Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting the Perfect Caprese Salad

Experience the fresh, vibrant flavours of Italy with this easy Caprese salad recipe. Combining juicy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and aromatic basil, it’s the perfect light dish. Master this classic in your own kitchen.

Servings

 

4

Ready In:

 

10 min

Calories:

 

437

Good For:

 

Lunch

About this Recipe

By: Silvana Lanzetta

The Caprese Salad isn’t merely a dish, it’s a culinary spectacle, a regular feature at our summer family feasts. It was our go-to on sweltering Neapolitan days when even the thought of cooking would make mum break into a sweat.

Have you ever savoured this radiant Italian masterpiece? They say the Italian futurist poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was its first champion, promoting it as an ideal pasta substitute for those keen on watching their waistline.

Picture this: a lavish dinner party at the opulent Quisisana Hotel in Capri in the Roaring Twenties. It was here that the Caprese Salad made its grand entrance. A chef prepared it to satiate the refined palate of the health-conscious poet (and for the record, pasta is not fattening but perfectly healthy, as several scientific studies have confirmed).

Yet, there’s a twist. Some argue that a builder, as patriotic as they come, was the actual brain behind this recipe. His preferred lunch sandwich, brimming with basil, tomato, and mozzarella (reminiscent of anything? The Italian flag, perhaps?) might have served as the inspiration.

 

Caprese salad: slices of tomatoes alternated with sliced mozzarella cheese, and decorated with lots of basil leaves
quisisana Hotel

Quisisana Hotel – Capri

The truth is, the origin of the Caprese Salad is as layered and contested as the dish itself. Was it Marinetti, the patriotic builder, or another hidden culinary maestro? The jury’s still out.

What’s indisputable, though, is how this salad – a visual and gastronomic homage to the Italian flag with its green basil, white mozzarella, and red tomatoes – won over Italians in the early 20th century. Legend has it that it even graced the plate of King Farouk of Egypt when he called for a light meal, thus bestowing upon the Caprese Salad its royal seal of approval.

Rumours also suggest it was a culinary symbol during World War I, born out of Italian nationalism, though the veracity of this claim remains unverified.

No matter its roots, this salad is a titan in contemporary Italian cuisine. It encapsulates the unrivalled freshness of Italian produce and acts as a delightful testament to the virtues of the Mediterranean diet with every mouth-watering bite.

So, how does one whip up a Caprese Salad? The process is simple, but with a few insider tips, you can lift it from enjoyable to extraordinary. Scroll down to learn the secrets of how to make Caprese Salad

oxheart tomato
several mozzarella balls in a blue bowl on a table
a white pot of fresh basil
olive oil being poured in a small glass cup

Nutrition

 

This Caprese salad is not only delicious, but it’s also packed with nutritional benefits. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamins C and K, potassium, and the antioxidant lycopene. The mozzarella provides a solid dose of protein and calcium, while the olive oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

  • Proteins 25% 25%
  • Carbs 20% 20%
  • Fats 55% 55%
Caprese salad: slices of tomatoes alternated with sliced mozzarella cheese, and decorated with lots of basil leaves

Ingredients and Tips

Mozzarella

To whip up a great Caprese salad  go for fresh Mozzarella di Bufala. This amazing cheese, made from the milk of water buffaloes that roam the regions of Campania, Lazio, Apulia, and Molise, is a game-changer for your salad.

It’s got this creamy, slightly tangy flavour that boosts the freshness of your tomatoes and basil. And the texture? It’s soft, moist, and reveals a dreamy creamy centre. Plus, it’s got a “Protected Designation of Origin” (DOP) label, so you know it’s legit.

Here’s the key to a perfect Caprese salad: freshness and a little prep. Get the freshest mozzarella you can find – trust me, it makes all the difference. Warm it up to room temperature to unlock its full flavour power. And here’s a nifty trick – blot your cheese with a paper towel. It gets rid of the extra moisture and keeps your salad from getting soggy.

Tomatoes

The best tomatoes for Caprese Salad are the King Umberto and Oxheart tomatoes.

These tomatoes are something special. With their deliciously rich, sweet yet slightly tangy flavour, they effortlessly elevate the humble Caprese salad into a gastronomic sensation. They pair up with the creamy mozzarella and fragrant basil like a dream team, hitting just the right balance of flavours.

King Umberto and Oxheart tomatoes are heirloom varieties. They are celebrated for their unrivalled flavour and nutritional goodies compared to your everyday tomato. So, not only do they make your Caprese salad taste out-of-this-world delicious, but they also pack a healthy punch!

