This caprese salad recipe is an Italian classic made with fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, sweet basil and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. Using fresh and high-quality ingredients is the key to mastering this salad.
Salads are a great way to add color and flavor to your meals and we have amazing salad recipes here at Unicrons in the Kitchen. Try our easy Mediterranean salad, caprese pasta salad and this simple tomato cucumber feta salad if you're looking for flavorful and delicious salads. Today we are going to talk about a classic Italian salad called caprese salad, a beautiful and simple salad made with only three ingredients.
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About this recipe
Caprese (pronounced cah-prey-zay) salad, also known as insalata caprese, is a classic Italian salad made with cow's mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil, featuring the colors of the Italian flag which are white, red and green. It was first made in 1920 on the Isle of Capri and became world famous in the 1950s. Like many other Italian dishes, insalata caprese is popular for it's simplicity and fresh flavor.
This salad is usually seasoned with salt and olive oil or balsamic reduction. It's also common to add some oregano or arugula to this salad. In recent years, buffalo mozzarella is sometimes used instead of cow's mozzarella. This dish is served as an antipasto (starter) in many restaurants.
Classic Italian caprese is made with the following ingredients:
- Mozzarella cheese: Fresh mozzarella cheese is the best for this recipe. If you have an Italian shop near you where you can find fresh homemade mozzarella, use that for this recipe. Otherwise, store-bought mozzarella packed in water would be fine. You can either use a large ball of mozzarella or mozzarella pearls called Bocconcini.
- Tomatoes: You need tomatoes that are fresh, firm and ripe. The tomatoes shouldn't be too hard or too soft for slicing. If making this salad in summer, heirloom tomatoes would be perfect to use. At other times of the year, you can use tomatoes on the vine or cherry tomatoes.
- Basil: Fresh basil leaves are perfect for this recipe.
- Olive oil: You don't need to get an expensive bottle of olive oil, but make sure it's high quality and extra virgin. Extra virgin olive oil gives such great flavor to this dish.
Since you only need a few simple items to make this salad, it's important to use high quality ingredients. This is a perfect salad for any time of the year but it's especially well suited to summer when you can have easy access to fresh tomatoes and basil. It makes a great starter and is so simple to make.
- Slice the mozzarella cheese and the tomatoes.
- Arrange them on a plate by layer alternating slices of mozzarella and tomatoes.
- Top with basil leaves (whole or chopped).
- Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
- Serve immediately.
This is an easy recipe that you can make in no time with just a few simple ingredients. It's an easy Italian salad that everyone would enjoy as an appetizer.
As for the dressing, we love ours with some basil oil or balsamic reduction. It gives the salad a nice subtle sweetness that pairs well with the tomatoes and mozzarella. It's also common to serve caprese with pesto, which compliments the mozzarella very well.
How to eat this salad
Using your fork and knife, transfer a few slices of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella to your plate. Add more salt and pepper if needed and drizzle more olive oil on top. Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into bite size pieces and make sure you have all three components in each bite for maximum flavor.
Frequently asked questions
I'd say this salad tastes much better when made and assembled right before serving. But if you need to make it ahead of time, store the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella in separate containers and assemble with basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil right before serving.
Caprese salad is best served fresh but if you have leftovers, store it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil before serving it.
As mentioned above, this salad is usually served as a starter. You can serve this salad as a starter for dishes such as spinach pesto pasta, Italian beef stew, Italian skillet chicken or Italian sausage pasta if planning an Italian style meal for a weeknight dinner or a party. You can also serve it with minestrone soup for a vegetarian meal.
Here are some variations to consider if you would like to change things up a bit:
- Chopped: Chop all the ingredients into bite size pieces and mix them in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze if desired.
- Cucumber caprese salad: Add one chopped English cucumber to the salad.
- Lettuce caprese salad: To make this salad for a large crowd, you can fill a large salad bowl with chopped lettuce and top it with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
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More Salad Recipes
Italian Caprese Salad Recipe
- 2 large tomatoes
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella
- 8 basil leaves
- 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon balsamic glaze see notes
- black pepper
- Slice the tomatoes into 8 slices. Set aside.
- Slice the mozzarella cheese into 8 slices as well.
- Layer the tomato and mozzarella slices alternatively on a serving plate.
- Top with basil leaves.
- Drizzle olive oil and balsamic glaze on top. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately.
- You can use homemade balsamic glaze for this recipe.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days.