Italian Caprese Salad
So this one is Italian indeed.
A classic caprese salad consists of sliced fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, garnished with fresh basil and only needs a sprinkle of olive oil and salt. Funny thing is that this salad also contains the colors of the Italian flag: red, white and green!
Just like the classic margarita pizza by the way.
Sure, there are many versions of this salad and other ingredients are often added such as balsamic vinegar, basil pesto, pine nuts, olives and arugula. I like to keep my caprese salad very classic, just the basic ingredients.
But I also add a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.
How To Serve a Caprese Salad
We all like a fresh and crisp caprese salad for lunch, don’t we.
But here’s the catch: in Italy, this salad is a starter or antipasto.
And not a side dish or main dish.
Best Tomatoes For a Caprese Salad
Goes without saying that if you are preparing a raw tomato salad, you better use very ripe, vibrant and flavorful tomatoes. It might sound surprising but some tomatoes are better to cook with, others are better to eat raw.
One of the best tomatoes to use raw in a salad is the heirloom tomato.
When I don’t find any good ripe tomatoes for a caprese salad, I usually buy cherry tomatoes. Pear tomatoes (they can be red and yellow) are related to the heirloom tomatoes so they are also perfect for a salad.
Roma tomatoes, also known as Italian plum tomatoes, are better used in cooking than in a salad. Can you use tomatillos or green tomatoes raw? Tomatillos can be eaten raw but they are more suitable for cooking. Green tomatoes always have to be cooked, they have a toxic that can be poisonous if you eat them raw.
Of course not every tomato under the sun can be found in your and my local supermarket, especially if you don’t live in or near a large city. In that case you gotta work with what you got.
Best way to pick a good tomato is to smell it and choose the ones with an intense fruity and natural aroma.
Best Mozzarella For a Caprese Salad
First of all, what is mozzarella?
Mozzarella is an Italian curd cheese made from cow or water buffalo milk. Most of the mozzarella you find in the supermarkets are made from cow milk and is therefore cheaper than the buffalo milk mozzarella.
Only if it says mozzarella di bufala, does it contain buffalo milk. Buffalo mozzarella can be a tad expensive, but if you ask me it is better than the cow milk mozzarella.
What is Burrata?
Now here’s an interesting thing!
You might have heard of burrata before, even tasted it? No matter what: burrata is my all time favorite. Why? Burrata is made of a mixture of buffalo milk mozzarella and cream.
From the outside it might look like a ball of mozzarella, but god almighty when you tear it up then there’s this extremely creamy, gooey, almost runny heart in the middle.
Italians call it stracciatella by the way.
Burrata looks nicer if you tear it up into rough bits and put it on top of your caprese salad. Absolute mozzarella heaven.
And again that comes with a price because burrata is expensive. But worth every penny. I prefer to eat a top notch quality burrata once a year that costs a bunch of money than eat the cheap tasteless cow mozzarella every week.
Want to know more about burrata?
Then also read this fantastic Fine Dining Lovers article!
Best Olive Oil
Believe it or not, there are huge differences between olive oils.
I always have 2 types of olive oils in my cupboard: one to cook with and one to use strictly cold, to drizzle on top of salads for example. But why?
You probably must have heard or read about EVOO which stands for extra virgin olive oil. It’s the best quality olive oil you can find. The oil is extracted from olives by cold pressing, in other words only pressure and low temperature were used in the process.
Which means that the olive oil doesn’t lose it nutrients nor natural flavor at all. And because EVOO or extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point and can’t stand heat much, it’s perfect for salads and cold dishes.
You can also use virgin olive oil which contains less flavor and has a higher acidity level.
9 (Scrumptious) Caprese Salad Recipes
Alright, I think I’ve done enough talking for now.
I’ll let other food bloggers take over this caprese salad article. Get inspired!
Oh, my favorite of these 9 caprese salad recipes?
If you know me well, you should have no trouble guessing which one it is: the caprese steak salad!
My Favorite Caprese Salad Recipes by Fellow Food Bloggers
1. Panzanella Caprese Salad (The Luminous Kitchen)
Yay, I often make a panzanella salad for lunch. It’s simply a vegetable salad with crunchy bread bits in it. Lovely way to use up leftover bread. However my panzanella salad never looked this sexy: hold your horses love, because this beauty is dope. What I love about Jo’s panzanella caprese salad recipe is the mix of different tomatoes which she roasts in the oven for a few hours. Just imagine that complex and concentrated flavor! Just 1 type of tomato is kept raw. It also contains charred bell pepper, lovely flavor contrast there. Give the vegetables all a good stir, pepper, salt, olive oil. Crunchy bread bits, some capers. Plate it up and finish with the mozzarella. Absolutely to die for. Thanks Jo for the inspiration!
2. Nectarine Caprese with Avocado Salad (California Grown)
Have you ever tried this one before: avocado and mozzarella? Well I have and it was slap ya mama good. But here’s an interesting addition to that lovely combo: nectarine! And my taste buds tell me that this is again a winner flavor combination. It even gets better: it’s nectarine season as I’m writing this blog post! Both the hubs and I love nectarines. Love the idea of adding some to a savory dish. Even more: avocado and nectarine go extremely well together.
Just imagine: the fruity crunch of the nectarine, creaminess coming from the avocado and then the salty softness of the mozzarella. Susan, who created this nectarine avocado caprese salad recipe, is absolutely right: I love the addition of the pistachios. Lovely stacks, what a yummy and gorgeous looking starter! Thanks Susan!
