Fast and Easy Penne Pasta Caprese recipe

Here it is: Your new go-to Green Monday meal!

PastaCaprese Fast and Easy Penne Pasta Caprese recipephoto: pamela irene for we heart this

Attention fellow pasta lovers: this Penne Pasta Caprese recipe is a keeper and perfect for the warm weather! The only ingredient you have to cook on the stove is the water for the penne! The rest is fresh raw ingredients, so this meatless entree is perfect for a hectic Green Monday.

If you are as fortunate as I am to live close to a market that sells fresh, maybe even organic mozzarella and great extra virgin olive oil; this recipe really shines. Start your search by checking Farmer’s Markets, organic grocers and Italian speciality shops. Of course, it’s especially good when tomatoes come into season (late summer), because there is nothing like naturally sun ripened tomatoes!

Penne Pasta Caprese
(Adapted from The Food Network Magazine)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves (completely crushed, through a press if possible)
1 small shallot finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound of penne pasta*
10 ripe Roma or Plum tomatoes – diced into ½-inch pieces
16 ounces fresh mozzarella – cut into small ½-inch cubes (or look for perlini – small round balls of fresh mozz)
1/2 cup freshly chopped basil
Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

* Barilla has a “Plus” blend multigrain penne that is actually really good.

1. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, shallot, salt and pepper together in large bowl.
2. Add the diced tomatoes and gently toss to combine. Set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water (with a pinch of salt) to a boil. Add pasta and cook until el dente. Drain pasta well, but do not rinse.
4. Add the pasta and mozzarella to the tomato mixture and gently toss. After a couple of “setting” minutes, I stir in the basil, add a dusting of Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings (meaning it feeds four hungry people!)

While I feel this pasta dish is best served warm, it can also be refrigerated for a few hours and served chilled – or room temperature. Finally, for those looking to keep it healthy or with special diet needs, you can always choose a multi grain or gluten-free pasta.

Overall, this slightly adapted Penne Pasta Caprese is super simple to cook and makes a yummy and satisfying meal (round it out with a green salad and crusty bread) – so file this one away for use all summer long!


Pamela Irene is a we heart this review team member and kitchen guru living with husband David in Orange County, CA. She works in the management office at the ‘happiest place on earth’ – the South Coast Plaza. She can also mix a mean cocktail and is the owner of the largest bath & body collection we’ve ever seen.

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Written by irene


    1. Profile photo of irene

      Holly, that’s a valid question. I can’t stress enough that most tomato recipes like this really NEED to have vine rippened tomatoes when made. Just tuck the recipe away until you have them available, it won’t be too long. It will really make your mouth water.

  1. Profile photo of tiffany

    This is one of my favorite summertime recipes @irene. Love to make it with fresh homegrown tomatoes and basil from my garden. Agree that you need the fresh tomatoes for this. The store bought ones just don’t do it justice. YUM! Wishing I could make this now.

  2. Profile photo of Mel

    Darn the perfect tomatos – I’m ready this right before heading out to the grocery store…and I’m going to try it tonight! I’ll just try it again when they’re ready. Thanks Pam – your recipes never disappoint!

    1. Profile photo of irene

      Mel, you may be able to find organic heirloom tomatoes at the market and that would also work.. the more homegrown-like the better! We want you to report back! See my note on freezing the mozzarella for 10 minutes too. Also, if you can find it, look for handmade buffalo or cow’s-milk mozzarella..amazingly delish!

  3. Profile photo of irene

    Another cooking tip worth sharing with you that I recently learned when making this, is to actually put the fresh mozzarella – cut into small ½-inch cubes briefly in the freezer, like 10 minutes. Then when you combine this into warm pasta, it will help it from becoming a cheesy, stringy, chewy mess!

  4. Profile photo of Mel

    Ok Pam – help! I made it but it didn’t turn out well for me. Mine looks just like yours and I followed the recipe – even found organic ripe Romas in my local grocery store and used your freezer trick for the mozzarella. Used fresh basil and good EVOO. Mine is really bland…was I supposed to use mozzarella that had been marinated in some salt solution – I just used the fresh kinda tasteless kind, and that’s what seems to be missing…salt or Italian dressing?

    1. Profile photo of irene

      Mel, Oh my, I’m not sure what happened. There is plenty of salt in this. Even the cheese that is grated is on the salty side. I know that fresh mozzarella alone can be a bit bland, but you have all the flavors blending from all the ingred. I am just as stumpted as you. I hope you make it again and have better luck. Perhaps it was the tomatoes.. did you taste them first?
      I’m so sorry that this came out not to your liking. I hope you doctored this up anyway. I would add more cheese and extra pepper if that happened and that should help when this happens. Let me know what you did. :(

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