Have you ever tasted a new ingredient and thought, “Now this is a game-changer”? I can remember a few times in my life: Maldon sea salt, really good dark chocolate, European butter, and most of all, six years ago when we were on our honeymoon in Italy and I tasted buffalo mozzarella for the first time. Previously, I’d had no idea that a buffalo’s finest talent was the ability to produce cheese that is so far superior to a cow’s that it practically deserves its own food group. But on the island of Capri, where we spent 7 blissful days, its famous Caprese salad is made using the creamiest, most mouthwatering buffalo mozzarella and I’ll never forget the taste as long as I live. (It didn’t hurt that we were devouring it while surrounded by ancient buildings covered in bougainvillea and endless ocean views, but that’s beside the point.)

I’ve tried to recreate those flavors ever since, and it’s not until recently when I was able to score some really fresh buffalo mozzarella from Whole Foods that I could come close. This caprese penne pasta is one of our go-to weeknight meals: it’s bursting with our favorite fresh flavors and takes literally 10 minutes to prepare from start-to-finish. The classic trio of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella elevates cooked whole wheat penne, and I like to use a high-quality store-bought pesto to make things really easy on myself.

Keep scrolling for the recipe, and I’d love to hear in the comments: What ingredient discovery was a total game-changer for you in the kitchen?

*photo: Kate LeSueur


Caprese Pesto Penne

Serves 4

Easy Caprese Pesto Penne

By Camille Styles


  • 1 pound whole wheat penne
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 - 4 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto, store-bought or homemade
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella (buffalo if you can get your hands on it!), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • coarse sea salt, to taste


  1. Bring a big pot of water to a boil, add a liberal dose of salt, then cook penne according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil to medium. Add garlic and cook, stirring continuously, for 30 seconds until it begins to turn pale golden. Add cherry tomatoes and continue stirring and cooking for 2 - 3 minutes, just until tomatoes start to soften.
  3. Add arugula to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds, then add pasta, mozzarella, and basil pesto. Toss everything together until pasta is warmed through and everything is lightly coated in pesto. Sprinkle with pine nuts and a pinch of salt, drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil, and serve, passing more pesto at the table as needed.

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Comments (13)
  1. 1
    gabriella November 4, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Oh this looks delicious! Giving this a try next week 🙂


  2. 2
    Sarah November 4, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Looks great! What brand(s) of store bought pesto do you recommend?

  3. 3
    Bella B November 4, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    I got so hungry reading this! I am so involve with this dish I can’t wait to try it

    xoxoBella | http://xoxobella.com

  4. 4
    Danette November 5, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Look yummy! Will defiantly try this .. Thanks for sharing!

  5. 5
    Gaby Dalkin November 8, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    this may be one of my favorite pasta dishes! buffalo mozzarella IS life changing!

  6. 6
    Carolynne June 29, 2016 at 11:44 am

    I never thought of putting mint in pesto, I’m going to try this for sure. Thank you.

  7. 7
    Vicky C November 7, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Just made this for dinner tonight. It was a hit! My husband said that it was restaurant quality. Thank you for a new favorite dish!

  8. 8
    Sharon Hewitt September 25, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    I loved this and can’t wait to make it again!

  9. 9
    Sheryl Santos June 22, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    Can this be made a day ahead?

    • Camille Styles June 23, 2019 at 8:55 am

      Hey Sheryl! Ordinarily I wouldn’t recommend making pasta a day ahead, but since all these ingredients are pretty sturdy, I definitely think you could! Add the arugula just before serving, and maybe try it as a cold “pasta salad” idea!

  10. 10
    Debi July 6, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    Looks delish and am going to try this. Hard to find Bufalo mozzarella so do you think I could use feta