3. Oven Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad with Orecchiette & Pesto (Lovely Little Kitchen)
And this wouldn’t be an Italian inspired caprese salad roundup if I didn’t mention a dish with pasta. Right? Like I said before: sometimes other ingredients are added to a classic caprese, like a basil pesto. I’ve prepared caprese salads with pesto before. It’s a great alternative for the fresh basil leaves of course. Tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto always is a superb combination.
But we all love a good pasta salad, don’t we. So how about making a caprese pasta salad? Truth be told, one of my absolute favorite types of pasta is orecchiette. Or thick ear shaped pasta that literally means ‘little ears’. Now Julie who created this pesto pasta caprese salad recipe makes her basil pesto from scratch. Which I absolutely adore. Homemade pesto is the best. I never buy ready made pesto. Thanks Julie!
4. Winter Caprese Salad with Caramelized Squash (Get Inspired Everyday)
I don’t want to hear anyone swear or curse now. Caprese salad without fresh tomatoes? Sure thing! Honestly, I was looking for a winter version of this fresh and light summer caprese salad. And that’s just what I find at Get Inspired Everyday. Kari is not only a superb foodie, blogger and chef. She can also read minds. Well she did read mine, because I just got what I was looking for!
Keyword here is squash. Squash? Absolutely. Oven roasted delicata squash. Add to that some spinach, balsamic vinegar and basil. Fresh mozzarella, pepper and salt. Now that’s some powerful stuff right here! I can totally see this roasted pumpkin caprese salad as a starter in the upcoming autumn months. This recipe is downright genius. Totally blows me away. Thanks Kari!
5. Caprese Salad with Prosciutto & Arugula (For The Feast)
And we’re on a roll here! Next up is a top notch Italian caprese feast: let’s add one of my favorite Italian cold cuts to it. Prosciutto! Probably the ingredient I’ve seen people misspell the most. Lol. But what is prosciutto? Well it’s an Italian dry cured ham that’s preferably sliced thinly and served uncooked. You might also know it as prosciutto crudo in Italian, or raw ham.
Nothing here I don’t like. Since we live in Spain we would probably use Serrano ham or another type of raw dry cured Spanish serrano version. Doesn’t matter, as long as it tastes great. How simple can lunch be? Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and prosciutto caprese salad. No basil here this time but fresh arugula which I love. Believe it or not, I know quite a few people who don’t like fresh basil. As long as it’s got prosciutto!
6. Quinoa & Burrata Caprese (Foodie Crush)
So I’m browsing the internet for more caprese salad ideas. And I just can’t help it when I read burrata. So when I saw this recipe pop up, I stopped dead in my tracks and just wanted to know all about it. There was a time that I wasn’t too keen on quinoa. But I’ve actually come to like it a lot over the years. And the same goes for my husband by the way who called quinoa ‘bird feed’ for a few years.
Until I started to experiment with different types of quinoa: I especially like the red one. Gorgeous texture. And so easy to pair with other foods. Especially seared tuna and chimichurri, I once ate this dish in Santiago de Chile. So I gotta try this burrata salad caprese with quinoa. I like the fact that it makes a lovely filling lunch and even dinner if you like! Thanks Heidi!
7. Bacon Caprese with Mozzarella (Framed Cooks)
Sure we’ve talked about prosciutto caprese, but how about adding another type of meat. One that is just a tad crispier and makes you salivate only by hearing the description: salted bacon caprese salad. But why? Well I’d say, why not? Tomatoes, mozzarella, bacon. I’m sure no one would ever say no to this one! Well, except my vegetarian dad that is.
All credits go to Kate who’s the wizard cook, food photographer and blogger behind Framed Cooks. And gosh, does this sound like the perfect recipe: heirloom tomatoes, bacon and… yes, you guessed it: burrata! My absolute favorite! And then my second thought: why in the world did I never come up with this idea… Never mind. I gotta try this one. Thanks for the inspiration, Kate!
8. Artichoke Caprese (Ocean Mist Farms)
So I was looking for caprese salad number eight and I asked myself: if I had to prepare a creative caprese salad with an extra ingredient in it, what would it be? The answer came quite fast I must say: artichokes! How I love artichokes. How about you? One of my favorite ways to prepare them is pan fried, accompanied by a cilantro mayo dip as an appetizer.
So off I went, browsing the internet for a good recipe. The one I liked the most was this artichoke caprese salad: simple, honest, clean. No fuss. I like the fact that all the ingredients are still visible, this is all about good produce. Would I pan fry the artichokes? Probably. Just to give this dish a little extra crunch, and that sugary caramelised flavor of the golden artichokes. Winner.
9. Caprese Steak Salad (Cooking Spree With Anja Lee)
Saving the best for last? In my case, hell yes! If there’s one dish that will make me get up in the middle of the night, then that would most definitely be steak. With fries and mayo. Rare steak for me, please. How do you like your steak cooked?
OK stop, what do we have here? A lovely steak caprese salad! This one really stole my heart. I do love a cold steak salad, preferably a Thai style steak salad with loads of lime juice and chili.
But this steak is actually served warm, on a cold caprese salad! It’s since traveling to Japan that I understood that not only flavor combinations and texture are important in a dish. Warm and cold food in one dish can also add so much more to the experience! And that’s what you get here: warm steak on top of cold tomatoes and mozzarella.