Caprese salad is a simple and classic Italian salad made with juicy ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper. It’s an easy throw-together salad that makes a wonderful appetizer any time of the year.
What is Caprese Salad?
Caprese salad (Insalata Caprese) is an Italian classic salad that is now known all over the world. Insalata Capri means the salad from Capri island as that’s where it originated from in the 1950s.
This simple Italian salad is made with sliced tomato, mozzarella, fresh sweet basil leaves, salt, pepper, and olive oil. The colors of the ingredients represent the Italian flag, and it’s usually served as an antipasto (appetizer) rather than a side dish.
There are many variations of the Caprese salad, in the West, it is often made with cherry tomatoes and baby mozzarella cheese balls. Other versions are made with balsamic reduction drizzle (like I did in this recipe), or even pesto. Sometimes it’s paired with arugula, romaine lettuce, and olives.
How to Make Caprese Salad
If you have 10 minutes on your hands, and a handful of the ingredients, you can totally whip this up really quickly and easily.
Here’s what you’ll need to make Caprese salad:
- Tomatoes: Whether you’re using plum tomatoes, or heirloom tomatoes, just make sure that they’re fresh, ripe, and red.
- Mozzarella cheese: You need fresh whole-milk mozzarella in this recipe, low-moisture mozzarella won’t work. Use high-quality cow’s or buffalo mozzarella, as rubbery mozzarella will ruin the dish. You can also substitute with burrata if you like.
- Basil leaves: Use fresh basil leaves from your garden if you have them. Harvest right before you serve the salad for the best result.
- Extra virgin olive oil, and salt are a must. Ground black pepper and balsamic reduction are optional but highly recommended.
- Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese into ¼ inch thick slices.
- Arrange on a serving platter by alternating a slice of tomato with a slice of mozzarella. Tuck in fresh basil leaves between the slices.
- Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or reduction/glaze if using and serve!
Pair this beautiful salad with a glass of good quality Italian wine, and this will transform your tastebuds to the heart of Italy!
What Is Balsamic Reduction and Can I Omit It?
The balsamic glaze is made by reducing balsamic vinegar into a thick syrupy glaze over medium-low heat, adding a little bit of honey or brown sugar for sweetness. It’s not a classic ingredient in Caprese salad, and it’s not necessary. But I personally really like it as it adds a lovely tangy-sweet flavor to the salad.
If you’re making this salad during the summer when the tomatoes are at their peak, juicy, ripe and fresh then you can omit the balsamic glaze. But I strongly recommend that you add it if you’re making it at other times in the year when tomatoes are not in season.
For more fresh salad recipes, check out my watermelon and feta salad, cucumber tomato and tahini salad, they’re so fresh and easy! Another great summer salad is this Greek Orzo Salad, and this delicious and filling Caesar Pasta Salad.
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- 3 large ripe tomatoes sliced into ¼ inch thickness
- 12 ounces (350g) fresh mozzarella cheese sliced into ¼ inch thickness
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons balsamic reduction/glaze optional
- Layer the tomato and mozzarella slices in a serving platter alternating between the two. Tuck in fresh basil leaves between every slice of tomato and mozzarella. Arrange the ingredients so you're able to see the layers in the platter. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Season with salt, pepper, and drizzle with balsamic reduction/glaze if using.
- The balsamic reduction is made by adding ½ cup of balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup to the vinegar. Allow it to reduce on medium-low heat while stirring frequently until it slightly thickens. Remove from heat, and allow it to come to room temperature before you drizzle it over the salad.
- You can substitute the tomato with cherry tomatoes, and use baby mozzarella balls for the salad.
- Drizzle with pesto for extra flavor.
- I like to serve this salad with a piece of crusty bread on the side to soak up all the juices left in the platter after finishing the salad.