Indulge in the juicy, creamy, refreshing elegance of Caprese Salad at home without the high restaurant prices! This simple, quick, and easy-to-make recipe will whisk you away to the Amalfi Coast and is guaranteed to be a hit as an appetizer, side dish, or even a light main course. It captures the essence of Mediterranean cuisine but is elevated by intensely sweet and tangy balsamic reduction (homemade or store-bought) – you’ll never want to enjoy Caprese without it!
Watch How to Make Caprese Salad (Video)
Caprese Salad FAQs
“Caprese,” in Italian, translates to “from Capri,” the name of a small island off the coast of Italy near Naples. It signifies something as being in the style of, or associated with Capri such as Caprese Salad, Caprese pasta, Caprese chicken or Caprese chicken salad.
In the context of Caprese Salad, the name indicates its origin from the island of Capri and its connection to the local flavors and ingredients of the region. The salad is known for its simple yet vibrant combination of fresh mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, and a touch of salt and pepper, often arranged in alternating layers.
Caprese Salad is believed to have originated on the island of Capri, located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy.
In a well-known tale, the tricolor Caprese salad was first served in 1920 at the Hotel Quisisana, crafted specifically for Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, a renowned French-Italian poet and pioneer of the Futurist Movement.
Marinetti was known for his critique of traditional southern Italian cuisine due to its heaviness (including dishes like pizza and pasta), but the layered slices of tomatoes and creamy mozzarella, adorned with fragrant basil, immediately captivated Marinetti and those around him. After love at first bite, Caprese Salad quickly spread across Italy and became as famous as pizza and pasta!
Caprese salad is eaten by using a fork and knife to combine a bite-sized portion of tomato, mozzarella, and basil. You can layer or stack these ingredients on your plate, drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil, and season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste. Some people also like to use bread to soak up the olive oil and juices from the salad.
No, Caprese should be served at room temperature. Chilling Caprese Salad can dull the flavors and textures of its components. Tomatoes lose sweetness and juiciness, mozzarella can become mushy and/or lose creaminess, and basil leaves wilt, darken and loose flavor. To savor the salad’s vibrant colors, fresh textures, and rich tastes, it’s best enjoyed at room temperature shortly after preparation.
Yes, you can make Caprese Salad with a balsamic vinaigrette or balsamic reduction – my favorite way to enjoy it! While traditional Caprese Salad is only drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, some variations include a balsamic reduction or balsamic vinaigrette for a tangy and slightly sweet contrast. However, it’s important to use balsamic vinegar in moderation to avoid overpowering the delicate flavors of the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
To slice tomatoes for a Caprese Salad, follow these steps:
1. Wash and Dry: Wash the tomatoes thoroughly under cold water and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel.
2. Remove the Stem: Use a sharp knife to remove the tough stem area at the top of the tomato.
3. Uniform Slices: Slice the tomatoes into even, round slices. Aim for slices that are about 3/8-inch thick.
4. Avoid Overhandling: Handle the tomato slices gently to prevent them from becoming too mushy or losing their shape.
To slice mozzarella for a Caprese Salad, follow these steps:
1. Drain mozzarella: Drain mozzarella balls for about 15 minutes, pat dry.
2. Use a Sharp Knife: Use a sharp, non-serrated knife to ensure clean cuts through the mozzarella.
3. Even Thickness: Slice the mozzarella into even, round slices, a little thinner than the tomatoes, typically about 1/4-inch thick.
4. Gently Handle: Handle the mozzarella slices gently to maintain their shape and prevent them from breaking apart.
Yes, Caprese Salad is generally considered keto-friendly with approximately 5 net carbs per serving. Caprese salad consists of low-carb ingredients such as tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil which are relatively low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats.
Yes, Caprese Salad is generally considered a healthy option. It’s rich in fresh, whole ingredients like tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil, which provide essential nutrients, vitamins, and healthy fats. Here are a few of the health benefits:
-Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants like lycopene and vitamins such as vitamin C, contributing to heart health, skin health, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
-Mozzarella is a good source of protein and calcium, can support bone health, muscle function, and contribute to a balanced diet, though it should be consumed in moderation due to its saturated fat content.
-Olive oil offers health benefits through its monounsaturated fats for heart health, antioxidants such as vitamin E for anti-inflammatory effects, and potential links to improved brain health, weight management, and reduced chronic disease risks.
-Basil is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese, which contribute to bone health, immune function, and overall wellness. Basil also contains antioxidants like flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory and potential anticancer effects.
Tomato Caprese Salad
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- 2 8 oz. balls mozzarella di bufala in brine or whole milk mozzarella in brine
- 2 pounds medium ripe tomatoes (such as Beefsteak, Red Brandywine, Big Boy, or Purple Cherokee)
- 1 handful (approx. ¼ cup) fresh basil leaves (smaller leaves preferred)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- freshly cracked pepper
- freshly cracked salt (preferably sea salt)
- Drain cheese: Transfer two (8 ounce) balls of mozzarella to a paper towel lined sieve or strainer in the sink for 15 minutes. This brief drain will keep them soft and milky, without any pooling brine on the serving platter.
- Slice tomatoes: Using a sharp knife, slice the stem end off the tomatoes, then proceed to cut into 3/8-inch thick slices, about 12 slices (discard top as well). Place in a single layer on paper towels while you slice the mozzarella.
- Slice mozzarella: Lightly pat the mozzarella dry with paper towels. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
- Layer salad: On a large serving plate/platter, alternate the tomatoes and mozzarella so they are overlapping slightly. Tuck some basil leaves in between the slices and garnish with a few on top.
- Balsamic reduction: Make homemade reduction shortly before serving because it will harden once cooled. Whisk vinegar, honey and olive oil together in a small nonreactive saucepan (nonstick, stainless steel, enamel or glazed finished pans). Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring often, until it coats the back of a spoon, about 6-8 minutes. Don’t reduce too much because it will thicken slightly off heat. If it becomes too thick, stir in a little water over low heat.
- Season: When ready to serve, drizzle the olive oil over the salad and season with freshly cracked pepper. Right before serving, season with freshly cracked salt (don't add salt earlier or the tomatoes will weep). Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve immediately.
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