A simple Caprese salad recipe for the summer

A simple Caprese salad recipe for the summer

caprese salad

Total time:15 minutes

Servings:4 to 6

Total time:15 minutes

Servings:4 to 6


I’m a big believer in the theory that sometimes the dishes that taste the best are the ones that require the least work. And that’s not just because these days, whether I’m in the kitchen or not, I feel like I’m constantly on the hamster wheel of life with no interruption in sight.

It’s also because when you have great ingredients, you don’t have to do much to make them shine.

That’s especially true when it comes to Caprese salad, the signature Italian dish of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil that’s just about all I want to eat right now.

A successful Caprese rests largely on “the quality of the ingredients,” says chef Amy Brandwein of Centrolina in Washington. A few years ago I wrote about my general tips for making the summer salad, named after the Italian island of Capri, but now I offer an easy, flexible recipe to get you started. Here’s an overview of the main ingredients:

If you throw basil, tomato, and mozzarella on a plate and call it Caprese, these tips are for you

tomatoes. “You have to wait for tomato season,” Brandwein says. Don’t bother with out-of-season fruits. Preferably the tomatoes are truss ripened and bursting with flavors and juice. (Somewhat warm from the field or from the market? Even better.) Brandwein likes to use sliced ​​red tomatoes, although I love the look and taste of using some or all of the heirloom varieties. You can only use smaller cherry or grape tomatoes, or mix them with larger ones. If for some reason you’ve refrigerated ripe tomatoes (it’s okay, I promise), be sure to leave them on the counter for at least an hour to come to room temperature for ideal flavor and texture.

Mozzarella. Go for the good cheese. I tested this recipe with buffalo mozzarella and fresh cow’s milk mozzarella, each packed in liquid. Both were divine. These cheeses are wonderfully stretchy and moist, so I recommend staying away from the shrink-wrapped products. (Vacuum-sealed fresh mozzarella is okay if that’s all you can find, but I still don’t like the texture as much as the one packed in liquid.) As for the super-dry, rubbery mozzarella you’ll find near the block and shredded cheese in the supermarket? To prevent. Consider making your own cheese for a real treat. Whatever you use, make sure it’s room temperature, like the tomatoes, Brandwein says.

Olive oil. The olive oil “doesn’t have to be terribly expensive,” says Brandwein, who prefers a fruity Ligurian variety. As long as it’s something you enjoy on its own and isn’t raunchy, you’re good to go. California Olive Ranch is a high-quality supermarket choice. Brandwein says people tend not to put enough oil on their Caprese, which is why I went with a generous 1/4 cup here. You’ll want to see it sit a bit on the bottom of your serving bowl so it mixes with the tomato juice and whey from the cheese to form an irresistible elixir that’s great for dipping bread. “That’s great,” Brandwein says.

Basil. Homegrown herbs are the best choice for freshness and quality. I agree with Brandwein when she says she prefers young, smaller leaves, which are still packed with flavor, but soft and small enough not to make you feel like you’re eating a green salad. Another fun option I played with during testing was microbasil, which is particularly attractive and soft. In the Washington area I got mine from Roots ‘n Shoots. Little Wild Things Farm is another great resource. Microgreens are making their way into more stores, so be wary. You can definitely use more conventional larger basil, but for best looks, tear by hand rather than cut with a knife. To prevent it from wilting or blackening, do not add the basil until you are ready to serve the salad.

Spices. Sufficient seasoning is another important part of Caprese’s success, Brandwein says. Salt brings out all the sweet and sour flavors of the tomato. I like to use a flaky sea salt – the larger flakes mean you have more control when sprinkling, and applying them in two additions (on the tomatoes and then on the almost done salad) ensures everything is flavorful. Also, don’t be shy about adding more to taste. Likewise, Brandwein recommends coarsely ground or crushed black pepper rather than a fine powder. This is where you can get out your mortar and pestle, if you have a set.

Your guide to pepper: how to use black, white, green and pink peppercorns?

Fancy tossing some balsamic vinegar over your Caprese? Resist the temptation. And if you love pesto, save it for a sandwich riff, which I’ve included in the recipe below. “It should just be really simple,” Brandwein says of the salad.

A simple Caprese salad made with the best summer tomatoes of the season and good mozzarella is a beautiful thing. With just a few ingredients – and a few minutes – you can get this Italian classic.

Feel free to adjust the amount of ingredients to your liking. These are flexible guidelines. See the VARIATION below for a suggested sandwich option.

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  • 12 to 16 ounces (340 to 454 grams) ripe sliced ​​or heirloom tomatoes of various colors, cut horizontally into 1/4-inch slices (can substitute halved cherry or grape tomatoes)
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 to 10 ounces (226 to 283 grams) buffalo mozzarella or fresh cow’s milk mozzarella, room temperature, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 5 whole black peppercorns, cracked or coarsely ground
  • 16 basil leaves (small to medium leaves, torn if larger) or 1/4 cup loosely packed microbasil

Arrange the tomato slices on a large plate or wide, shallow bowl. (You want something that has the olive oil and juices in it and that it’s easy to scoop.) Sprinkle with half the salt and drizzle with half the olive oil.

Divide the mozzarella pieces over and around the tomatoes. Drizzle the remaining olive oil all over the dish and sprinkle with the black pepper and remaining salt. Season with more salt, if desired. Scatter over the basil leaves and serve.

VARIATION: You can use about the same ingredients here to make 3 or 4 Caprese sandwiches. For each sandwich, split a 6 to 8 inch ciabatta roll or baguette in half. If desired, divide 1 tablespoon of homemade or store-bought pesto between the sliced ​​halves. Layer 3 to 5 ounces of salted 1/4-inch-thick tomato slices on the bottom half of the loaf and dollop with about 2 ounces of buffalo or fresh cow’s milk mozzarella torn into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle a few basil leaves (micro or regular) on top and finish the sandwich with the remaining half of the bread.

Calories: 183; Total fat: 16 g; Saturated fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 20mg; Sodium: 207mg; Carbohydrates: 2 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; sugar: 2 g; Protein: 6 grams

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietician or nutritionist.

From Gluttonous Staff Writer Becky Krystal.

Tested by Becky Krystal; e-mail questions to [email protected].

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