauce but are still chunky.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, add the cooked pasta, torn into small pieces mozzarella, and basil leaves. Toss everything together, season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy!


  • Important tips:
    • pasta should be cooked al dente
    • use fresh, summer, ripe tomatoes
    • use olive oil and butter or just olive oil
    • the best for this dish is mozzarella di bufala, it’s really worth buying it! do not use low-moisture (yellow) mozzarella
    • don’t omit the lemon zest and juice
  • You could also add pan-fried chicken or shrimp to this dish. You could season them with Italian herbs and garlic powder.
  • If you forgot to reserve pasta cooking water, you can add corn starch slurry to the sauce by stirring 1/8 tsp of corn starch with 1 Tbsp of cold water.
  • Calories = 1 serving (1/2 of the recipe). This is only an estimate!
Course dinner
Cuisine Italian
Tried this Recipe? Rate the Recipe and tell us what you think in the Comments!

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Recipe Rating

The maximum upload file size: 1 MB. You can upload: image. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here