Fusilli alla Caprese

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Simple yet spectacular, this fusilli alla Caprese requires just a handful of ingredients, comes together quickly, and is delicious hot or cold.

Sometimes cooking weeknight dinners can feel like a chore, but when a dish is as simple and spectacular as this one, it can be therapy. Adapted from Giada De Laurentis, fusilli alla Caprese calls for just a handful of good-quality ingredients — and the sauce cooks in less time than it takes to boil the pasta. What’s more, it’s light, healthyish and delicious cold, should you have any leftover.

Thank you to my dear friend (and food-loving cohort) Kelly Santoro for sharing the recipe with me!

What You’ll Need To Make Fusilli Alla Caprese

fusilli pasta caprese ingredients

Since the recipe calls for so few ingredients, it’s important not to skimp on quality. You’ll need good extra-virgin olive oil, fresh minced garlic (no jarred stuff!), sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella.

Fusilli is the ideal pasta shape for this recipe – because of its corkscrew shape, the sauce clings nicely to it. But if you’re unable to find fusilli in your store, rotini, penne, or farfalle pastas are all good alternatives.

If your store happens to carry packages of assorted colors of cherry tomatoes, I love the color they add to the dish; if not no worries – it will still be lovely.

For the cheese, I like to use mozzarella pearls; these are the tiniest mozzarella balls, named for their size. Most large supermarkets carry them conveniently packaged in 8-oz pouches but, if you can’t find them, simply buy a ball of fresh mozzarella and dice it into cubes.

How To Make Fusilli Alla Caprese

cooking the pasta

Begin by boiling the fusilli until al dente. You’ll need to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water to use in the sauce. It’s easy to forget when you drain the pasta, so I always set out a liquid measuring cup as a visual reminder.

halving cherry tomatoes

Next, use a small serrated knife to halve the cherry tomatoes.

sauteing the garlic in pan

Make the sauce: in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes; do not burn.

adding the cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper to the garlic

Add the halved tomatoes, salt, and pepper and increase the heat to medium-high.

cooking the cherry tomatoes

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to soften and burst, 4 to 5 minutes.

mashing the tomatoes into a chunky sauce

Using a fork, smash the tomatoes into a chunky sauce.

adding the pasta to the sauce

Add the drained fusilli to the pan and toss to combine.

adding the cheese and basil to the pasta

Right before serving, toss in the basil and mozzarella pearls. (It’s important to do this at the last minute so the cheese doesn’t melt too much.)

finished fusilli pasta caprese

Taste and adjust seasoning, adding the reserved pasta water little by little if the pasta seems dry. Spoon into bowls and serve.

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Fusilli alla Caprese

Simple yet spectacular, this fusilli alla Caprese requires just a handful of ingredients, comes together quickly, and is delicious hot or cold.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fusilli (or similar) pasta
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups (about 1-1/2 pints) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh packed basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls (alternatively, you can use an 8-oz ball of fresh mozzarella, diced)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes; do not burn. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to soften and burst, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a fork, smash the tomatoes into a chunky sauce. Add the drained fusilli to the pan and toss to combine. Right before serving, toss in the basil and mozzarella pearls. (It's important to do this at the last minute so the cheese doesn't melt too much.) Taste and adjust seasoning, adding the reserved pasta water little by little if the pasta seems dry. Spoon into bowls and serve.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 520
  • Fat: 22 g
  • Saturated fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 62 g
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 10 g
  • Sodium: 506 mg
  • Cholesterol: 30 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This was amazing! Good cold and hot.
    It’s tricking my husband into thinking I can cook… Your instructions on your recipes really take the guesswork out.

    Thank you so much!

    • — Leona on July 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • I tried this recipe tonight and it was absolutely delicious! I will definitely make it again!

    • — Kerry on June 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • Perfect for a warm summer night!

    • — Meg Mayo Lucas on June 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • Can you use grape tomatoes or mini San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce?

