pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella + green olivada

by Amy on 10 April 2012

one of my favorite things about the warmer weather of springtime is the return of our outdoor grill for a good portion of our cooking each week. i’m a huge fan of grilling up burgers, sausages, or chicken, + pairing it with fresh veggies + lighter sides. my number one side dish for accompanying grilled goodness? pasta salad. sure, i like french fries or potato salad as much as anyone else, but it’s pasta salad filled with veggies + local cheese that really makes my heart go pitter-patter.

this past weekend, we had a family cookout + i knew that it was the perfect occasion to try this pasta salad that i had bookmarked a few weeks earlier. and i’m soo glad i did. it was a light, refreshing side dish that balanced wonderfully with the rich, perfectly-grilled hamburgers + bratwursts. the creaminess of the fresh mozzarella, the brightness of the tomatoes, the salty bite of the olive puree + the herby note of the fresh oregano all work perfectly together. surprisingly, even people who aren’t a huge fan of olives liked it. by pureeing the olives, their briny, saltiness comes through in a well-balanced way that won over both olive-lovers + olive-nonbelievers alike – not too shabby!

pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, + green olivada

serves 8-10, adapted from bon appetit


1 garlic clove, peeled
2 cups coarsely chopped pitted green olives (from about 6 ounces unpitted whole olives), divided
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (i substituted soy sauce so it would be vegetarian-friendly)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound gemelli, fusilli, or rotelle pasta
2 pints cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
1 8-ounce package small (cherry-size) fresh mozzarella balls in water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano


with machine running, add garlic clove to processor through feed tube + process until finely chopped; turn off machine. add 1 cup chopped olives, capers, red wine vinegar, anchovy paste or soy sauce, mustard, + crushed red pepper. using 6 on/off turns, process to chop coarsely. with machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup olive oil, forming coarse puree. transfer to bowl; stir in remaining 1 cup olives. season olivada to taste with salt + pepper. (olivada can be made 3 days ahead. cover + refrigerate.)

cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. drain well. transfer drained pasta to large bowl. drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over pasta; toss to coat. cool, stirring occasionally.

add olivada, tomatoes, mozzarella, + oregano to pasta; toss to coat. season to taste with salt + pepper.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Caroline @ chocolate & carrots April 10, 2012 at 9:06 am

I remember this from instagram! Looks divine! 😀

2 nicole @ I am a Honey Bee April 10, 2012 at 9:14 am

this looks lovely. I would def try this with pesto. I pick olives out of everything.

3 amy April 10, 2012 at 9:15 am

this would be great with pesto if you don’t like olives – either a typical basil pesto or an arugula pesto would be fab. or, you could always process up some artichokes if you prefer a flavor like that. the options are endless!

4 Julie @ Table for Two April 10, 2012 at 9:19 am

Oh my, this is so divine!! This looks super delicious and I love that it has dijon mustard in it..that must give it such a great flavor punch!

5 Steph@TheChickpeaChickadee April 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

This looks fabulous. I love pasta salad. This recipe looks wonderful. Looking forward to trying it.

6 Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray April 10, 2012 at 9:32 am

Pasta salad is my favorite grilling side dish!! This one a) is gorgeous and b) looks like perfection. I love the idea of processing the olives so they don’t quite steal the show so much. Yumyum, I need to BBQ something now. :)

7 Rikki April 10, 2012 at 9:38 am

Oh this looks incredible!! I can’t wait for pasta-salad-weather, it’s one of my favorite sides too [: I’m always looking for new pasta salads to try out, I have to add this to my list!!

8 Kathryn April 10, 2012 at 9:39 am

this sounds like such a great salad and some really kicking flavours.

9 elizabeth @ chronic venture April 10, 2012 at 10:22 am

yummm, amy! This looks like such a great pasta salad. always a weakness, and i love the addition of olives!

10 Jen @ Juanita's Cocina April 10, 2012 at 10:30 am

You know what this says to me? It’s SPRING!!!!!!!

I adore pasta salads. And this one would be no different! YUM!

11 Ally Garner April 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

I can’t get enough of pasta salads in the summer! And I love the addition of olives. I could eat them by the jar-full. Yum!!

12 amy April 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm

ally, i’m the same way – i love olives + could eat ’em every day!

13 Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts April 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I love pasta salads in the summer. This looks wonderful, and I love the fun pasta shape too!