Now, here’s the icing on the cake – these tomatoes are just the right size to match up with a ball of mozzarella. So, each slice of tomato mirrors the mozzarella slices perfectly. 

But before we use them in our salad, we need to salt each slice and leave them to set so as to drain any extra water (the magic of osmosis), and this is a step that cannot be bypassed.  And it’s not only about getting rid of that extra water. First off, salting gives the tomatoes a bit of a flavour kick. It works like a charm to pull out the water content, leaving behind this deliciously concentrated tomato taste.  

Then, let’s talk about texture, because that’s where the real transformation happens. When the salt starts drawing out the water, it doesn’t leave the tomatoes high and dry. Instead, they turn beautifully firm and slightly soft at the same time. Think less waterlogged and more delectably succulent. Exactly as we want them.

This is the secret to making your salad perfect.

Basil

When you’re crafting the perfect Caprese salad, don’t forget to pay some attention to the basil. It’s not just about choosing any basil, it’s about picking the right variety and ensuring it’s super fresh. Trust me, it can take your salad from good to sensational!

For that quintessential Caprese salad, Sweet Genovese basil is your best bet. This Italian variety is packed with a sweet, vibrant flavour and a captivating aroma that pairs beautifully with the juicy tomatoes and velvety mozzarella.

But remember, it’s not enough to simply choose the right variety. The freshness of your basil is equally vital. Why? Because freshly picked basil leaves have a far more potent and appealing flavour compared to older ones. They add a touch of brightness that beautifully balances the rich, hearty flavours of the other ingredients.

Now, a word of caution – steer clear of bruised basil leaves. They may look harmless, but they’ve lost some of their aromatic oil, the stuff that gives basil its unique character. This means they won’t give your Caprese salad that wonderful aroma and flavour you’re after.

Olive Oil

When it comes to crafting the perfect Caprese salad, every single ingredient counts. After all, it’s a dish renowned for its simplicity, which means there’s nowhere for subpar ingredients to hide. And one ingredient that absolutely deserves your attention is the olive oil.

Opting for a high-quality extra virgin olive oil can truly make a world of difference. Why is that, you ask? Well, extra virgin olive oil is made from pure, cold-pressed olives, which means it retains more of the natural flavours and health benefits compared to other types of olive oil.

This luxurious oil adds a layer of depth to your Caprese salad with its fruity, slightly bitter, and mildly peppery notes. It’s like the magic glue that brings the creamy mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and fragrant basil together, creating a beautiful harmony of flavours in every bite.

Remember, a Caprese salad is only as good as the ingredients you use. And when those ingredients are as simple and minimal as this, their quality becomes even more critical. So, invest in a bottle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Not only will your Caprese salad taste better, but it will also be a testament to the beauty of using fresh, high-quality ingredients.

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Caprese salad: slices of tomatoes alternated with sliced mozzarella cheese, and decorated with lots of basil leaves

easy caprese salad recipe


  • Author: Silvana Lanzetta
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 portions 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Ingredients

Scale

810 tomatoes (King Umberto (Fiascone) variety, classic round, or salad oxheart)

400 grams of high-quality fresh buffalo mozzarella or fior di latte

More fresh basil

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

4 tablespoons of high-quality extra virgin olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste


Instructions

1. Begin with your fresh, ripe tomatoes. Clean them under cool running water and gently pat them dry using a clean tea towel. Once they’re dry, use a sharp knife to carefully slice them into rounds about 6 – 7 mm thick.

2. Spread your tomato slices onto a wooden chopping board, leaving some space in between each one. Now, lightly sprinkle each slice with a pinch of salt, letting the flavour seep into the tomatoes. 

3. Let’s move on to the mozzarella. Select a fresh, high-quality mozzarella and slice it, mirroring the thickness of your tomato slices. Mozzarella often holds a lot of moisture, so lightly press each slice with a clean cotton cloth to soak up any excess water. This step ensures that your salad isn’t soggy, but instead fresh and crisp.

4. Now, onto the assembly of your Caprese salad. Choose a serving plate and create a bed of fresh basil leaves on the bottom. The fragrance from the basil will subtly infuse into the rest of the ingredients, creating an added layer of complexity to your salad.

5. Start layering on your plate. Begin with a slice of tomato, follow it with a slice of mozzarella, and repeat this process. Remember, after every 2 – 3 pairs, tuck in a few fresh basil leaves for that extra burst of flavour. 

6. As a finishing touch, sprinkle your assembled salad with a hint of dried oregano. If your taste leans towards a bit of spice, you can also add a light dusting of freshly grind black pepper. Scatter a few more basil leaves for good measure.

