As soon as the first tomatoes ripen on the vines in our garden, this Caprese salad recipe is on our table. The simple flavors are the epitome of Italy on your plate. Fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, a bit of soft mozzarella, and a delicious drizzle of balsamic vinegar create the iconic side dish or salad. Red, white, and green appear on your table and invite everyone to savor the freshness of the season in every bite.
The Best Ever Caprese Salad Recipe
You have probably seen this in restaurants or served alongside other salads or light meals in springtime and summer. When it comes to traditional Italian food, this is the easiest recipe you will ever make. It is seriously easy to prepare, plus the flavors are perfect. They are both bright and flavorful while being deep and rich. Something hard to create in many recipes, but oh, so very easy, when making this salad.
If you want to serve something easy that isn't exactly traditional to Italian food but is still yummy, add this homemade cheesy garlic bread to your menu. It goes well with the Caprese salad as well as any of your favorite spaghetti bolognese recipes.
Is Caprese Salad Unhealthy?
This salad is a super easy protein and nutrient-packed recipe that's also fairly low in calories. While the version of healthy food depends on your own dietary needs, most diet plans and lifestyles will agree that this is a healthier choice. As long as you are not eating all of the mozzarella pieces in one sitting, it's likely that this can readily fit into your meal plan with zero guilt.
What is the Origin of Caprese Salad?
There is no doubt that the Caprese salad originated in Italy. While a variety of regions and surrounding countries also have variations in their culinary past, it really is rooted in Italian food history.
This version includes pesto, which is not classic but is often found in modern renditions. The basic ingredients are basil, tomato, and cheese in the colors of the Italian flag. The drizzle of balsamic vinegar just amps up the flavor a bit, much like the pesto in this version.
What is the Best Tomato for Caprese Salad?
For this, cherry tomatoes were a great choice since they are bite-sized already, and they happened to be ripe when purchased. You may see larger tomato slices and mozzarella slices in some versions. It really comes down to the type of tomato you like. A nice rich and slightly sweet tomato works great to go alongside the salty cheese, sweet basil, and tang of the vinegar.
Grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, or beefsteak tomatoes are my favorites since they are sweeter when ripe. Choose what you have on hand or can find locally, just make sure you are picking a vine-ripened option when possible. These will be the most flavorful.
What is the Best Cheese for Caprese Salad?
The only cheese to use in Caprese is mozzarella, but not all mozzarella is created equally. This is not the recipe to use a block of cheese or a bag of shredded cheese. Instead, reach for the mozzarella pearls in saltwater brine (not olive oil) or the ball of fresh mozzarella. These are going to be the most flavorful, tender, and will slice beautifully for this recipe.
To save time in preparing this recipe, I grab the pearls since they are already bite-sized. No need to slice. I can simply drain and add to the salad. There are a lot of options, some of which are marinated in olive oil or a pesto blend. I reach for the cocktail mozzarella pearls that are in saltwater instead.
What Do You Eat Caprese With?
The best part of this salad is how versatile it is in your menu. You can add it to your lunch, as an appetizer, a side salad, or alongside a lean protein for a full meal. I recommend serving with chicken, pork, or fish. While it does go with beef, it seems to fit the lighter proteins a bit better. It's ideal for a side to any main protien, or a starter for a larger Italian meal.
I like to serve this alongside the garlic and herbed baked chicken breast or as a side to this recipe for the easiest barbecue chicken breast. While not exactly Italian meals, it still fits well with the flavors.
What is a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction?
The balsamic vinegar reduction is simply a thicker cooked-down version of your vinegar. It is made by slowly simmering the balsamic vinegar over low heat until it is reduced by at least half. You can purchase the reduction in some grocery stores with the other kinds of vinegar and condiments, or plan ahead to make your own. It is best made with high-quality balsamic vinegar.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Mozzarella pearls
- Fresh Basil
- Balsamic vinegar reduction
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
Handy Kitchen Tools
How to Make a Caprese Salad
Prepare your tomatoes and mozzarella by slicing if needed.
Arrange the tomato and cheese on a serving platter so they are alternated.
Drizzle the top with balsamic vinegar reduction and pesto sauce. Do not coat it completely, but a light drizzle so each bite will have just a taste as an accent.
Sprinkle the top with basil leaves and a sprinkle of salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days in an airtight container.
More Tasty Salad Recipes
Need more salads on your menu? Don't miss the great options we have below. Vegetables, fruits, pasta, and of course entree salads are always a welcome addition to the menu. Below are some favorites to bookmark, print, or pin for later!
- Vietnamese Steak and Noodles Salad Recipe
- Beetroot and Feta Cheese Salad
- Cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
- Persian Shirazi Salad Recipe
- Orange Pomegranate Salad with Strawberries
- Easy Ham Salad Recipe
- 1 lb ripe cherry tomatoes (454 gm)
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella pearls (140 gm)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar reduction (30 gm)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (30 gm)
- ⅓ cup Pesto sauce (90 gm)
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves (10 gm)
- ½ tsp salt (2.5 gm)
- ½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper (2.5 gm)
- Prepare your tomatoes and mozzarella by slicing if needed.
- Arrange the tomato and cheese on a serving platter so they are alternated.
- Drizzle the top with a balsamic vinegar reduction, olive oil, and pesto sauce. Do not coat it completely, but a light drizzle so each bite will have just a taste as an accent.
- Sprinkle the top with basil leaves and a sprinkle of salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days in an airtight container.
If the pesto is too strong a flavor, you can leave it off or reduce the amount used.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 333Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 692mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 14g