This variation of the Caprese Salad (pronounced ka-PRAY-ze) is especially fabulous with locally grown in-season tomatoes. This recipe is super simple to throw together as a light lunch, snack, or appetizer. With just tomatoes, cheese, basil, and pesto, you have yourself a yummy meal.
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This particular recipe is my favorite “salad” of all time: Caprese. Maybe this is because it doesn’t contain any lettuce and I am not too much of a lettuce person (haha). I ate the one pictured last night, and felt like I could have licked my plate at the end. Now that is a good salad! And if you love it as much as I do you can get creative with different ways to serve it.
What Is Caprese Salad?
Caprese Salad is a simple Italian recipe consisting of a few fresh ingredients. Commonly served at fancy restaurants, it’s one of those dishes that looks and sounds elaborate but is actually really easy to make. Try it as a light summer lunch or Mediterranean-inspired appetizer.
What Is in Caprese Salad?
Almost every Caprese Salad uses the same standard ingredients: tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Stacked together, they closely resemble the Italian flag! It’s one of the few salads out there that doesn’t have any lettuce.
Grape, Medium Heirloom, or Any Fresh Tomato
The best salads use the freshest tomatoes you can find, ideally grown in your own garden! Any tomato variety will work. For bigger pieces, choose a large tomato like beefsteak or medium heirlooms. If you want bitesized, slice Roma or go for cherry or grap tomatoes instead.
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
Any fresh mozzarella cheese is fine but if you want an authentic (and delicious!) Caprese Salad I highly recommend splurging on the soft Mozzarella Fresca balls.
Fresh Basil Leaves
Fresh basil can easily be grown in an herb garden or purchased fresh from the store. Don’t skip the fresh basil or you’ll wind up with a dish that’s seriously lacking in flavor.
Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil
This is the dressing that tops fresh Caprese Salad and balances out the flavors. While balsamic vinegar is key, it brings out the sweetness in the tomatoes, a light drizzle of olive oil is great as well.
Salt and Pepper
Salt and pepper are key in this dish, don’t be shy!
Caprese Salad with Basil Pesto
I absolutely love to add a bit of homemade basil pesto to my Caprese for extra flavor. You can either put the pesto on top of your salad or mix it in.
How to Make a Caprese Salad (+ Fun Serving Ideas)
Traditionally, Caprese Salad is sliced and served family style. To make one yourself, simply slice up each ingredient, arrange on a platter or large plate, then drizzle with (or even toss with) balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Instead of a large dish, this recipe was originally created for individual servings. These are great as an easy (and healthy) summer lunch or side dish idea when you don’t want to prepare something complicated.
Caprese Salad Skewers
These are a big hit at parties (for hors d’oeuvres or appetizers) and with the kids. To make Caprese Salad skewers, slide a grape or cherry tomato, fresh basil leaf, and small ball of mozzarella cheese onto a large toothpick. You can also repeat the pattern multiple times on a skewer for a larger snack.
Once layered, drizzle the skewer with balsamic vinegar, or you can even boil down the balsamic vinegar with a little honey first to make a glaze. Serve with pesto dip.
Peach Caprese Salad
When you arrange your Caprese Salad include a fresh peach sliced between the tomato and mozzarella. I recommend cutting your peach in a round, thin slice so your layers hold together. This also works well on a platter or skewer!
Caprese Salad With Chicken
For a complete meal, add a cooked chicken to your salad. You can also stuff cooked chicken with salad ingredients (similar to the panini below) for a delicious alternative to regular chicken breasts.
Check out the panini I made, which is just the salad ingredients melted inside two pieces of whole-wheat bread and served with balsamic vinegar for dipping.
Click here for the basil pesto recipe.