7. Finally, round out the ensemble with a generous drizzle of the best quality olive oil you can find. The oil will tie all the flavours together and provide that classic Mediterranean feel.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Vegetables
  • Cuisine: Italian
Recipe Card powered byTasty Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the ingredients for a Caprese salad?

To make a delicious Caprese salad, you’ll need just a handful of ingredients, but each one plays a crucial role in creating its exquisite flavours. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Tomatoes: Look for ripe, juicy, and preferably vine-ripened tomatoes. Varieties like King Umberto and Oxheart tomatoes work beautifully.

  2. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese: Opt for the creamy and delicate buffalo mozzarella if you can find it. Alternatively, regular fresh mozzarella will work just fine. Slice it into thick rounds mirroring the sliced tomatoes.

  3. Fresh Basil: Seek out aromatic basil leaves for that burst of fragrance. The sweet and slightly peppery notes of fresh basil truly elevate the salad. Pluck the freshest, juiciest leaves from the stems and place them on the platter with the other ingredients.

  4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This luscious golden liquid is a fundamental part of the Caprese salad dressing. Choose a good-quality extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the salad and enhance its flavors.

  5. Oregano: Its fragrance adds depth and complexity, complementing the sweetness of the tomatoes and the creaminess of the mozzarella. Sprinkle it sparingly over the salad.

  6. Salt and Pepper: These seasonings bring out the natural tastes of the ingredients. A sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper will do wonders in balancing the flavours.

How healthy is Caprese?

Caprese salad is generally considered a healthy option due to its fresh and nutritious ingredients. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of Caprese salad components:

1. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium and antioxidants. They are known for their lycopene content, which has been associated with various health benefits, including reducing the risk of certain cancers and promoting heart health.

2. Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella cheese, particularly the fresh variety used in Caprese salad, is a good source of protein and calcium. It also contains essential vitamins and minerals. However, it is important to consume cheese in moderation due to its calorie and fat content.

3. Basil: Basil is not only a fragrant herb but also a good source of vitamin K, which plays a vital role in blood clotting and bone health. It also contains antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds.

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The use of extra virgin olive oil in Caprese salad provides healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It has been associated with various health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, improving heart health, and promoting healthy aging.

Overall, Caprese salad can be a healthy choice when prepared with fresh, high-quality ingredients. It offers a good balance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. However, keep in mind portion sizes, especially if you’re watching your calorie intake or have specific dietary considerations.

It’s worth noting that personal health goals and dietary needs can vary. If you have any specific health concerns or dietary restrictions, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to ensure Caprese salad aligns with your individual nutritional needs.

What does the Italian term Caprese mean?

The Italian term “Caprese” refers to something that originates from or is related to the island of Capri, located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Naples, Italy. Specifically, in the context of food, “Caprese” is used to describe dishes or ingredients associated with the culinary traditions of Capri.

The word “Caprese” itself is derived from the name of the island, Capri. It is often used to indicate a connection to the island’s cuisine or a particular style of preparation that reflects the flavours and ingredients found in the region. One famous example is the Caprese salad, which is a simple yet iconic dish featuring fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, and olive oil, representing the vibrant and rustic flavours of Capri.

So, when you come across the term “Caprese” in the world of food, it’s a nod to the culinary heritage of Capri, evoking images of sunny Mediterranean landscapes, delicious ingredients, and the rich traditions of Italian cuisine.

What do you eat with Caprese salad?

When enjoying Caprese salad, it pairs wonderfully with high-quality bread that complements its flavours and textures. Here are some options to consider:

1. Artisanal Sourdough: Serve the Caprese salad with slices of crusty, artisanal sourdough bread. The tangy notes of the sourdough complement the fresh ingredients of the salad, creating a delightful combination.

2. Ciabatta: Opt for a high-quality ciabatta bread with its characteristic airy interior and crispy crust. The chewy texture of ciabatta provides a satisfying contrast to the salad’s juicy tomatoes and creamy mozzarella.

3. Baguette: Look for a premium baguette, preferably with a crispy crust and a soft interior. The simplicity of a well-made baguette allows the flavours of the Caprese salad to shine, creating a delightful combination.

Remember, investing in high-quality bread enhances the overall dining experience and complements the fresh ingredients of the Caprese salad. Seek out bakeries or specialty shops that offer artisanal bread made with quality ingredients and traditional baking methods.

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

“Ciao, I’m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, I’ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. I’ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and let’s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!”

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