This is a quick and easy recipe that is both impressive and delicious. As visually beautiful as it is tasty, this classic Caprese salad is elegant in its simplicity.
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I adore this salad and order it whenever I see it on a menu. I love the freshness of the tomato, the creaminess, and saltiness of the mozzarella, the sweet, tanginess of the balsamic drizzle. I can’t think of anything easier or more delicious. It is the epitome of great Italian cuisine: a couple of fresh ingredients, a perfect marriage of flavors and texture, colorful and delicious.
Yet, why is it on so many menus and rare to get a truly amazing Caprese salad? I am always disappointed when I cut into a watery, flavorless tomato or rubbery mozzarella. A great classic Caprese salad is dependent on the best and the freshest of ingredients.
The Caprese salad originated in the early 1920s in post-WWI Italy. National pride took over the country and this salad incorporated local flavors and the colors of the Italian flag. By the 1950s, the salad appeared, for the first time, on a menu in the Isle of Capri at the Trattoria da Vincenzo.
Tips for making the best Classic Caprese Salad
- Purchase the best ingredients that you can afford. Because the dish has so few ingredients, quality matters.
- Use a good, fresh mozzarella cheese. Buffalo mozzarella is creamier and more flavorful than cow’s milk mozzarella. But if you can’t find buffalo mozzarella, find a fresh cow’s milk cheese. Don’t use the stringy, pizza cheese.
- Choose tomatoes that are not mushy, but not so firm that they are hard to slice. They should be a bright orange/red color. Summer produces the most flavorful tomatoes. Try buying them from your local farmer’s market for the best-tasting tomatoes.
- Choose basil leaves that are bright green and smaller in size. The smaller leaves are more fragrant, with a sweeter taste. Use the larger leaves to make pesto.
- Pick a balsamic that is made in Modena or Reggio Emilia for the best flavor and dark, rich consistency. It should be thicker than regular vinegar, fruity and sweet, but still very tart.
- Liberally salt the tomatoes before assembling the salad and place on a paper towel lined plate to release some of their moisture. This will help intensify the tomato’s flavor.
CLASSIC CAPRESE SALAD
- Yield: Serves 4 - 6 1x
A quick and easy recipe that is both delicious and impressive. Fresh tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and sweet, tart balsamic drizzle make for a simple, easy and elegant salad.
- 2 cups good quality Modena balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 ripe tomatoes
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pound ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, thickly sliced
- Large bunch of fresh basil
- Good quality olive oil for drizzling
- In a saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar and honey. Stir to combine and bring to a gentle boil over low heat. Cook, stirring, until the vinegar has reduced to a thick syrup, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Lay several layers of paper towel on a large plate. Set aside.
- Slice the tomatoes into thick slices and liberally salt both sides with Kosher salt. Lay the slices on the plate and allow the salt to pull juice from the tomatoes. Allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes.
- To assemble the salad, lay a tomato slice, then a slice of mozzarella cheese half on top of the tomato, followed by another slice of tomato and cheese. Tuck a basil leave in between the slices of tomato and cheese.
- Drizzle the salad with the balsamic reduction. Then drizzle a bit of the olive oil, then a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.
- Garnish the plate with a few sprigs of basil.
To save time, you can buy a balsamic vinegar syrup instead of reducing your own.
- Serving Size: 1
Do you need a few more recipes for great salads? Give these quick and easy recipes a try: