Learn how to make the best Caprese salad (Insalata Caprese)! Plus, learn the proper Caprese pronunciation, if it’s healthy, and what to serve with this classic Italian salad.
Caprese salad is a classic Italian recipe and one of the most delicious summer salads around. This recipe exemplifies just how wonderful simple dishes can be when made with just the right combination of ingredients.
This simple recipe is one of my favorite salads during the summer months. It’s the perfect salad to showcase juicy farmer’s markets or garden tomatoes and basil. I’ll show you how to make the classic recipe as well as some variations.
Have you ever wondered what “Caprese” means in Italian in regards to this salad? Let’s find out the answer as we learn how to make the best Caprese salad.
What does Caprese Mean?
The word Caprese refers to being from the island of Capri. This beautiful island is situated just off the coast of Naples, in the region of Campania.
Tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) are both well-known specialties of the Campagnia region. In fact, San Marzano DOP and Mozzarella di Bufala DOP both must be produced from start to finish in this area. It’s no surprise then that Caprese salad originated on the island of Capri.
Italian foods can be tricky for English speakers to pronounce. Especially words like Bruschetta, which is pronounced broo·skeh·tuh. If you want to pronounce Caprese properly, say it like this: kuh·pray·zay.
What is Caprese Salad?
Caprese is a simple Italian salad made with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves. This is a classic summer Italian flavor combination, and this festive dish features the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green!
It’s believed that Caprese salad was the invention of a patriotic stonemason in the 1920s, just after World War I. He created this delicious and beautiful salad to represent the red, white, and green Italian flag. Insalata Caprese really became popular in the 1950s when it became a famous dish on the Island of Capri and beyond.
How to Make Caprese
Caprese is made with just a few simple ingredients and after you make it once, you won’t need a recipe again. However, to make the best Caprese, there are a few guidelines to follow.
Insalata Caprese was originally made with just tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and finished with olive oil, salt, and white pepper.
What Type of Tomatoes to Use
The type of tomato you use for Caprese doesn’t matter as much as the quality. Choose perfectly ripe, juicy, and flavorful tomatoes. I like to use red heirloom tomatoes when possible.
Originally, Re Umberto or Fiascone tomatoes from around the Amalfi Coast were used. Italian plum tomatoes such as Roma or San Marzano are similar and could be used for a traditional Caprese.
What Type of Mozzarella to Use
Traditional Caprese salad is made with fresh cow’s milk mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella. Italian mozzarella di bufala is very soft and creamy, and not at all stringy like American mozzarella. This is due to the water buffalos’ diet of grazing in the swampy pastures of the region.
Some people use burrata cheese. Burrata is much creamier and doesn’t slice well, but can be torn or left whole. Fresh mozzarella (Fior di latte) and burrata should always be served at room temperature, as they lose their flavor when cold.
Caprese Salad Dressing
Caprese salad is traditionally dressed only with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
This salad has evolved and today many people like to also add balsamic vinegar and even a bit of basil oil. Opt for a balsamic glaze for a thicker balsamic that holds its shape. My favorite is the 25-barrel-aged balsamic from il fustino. I have also tried the Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze and found it too thick and sweet. For a classic Caprese, less is more when it comes to dressing.
This recipe always results in a beautiful presentation. For a classic Caprese salad, arrange thick slices of tomato, creamy mozzarella, and basil leaves on a serving platter. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of flaky sea salt and pepper.
Is Caprese Salad Healthy and Good for Weight Loss?
An easy Caprese salad is a great option for healthy eating, especially if you like to follow a Mediterranean Diet.
Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A and C. They’re also low in calories and high in fiber. Mozzarella cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. And basil is a good source of antioxidants.
Is Caprese salad good for weight loss? The answer is yes! Caprese salad is a great option if you’re trying to lose weight. The salad is low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber helps to keep you feeling full, so you’re less likely to snack between meals.
One serving of Caprese salad has about:
- 150 Calories
- 5 grams of carbohydrates
- 11 grams of protein
- 11 grams of fat
If you’re watching your calorie intake, you can easily make a few changes to the recipe to reduce the number of calories. For example, you could use less mozzarella cheese or swap it for a lower-fat cheese. You could also use a smaller amount of olive oil and bulk up your dish with greens.
What to Serve with Caprese Salad
You may be wondering what to eat with Caprese salad. Serve as a side dish or main course. As the main course, I like to add it to a large bowl of arugula tossed with more oil and vinegar with olives on the side.
As a side dish for dinner, Caprese would be great with any other Italian dishes such as pasta. This refreshing salad is also a great veggie side dish when you’re grilling. This beautiful salad is a family favorite and is one of my favorite recipes to bring to a party.
Cherry Tomato Caprese
For a “chopped” cherry tomato Caprese salad, use halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and fresh basil leaves. Arrange on a platter or toss in a bowl.
Living in California, I love to add avocado to Caprese. Creamy avocado slices make a great dairy-free swap for mozzarella.
To make Caprese salad skewers, simply thread cherry or grape tomatoes, ciliegine mozzarella, and basil leaves onto cocktail picks and arrange on a serving platter.
Burrata falls apart and does not cut into slices the way mozzarella does. To make a Burrata Caprese, arrange the tomatoes and basil on a plate and keep the burrata ball whole.
Make bruschetta the traditional way, but instead of the pomodoro topping, top with slices of mozzarella and tomato and finish with basil, salt and pepper.
The best vegan Mozzarella I’ve found is from Myoko’s. However, I prefer to simply omit the cheese altogether and use avocado instead.
- 3 medium heirloom tomatoes
- 8-oz. fresh mozzarella
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- high-quality extra virgin olive oil
- flaky sea salt
- freshly cracked black or white pepper
- aged balsamic vinegar (optional)
- basil oil (optional)
- To make your Caprese Salad, slice the tomatoes and mozzarella crosswise into ½-inch thick slices.
- On a serving plate or platter, arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices, in an overlapping pattern alternating tomatoes and cheese.
- Tuck fresh basil leaves between the slices and garnish the Caprese salad as you would like.
- Drizzle the tomato and mozzarella salad with olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of balsamic and/or basil oil if desired.
Caprese salad was not traditionally made with balsamic vinegar or pesto/basil oil. It was only made with 4 ingredients: Re Umberto or Fiascone tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, and olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Today many people enjoy the flavor of balsamic vinegar added to Caprese salad. My favorite balsamic to use here is the 25-Year Barrel-Aged Balsamic from Il Fustino.
Basil oil has a pesto-like flavor and is made by blending fresh basil, olive oil, a clove of garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. It can add a lot of flavor to Caprese but is not traditional.
Caprese salad can be made up to one hour in advance, but not any longer as the ingredients can dry out too much.
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Blazing Bella Traditional Aged Balsamic Vinegar - Modena Italy Premium Reserve 16.9 fl.oz (500ml)
Bionaturae Olive Oil Extra Virgin | Organic Olive Oil | Non-GMO | USDA Certified Organic | Made In Italy | 100% Authentic Italian Olive Oil | 25.4 fl oz (750 ml)
Maldon Salt, Sea Salt Flakes, 8.5 oz (240 g), Kosher, Natural, Handcrafted, Gourmet, Pyramid Crystals
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 157Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 11g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.