    • — Shanti on June 26, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Shanti. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 27, 2020
      • Reply
  • I am making this for the first time for a dinnner party Tuesday. Will it pair well with your recipe for roasted pepper salad with feta and pine nuts? I am also making your recipe for garlic bread from your cookbook.
    Thanks. Your recipes are the only ones I will serve to company the first time I prepare them!

    • — Elizabeth on June 18, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, Sure, I think that salad would pair well. I’d also like a green salad here like the Big Italian Salad or this arugula salad. Hope that helps and that you enjoy whatever you make!

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi, Jen, think I can add blanched broccoli to this recipe for added nutrition …. less starch ….? Sounds Ok to me…..what do you think? Thanks Stay safe Elaine

    • — Elaine on June 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • Definitely – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 15, 2020
      • Reply
  • Delicious, super easy and fast!

    • — Emily on June 10, 2020
    • Reply
  • Jenn, I use your recipes religiously throughout the week and sing your praises to everyone who asks for a recipe. I kept skipping by this one because it seemed too simple to be great. I’m mad I waited this long to try this one. Delicious cold and hot. Another homer.

    • — Collards on May 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • If I don’t have fresh basil could I use dry basil?

    • — Jackie on May 1, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Jackie, Yes, you can use dried basil in place of the fresh but keep in mind that you will need much less. Also, while the dried basil will add flavor and some color here, it does have a very very different taste than fresh. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on May 4, 2020
      • Reply
    • Delicious! Unfortunately I found the skins of the cherry tomatoes to be tough after cooking and then adding to pasta. Suggestions? I definitely want to make this again. Thanks!

      • — Heidi on June 29, 2020
      • Reply
      • Glad you liked it! I the tomato skins really bother you and you don’t mind the extra step, you can blanch the tomatoes and remove the skin. See how here. Hope that helps!

        • — Jenn on June 30, 2020
        • Reply
  • This is a super simple recipe! So quick to put together and very tasty! I never would have thought to throw these few simple ingredients together to make such a satisfying dish. I know my palette so I adjust accordingly. I love garlic so I added a bit more! I also doubled the basil because I love it! My bag of pasta only contained 12oz of pasta that is what I used. I did need to add the reserved pasta water and it made a perfectly lovely sauce!! Just a wonderfully simple recipe to throw into my rotation!!

    • — Karen T on March 11, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenny, love your recipes as they are easy to do. For this, can I substitute Parmesan cheese with mozzarella balls?

    • — Kelly on January 30, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! I like the texture that the mozzarella balls add here, but you can definitely substitute with parm. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 31, 2020
      • Reply
  • Wanted to make this but vegan. Can you do without the mozzarella or should you use vegan cheese? Thanks!

    • — Alyssa on January 20, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Alyssa, vegan cheese would work as a replacement for the mozzarella. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 20, 2020
      • Reply
  • Excellent but with real fusilli. The long, skinny kind. That was Rotini in the recipe. Delicious though. (Box said Fusilli but mistake)

    • — Camille on January 15, 2020
    • Reply
  • I love the flavours of a caprese salad and I love a good pasta salad so I am keen to make this work. My first attempt had far too much pasta for the number of servings and the flavours didn’t come through. On my second attempt I reduced the amount of pasta by half and increased the fresh basil by 4 times. It was getting better, but I think I still have too much pasta per serving. I am wondering if I am misunderstanding the measurement for the pasta…I am assuming that you are referring to the weight of the pasta when it is dry. Also, I don’t always have fusilli pasta on hand and have been liberal in making substitutions in the type of pasta. Do you think that would be factor?
    So only 3 stars as written but I am still working on making it a 5.
    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • — Carol Q on December 17, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, Sorry this hasn’t been a 5 for you but glad you’re persisting! You’re correct that the pound of pasta is the uncooked measurement. And fusilli is the ideal pasta shape for this recipe – because of its corkscrew shape, the sauce clings nicely to it. But no worries if you’re unable to find fusilli in your store — rotini, penne, or farfalle pastas are all good alternatives. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on December 19, 2019
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious and yet so simple. Company worthy!

