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No summer picnic or potluck is complete without a pasta salad and this Caprese Pasta Salad with Prosciutto is one of our favorites. Inspired by a Caprese Penne Salad sold out at a local specialty market our version includes prosciutto and freshly marinated ciliegine (mozzarella balls).
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
This pasta salad could not be any simpler to prepare and has a shortlist of ingredients so splurge on great quality pasta, olive oil, and prosciutto.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Pasta: Any short pasta such as Penne, Rigatoni, Farfalle, or Orecchiette will work for this pasta salad.
- Prosciutto: In English prosciutto translates to ham and is either cooked (prosciutto cotto) or cured (prosciutto crudo). It has both a sweet and salty flavor and is usually sold thinly sliced so a little bit goes a long way. You can substitute any type of dried or cured meat such as pepperoni or salami or even chicken if you are not a fan of cured or dried meat.
- Marinated Ciliegine (Mozzarella Balls): Mozzarella balls come in many different sizes. From traditional mozzarella which is about the size of an orange to Perline which is the size of pearls. For this recipe, we opted for ciliegine which is the size of a cherry but you can substitute any size such as bocconcini or ovolini. If you choose a larger size you might need to cut it into bite-size pieces before marinating.
- Olive Oil: Not all olive oil is created equal. You want to find the best quality that also has a nice flavor that complements the mozzarella and herbs.
- Tomatoes: Choose a cherry or grape size tomato and cut them in half or quarters so they are bite-size.
- Herbs and Spices: Our recipe uses fresh basil and oregano but you can substitute dried. Approximately 1/2 tablespoon of dried basil is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of fresh and approximately 1 teaspoon of dried oregano is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of fresh. You can also add some thyme, parsley, or rosemary as well. Besides fresh herbs, you will need some garlic and crushed red pepper.
How to Make Caprese Pasta Salad with Prosciutto
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: Freshen up leftover Caprese pasta salad by adding some additional fresh basil and black pepper.
1. Marinated the Ciliegine (Mozzarella Balls): In a small bowl combine the olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt then add the ciliegine and stir to coat. Transfer it to an airtight container and allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
2. Cook the Pasta: Cook the pasta until it is al dente following the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water then set aside. While the pasta is cooking remove the marinated ciliegine from the refrigerator and allow it to come to remove temperature.
3. Prepare the Caprese Pasta Salad: In a large bowl add the cooked and cooled pasta, tomatoes, basil, prosciutto, and the marinated ciliegine including the olive oil and herbs. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and gently toss. Taste and add additional salt or herbs to taste then serve.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Rinse the pasta after it has been drained to both cool it down and avoid it from being overcooked.
- Cut up fresh basil to freshen up leftovers that have been refrigerated.
- The mozzarella balls need to marinate for at least an hour, so plan accordingly.
- You can use any size of mozzarella balls but anything bigger than “bite-size” should be cut into smaller pieces.
- The olive oil will slightly solidify in the refrigerator so allow it to sit at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Cook the pasta and marinate the mozzarella and store in air-tight containers in the refrigerator until ready to assemble. Prior to assembly remove the pasta and mozzarella from the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature. Cut up the tomatoes, basil, and prosciutto and toss everything together and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Absolutely. Any short pasta will work but look for bronze-cut pasta or bronze-die pasta. Pasta cut with a bronze die will have a rough, porous texture that is great for getting the olive oil, herbs, and vinegar to stick.
Any mozzarella size will work but you might need to cut it into smaller bite-size pieces prior to marinating it.
Of course. We prefer to make our own to save a few pennies but also to get the exact flavors we prefer.
Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe, we recommend checking out some of these:
- Marinated Ciliegine
- Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
- Gnocchi with Asparagus in Lemon Cream Sauce
- Creamy Southwest Pasta Salad
Caprese Pasta Salad with Prosciutto
- Small Bowl
- Large Bowl
- Medium Saucepan (2.5 Quarts)
Marinated Ciliegine (Mozzarella Balls)
- 8 ounces ciliegine, small fresh mozzarella balls
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Caprese Pasta Salad
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 4 tablespoons basil
- 8 ounces penne pasta
- 2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced or torn into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Marinated Ciliegine (Mozzarella Balls)
- In a small bowl combine the olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt.
- Add the ciliegine and stir to coat.
- Transfer to an airtight container and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Allow the marinated bocconcini to come to room temperature before adding to the pasta salad.
Caprese Pasta Salad
- Cook the pasta until it is al dente following the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water then set aside.
- In a large bowl add the cooked pasta, tomatoes, basil, prosciutto, and the marinated ciliegine including the olive oil and herbs.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and gently toss. Taste and add additional salt or herbs to taste. Serve immediately.