A classic Italian Caprese Salad (also known as insalata caprese) is another classic from the island of Capri. All you need is fresh mozzarella, ripe whole tomatoes and bright green fresh basil to make a simple juicy and creamy salad for your familiy. It's also such a time saver with 10 minutes prep when you want a salad or side dish in a hurry that's still a show stopper.
The Caprese Salad, or "Insalata Caprese" in Italian, is a creation as rich in history as it is in taste. Legend has it that this salad was first crafted as a tribute to the colors of the Italian flag, with tomatoes representing red, mozzarella symbolizing white, and fresh basil embodying green. Its simplicity became a hallmark of the Mediterranean diet, emphasizing the use of high-quality, seasonal ingredients.
This summer salad celebrates the essence of Italian cuisine with its vibrant colors, fresh ingredients, and the perfect harmony of flavors.
Caprese Salad Ingredients
Making a caprese salad is easy and the only part of this recipe you should be focused on, is using fresh ingredients. The majority of Italian recipes are based around simplicity using quality ingredients.
Fresh, ripe tomatoes: Juicy plump tomatoes are the way to go here.
Buffalo mozzarella or fresh mozzarella: This is the one ingredient that you should be prepared to spend a little more on for the best quality. I say this because you can very easily end up paying for off white mozzarella. It should be white and fresh. Here we have used Mozzarella di buffalo but you can use any fresh mozzarella. Mozzarella di buffalo has great texture, is smooth, and has a high fat content making the overall experience rich. It's mozzarella made from the milk of the water buffalo as opposed to mozzarella made from a cow which is firmer.
Fresh basil leaves: Again, as fresh as you can find them. Grow your own herbs if you can and pluck them right before using them. I also find that the smaller basil leaves from the center are sweeter to finish off a garnish.
Extra-virgin olive oil: Each time I touch on quality ingredients, it seems to get more and more important. Try to use the very best quality here, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.
Balsamic glaze (optional): Balsamic is not authentic nor traditionally used in an Italian Caprese Salad. We are very divided on this as a family so it's served seperately on a 'help yourself' basis.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper: No table salt should be used here especially if you've gone out of your way to use the best quality ingredients. The salt quality is just as important so we use this salt and pepper which is a blend of sea salt and fresh black pepper. We also alternate to Maldons and this fresh black pepper.
How To Make Italian Caprese Salad
Prepare the Ingredients: Wash and slice the tomatoes into ¼-inch thick rounds. Slice the fresh mozzarella into rounds of similar thickness.
2. Assemble the Caprese Salad: On a serving platter, arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices alternately, creating a visually pleasing pattern.
3. Add Fresh Basil: Tuck fresh basil leaves between the tomato and mozzarella slices. The amount of basil can be adjusted based on personal preference.
4. Drizzle with Olive Oil: Generously drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the tomato and mozzarella slices. This enhances the flavors and adds a rich, fruity note.
5. Season with Salt and Pepper: Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over the salad to taste. The salt brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and balances the creaminess of the mozzarella.
6. Optional Balsamic Glaze: For an extra touch of sweetness and acidity, you can add a drizzle of balsamic glaze over the salad. This step is optional and can be adjusted based on personal preference.
7. Serve Immediately: Italian Caprese Salad is best enjoyed immediately after assembling to maintain the freshness of the ingredients.
Key Components Of A Traditional Caprese Salad Include:
- Choose tomatoes at the peak of ripeness, preferably heirloom or vine-ripened varieties, for the best flavor. Opt for high-quality mozzarella, whether traditional buffalo or fresh cow's milk mozzarella.
2. Slicing and Arranging:
- Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into uniform rounds to create a visually appealing presentation. Arrange them alternately on a serving platter, with fresh basil leaves nestled in between.
- Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil generously over the tomatoes and mozzarella. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to enhance the natural flavors. For an extra touch, you can add a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
4. Embracing Creativity:
- While the classic Caprese is a masterpiece on its own, don't hesitate to add your own creative flair. Consider incorporating heirloom tomato varieties, flavored olive oils, or a sprinkle of pine nuts for an extra crunch.
Recipe Notes: Choose tomatoes at the peak of ripeness, preferably heirloom or vine-ripened varieties, for the best flavor. Opt for high-quality mozzarella, whether traditional buffalo or fresh cow's milk mozzarella.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips for Italian Caprese Salad:
- Prep Ingredients in Advance:
- Wash and slice the tomatoes and mozzarella a few hours before serving. Keep them separate and refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the salad.
- Prep Basil Just Before Serving:
- Basil tends to wilt quickly, so it's best to pick fresh basil leaves and add them to the salad just before serving. You can store washed and dried basil leaves in a paper towel in the refrigerator for a short time.
- Assemble Right Before Serving:
- Assemble the Caprese Salad just before serving to ensure the freshness of the ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil, season, and garnish with basil leaves at the last minute.
- If you have leftover Caprese Salad, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, keep in mind that tomatoes can lose their flavor and texture when refrigerated, so it's best to consume the salad within a day.
- Separate Ingredients:
- To maintain the individual flavors and textures, store the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil separately if possible. Assemble them when ready to serve.
- Avoid Dressing in Advance:
- It's recommended not to dress the entire salad in advance, especially if you're using a balsamic glaze. Add the dressing just before serving to prevent the salad from becoming soggy.
- Drizzle Olive Oil Before Serving:
- If you've prepped the salad in advance, drizzle fresh extra-virgin olive oil over it just before serving to revive the flavors.
- Serve at Room Temperature:
- If the salad has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature for a short time before serving. This helps to enhance the flavors.
- Use Leftovers Creatively:
- If you have leftover Caprese Salad, consider using it as a topping for bruschetta, in a sandwich, or as a filling for a wrap the next day.
By following these make-ahead and storage tips, you can enjoy the freshness and vibrant flavors of your Italian Caprese Salad, whether prepared for an upcoming event or enjoyed as a quick and delicious meal.
Optional Additions: While a traditional Caprese salad sticks to these core ingredients, some variations may include additional elements for added flavor and creativity. Common additions or variations include balsamic glaze, a sprinkle of pine nuts, or a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
More Capreses Salad Ideas
Caprese Salad (Insalata Caprese)
- 4 large ripe whole tomatoes, medium slices
- 300 grams fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 to 3 tbsps. Balsamic glaze
- Arrange the tomato slices on a platter or plate overlapping slightly.4 large ripe whole tomatoes, medium slices
- Layer the mozzarella cheese between each slice of tomato.300 grams fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- Now add a basil leave between the layers of tomato and mozzarella.1 handful fresh basil leaves
- Drizzle all over with extra virgin olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt.extra virgin olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Adding a drizzle of balsamic glaze or vinegar over the caprese salad is optional and can be done just before serving.2 to 3 tbsps. Balsamic glaze
- Serve for lunch with ciabatta or as a side dish with mains for dinner.
- All Italian deli's
- Some Spar outlets
- Most Woolworths stores