Heirloom tomatoes are in season this summer. Heirloom tomatoes that are fully ripe and luscious in all hues of red, yellow, and orange. This summer, my friends gave me some from their gardens, and when they’re sliced and dusted with a bit flaky salt and olive oil, they’re just right.
I had to stop myself from passing Whole Foods’ overflowing bins one more time in order to get some supplies and use those delicious tomatoes in a large, audacious recipe. What could be better than a traditional Caprese salad made with just a few basic ingredients?
Slices of tomato and mozzarella are used in classic Caprese salads, which are also heavily garnished with basil, salt, and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Salad of Capri is what the Caprese salad (insalata Caprese) is actually called. Italian island Capri is located in the Mediterranean. Although I cannot vouch for the fact that it actually came from there, it is Italian and wonderful.
At your summer events, a well-made Caprese salad will be a hit, but it’s also quick and easy to make so you can have it every weeknight.
The Best Caprese Salad Recipe
Utilizing top-notch ingredients is the secret to creating a Caprese salad that is worth eating. I’m done now!
1) Juicy, mature tomatoes
In other words, Caprese salads are only appropriate during the summer. Although I used a variety of heirloom tomatoes, good garden tomatoes will also work fantastically.
For simplicity and the cleanest cuts, I advise using a serrated knife (affiliate links to my favorite and a more reasonably priced model).
2) Excellent mozza (or burrata)
If you can, try to find fresh mozzarella. If not, look for mozzarella balls that are water-packed. Vacuum-sealed mozzarella balls typically have a rubbery texture and don’t absorb tomato juice and olive oil as well as other varieties do.
My only significant departure from traditional Caprese salads was the substitution of burrata for mozzarella. Burrata is mozzarella with a delicious inside made of cream and mozzarella. It gives greater texture and creaminess and is more delicate than pure mozzarella. If you can find it, I highly recommend it.
3. New basil
Basil leaves that are lushly green and well-hydrated are ideal. If you have the choice, choose the smaller leaves because they have a nicer appearance.
4) Superior olive oil
Good olive oil doesn’t have to cost a million dollars. Make sure the oil is genuine, pure, extra-virgin, which is produced by pressing the olives for the first time. Always screw the lid back on, and keep it somewhere cool and dark, like a cabinet.
If olive oil tastes harsh or rancid, it has deteriorated. My preferred olive oils are Trader Joe’s Kalamata or California Olive Ranch’s Arbequina.
5) Freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt
Please avoid the kind from salt and pepper shakers. Kosher salt can do, although flaky sea salt is preferred (Maldon sea salt is well worth the money). The only thing to use is freshly ground black pepper from a pepper grinder.
Balsamic vinegar or pesto drizzles are occasionally added to Caprese salads, but they are only necessary if the other components are bland.
But they ought to be flavorful. Remember, caprese salads are only appropriate in the summer.
Also read: Fresh Mint Dressing
- 2 pounds of the best-ripe tomatoes or a mix of heritage varieties
- 8-ounce mozzarella or burrata ball, preferably fresh or in a water-filled container
- a few leaves of fresh basil (smaller leaves look nicer)
- Extra virgin olive oil, 3 teaspoons
- 14 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, as desired
- black pepper freshly ground
- Slice the tomatoes into 14-inch-thick pieces with a serrated knife. Place them on a big serving platter, overlapping the edges and attempting to vary the shapes.
- Slice the burrata or mozzarella into 14′′ to 1′′ thick pieces (burrata is tough since the inside is so creamy; in the images, I sliced it into 12′′ slices and gently pulled the slices apart). Spread the cheese fairly equally around the plate, tucking it in between and under the tomatoes.
- Add basil leaves liberally and tuck a few more into cracks. Olive oil should be drizzled over the salad. Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally.
- If you have the time, let the salad sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the tomatoes to release some liquids for the best flavor. It’s better to serve this salad right away. For up to 3 days, leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator with a cover.
Serious Eats and Bon Appetit provided suggestions for this recipe.
MAKE IT VEGAN OR DAIRY FREE: You can enjoy this salad sans cheese if you use superb tomatoes. If you want some creaminess, I think slices of avocado or dollops of my vegan sour cream would go well with this salad.
CHANGE IT UP: Consider replacing part of the tomatoes with juicy peaches!