What Is a Caprese Salad?
Caprese salad (known as insalata Caprese in Italy) is an Italian salad that features basil leaves, mozzarella, and summer tomatoes. Each of the three main components represents a color from the Italian flag: bright green layers of fresh basil leaves, snowy white mozzarella cheese, and bright red slices of summer tomatoes, all sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. The summer salad is typically served as an appetizer or side dish in the summertime when fresh tomatoes are abundant.
5 Caprese Salad Variations
In Italy, a traditional insalata Caprese is served in a layered form, with thick slices of tomatoes topped with equal-size slices of mozzarella cheese, each garnished with a single basil leaf. But that's not the only way to enjoy the flavors of this summer salad. Check out these Caprese salad variations:
- Caprese salad skewers. Turn Caprese salad into finger food by threading small mozzarella balls onto skewers with cherry tomatoes, with a basil leaf in between each component.
- Caprese salad with burrata. For an added layer of decadence, make a burrata Caprese salad. Place a ball of creamy fresh burrata in the middle of a serving platter, and arrange the tomato salad around the cheese. Serve with crusty bread.
- Avocado Caprese salad. For a vegan alternative, try replacing the mozzarella cheese in Caprese salad with slices of creamy avocado.
- Caprese grilled cheese. So you've discovered Caprese salad pairs perfectly with crusty bread. Why not turn it into a grilled cheese? Swap the fresh basil for pesto and layer sliced mozzarella with slices of ripe tomato between two slices of country-style bread. Grill in a panini press or on the stovetop.
- Heirloom tomato Caprese salad. In the summertime, when farmers’ markets are overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, there's nothing better (or easier) to do with the bounty than show them off in a Caprese salad. It might not have the traditional coloring of an Italian insalata Caprese, but it will still be tasty.
Classic Caprese Salad Recipe
Prep Time10 min
Total Time10 min
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably mozzarella di bufala, cold
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes, room temperature
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Flaky sea salt
- 8–10 fresh basil leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Slice the cold mozzarella cheese about ¼ inch thick and set on a plate, covered, at room temperature.
- Slice the tomatoes about ¼ inch thick and generously sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
- When the cheese has come to room temperature, compose the salad. On a serving platter, top each tomato slice with a slice of mozzarella and one basil leaf. Drizzle any leftover tomato liquid over the salad.
- Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper.
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