    • — Charlene on December 8, 2019
    • Reply
  • I wanted to pair this with a salad but can’t decide between Italian or Caesar. Which would you recommend? Thank you in advance Chef!

    • — Marsha on September 30, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Marsha, Honestly, either would be very good but I’d probably go with Italian.

      • — Jenn on September 30, 2019
      • Reply
  • We added halved pitted ripe olives -fabulous!
    Dottie in North Carolina

    • — Dottie Smith on September 24, 2019
    • Reply
  • I love Jenn’s recipes! However, I was a bit skeptical about this one. It looked too simple and maybe not that flavorful. WOW, was I right and wrong! It was simple…..but the flavor was fantastic!!! Tasted fresh and just plain delish! Again, thanks Jenn!!!! You make me and my hubby smile!!!

    • — LynneM on September 19, 2019
    • Reply
    • 😊

      • — Jenn on September 19, 2019
      • Reply
  • This dish was so easy and so flavorful! My husband and I loved it and we are planning to try it again, only next time skipping the basil and mozzarella and substituting parmesan just for a different take on a great recipe. Jenn’s recipes never fail me. Also, a shameless plug for her cookbook, you should buy it for more great recipes.

    • — Linda on September 18, 2019
    • Reply
  • This recipe is out of this world good!!!!! I made it tonight and my husband and son cannot get enough! The flavor is so unbelievable. The tomatoes and basil were both grown in my garden so it couldn’t taste any fresher. Thank you so much again Jen for another recipe beyond perfection, and so easy to make. It is definitely a keeper in my dinner repertoire.

    • — Frances E. on September 16, 2019
    • Reply
  • This looks delicious. My family can’t eat garlic. Is there a substitution you would recommend for flavor? Thank you!

    • — Allison on September 16, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Allison, Unfortunately, there’s no perfect substitute for garlic, as it has a very distinct flavor. If you’re able to use onions, you can replace the garlic with some diced shallots. Hope that helps and that you enjoy the dish if you make it!

      • — Jenn on September 16, 2019
      • Reply
  • Marvelous and easy. Unbeatable combination. Added about 6 ounces of leftover already cooked salmon that was sitting in the freezer. Better half (perennial dieter) served her own plate, finished, and then did something she never does. Looked at her empty plate, and without a word, stood up, went to the stove and finished off the pan. That is the ultimate compliment.
    As always, thank you for making me look good.

    • — Craig on September 15, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, this recipe is perfect in its simplicity with all of the fresh garden flavors. We had truffled burrata so that’s we used. Also, when crushing sauteed cherry tomatoes, we use an old fashioned potato masher. Thanks for another keeper!

    • — Denise Graves on September 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • Sorry, forgot to rate it – Five stars!

    • — Sandra H on September 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • Delicious! I made this tonight with a big handful of basil from the garden. Used a mix of local grape tomatoes and Roma tomatoes (cored and seeded) and a mix of mini bocconcini balls and cubed fresh mozzarella. With kosher salt and lots of cracked pepper, I added a good pinch of red chili pepper. I could eat this every day!

    • — Sandra H on September 12, 2019
    • Reply
  • Fresh and delicious. Almost the last of our cherry tomatoes!!! Sauce coated the fusilli nicely. Small mozzarella pearls are just right!

    • — Betty on September 12, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen-
    This sounds like such a wonderful recipe as are so many of your recipes I’ve made. If you could answer a question for me….I love cherry tomatoes but I don’t like it when you saute them and the skins peel away and you are left with a nice, tasty cooked tomato but that skin is a little tough. Is there any way to get around this or could I use a peeled roma tomato in this recipe. Would that work?
    Thanks so much!

    • — Suellen Horvath on September 12, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Suellen, There’s really no way to get around that skin separating from the tomatoes, but yes, an equivalent amount of peeled Roma tomatoes would work nicely — great idea! Hope you enjoy. 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 12, 2019
      • Reply
      • Can you make ahead and serve later w ur buttermilk chicken on the side?

        • — GWoodell on September 17, 2019
        • Reply
        • Sure — this is equally good hot or cold. Hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on September 17, 2019
          • Reply

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