14 Ashley @ Kitchen Meets Girl April 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm

YES! This looks phenomenal…we grill out A LOT this time of year, and I’m always looking for a fresh spin on pasta salads! This one looks so fresh and pretty–love!

15 angela@spinachtiger April 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm

It’s time to get out the cherry tomatoes and you did just that, with a wonderful salad that would go with so many grill items. So pretty and I’ll bet it would be great too with that anchovy paste. I’m experimenting a lot with cooking with anchovies. That’s a cute pasta too.

16 Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious April 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm

What an awesome marriage of flavors in here. And I just love the gemelli kind of pasta. It makes me so happy for some reason!

17 cassie April 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I love everything about this, amy. absolutely my kind of meal. stunning!

18 Renee April 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I love that kind of pasta (shape) and the salad looks yummy too. Mmmm those little tomatoes.

19 claire @ the realistic nutritionist April 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I’m pretty sure this will be my new summer pasta go-to. Looks amazing!

20 lesley eats April 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm

love the fusilli. also a fan of bowtie for pasta salad!

21 Mommyof2Girlz/StephD April 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Oh that looks awesome! I can totally see me hanging out on my deck having a bbq with friends and serving them this..yummm! Thanks hun!

22 Jackie @ Domestic Fits April 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I’m all about the olives. This looks amazing!

23 danielle April 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I love the addition of the olive puree – this sounds delish!

24 kristen @ notsodomesticated April 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Beautiful dish!! This would be perfect for any summer picnic! :)

25 lynn April 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm

YOUR BLOG IS ADORABLE!! There. I feel better. Just had to say that. Love this salad, and homemade peeps (homemade peeps!!! How awesome is that!), and granola bars. Yum.

26 amy April 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm

aww, you’re so sweet, lynn – thank you!

27 Jen Laceda @ Tartine and Apron Strings April 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm

pasta salads are so versatile for spring and summer – for picnics! totally loving how simple the flavours are – classic!

28 Choc Chip Uru April 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm

This looks magnificent! I am a huge fan of pasta salad and your homemade one looks much healthier and delicious 😀

Choc Chip Uru

29 Jess April 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I love anything with tomatoes and mozzarella together! Yum!

30 Katia April 11, 2012 at 3:39 am

This pasta recipe is so good and perfect for al fresco dinners and picnic time: easy, tasty and everybody loves it!

31 Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef April 11, 2012 at 8:48 am

i love the sound of this!

32 Rachel @ The Avid Appetite April 11, 2012 at 10:32 am

I love the pasta that you chose for this dish…so beautiful and makes the entire dish feel more fancy! Oh and olives + capers? Yes please!!

33 sportsglutton April 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

Love the use of gemelli in the salad and the touch of saltiness from the olives must have been divine.

34 Carrie's Experimental Kitchen April 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm

This is DEFINITELY my kind of salad! Simple yet packed with flavor. Nice post.

35 Julie at Burnt Carrots April 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

This looks delicious! I totally agree with you on the grill. Its been in the 70’s here and we’ve grilled for dinner every night this week! There is something about the grill that just makes food taste better and life seem easier.

36 Jeff April 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Hello summer salad! This is a salad just calling out for my back deck! I made add a couple extra cloves of garlic, but that’s just for me 😉 I especially love the mozzarella in there, beautiful!

37 amy April 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm

i bet it would be lovely with some garlic cloves added, especially if you add them to the olivada puree so their flavor can really permeate. yum!

38 Sammie April 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I’m usually not a big fan of salads, but this really made my mouth water!! I love all the flavours you added in there, especially the CHEEEEEEESE!!! So delicious!

39 Asmita April 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm

This is such a perfect salad for me. I love it!

40 Megan @ Culinary Chops April 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I am SUCH a sucker for a good pasta salad. I have to be so careful here in NYC, mainly because if I scoop up something yummy at a lunch place, I will have spent well over $10 on lunch before I know it (most salad bars are $4-something a pound here….).

Really great post Amy!

41 Wendy (the weekend gourmet) April 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Love it when I can make dinner with a well-stocked pantry and fridge/freezer! This pizza looks great…naan makes great pizza too!

42 Megan {Country Cleaver} April 19, 2012 at 8:33 am

Wow this looks so fresh and cool – perfect for spring! Just gorgeous!

43 Melissa May 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

I made this for SRC this month and I absolutely loved this pasta salad!! I enjoyed reading through all of your recipes. You have a great blog! Thanks so much for sharing :)

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