This classic Caprese salad hails from Italy. It represents the italian flag and the country’s most celebrated flavours of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil and olive oil.
A Classic Caprese Salad
This classic Caprese salad is named after the island of Capri, and its key ingredients represent the Italian flag’s tricolour. Red for tomatoes, green for basil, and white for the buffalo mozzarella. The cheese and tomatoes are often sliced and arranged on plates, then drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. While the classic caprese salad is served at any time of the day, Italians usually eat it as a starter and not as a side dish.
5 Ingredients for Caprese Salad
If we exclude salt and pepper, this classic Caprese salad comprises 5 key ingredients. It’s a recipe that probably doesn’t need a recipe, but it does need the best ingredients to maximise its natural flavour.
The world-renowned Italian soft cheese is often found on pizzas. It’s a fresh cheese meaning it hasn’t been aged or pressed. Mozzarella is made by heating the curd and then stretching it out by kneading. This process helps give mozzarella its stringy texture when melted. Its flavour is mild with a slight sweetness. Mozzarella made with cow’s milk and water buffalo milk are available, but the cow’s milk version isn’t as soft. I prefer the version made with buffalo milk, but it also costs a little more. So, like everything, I think preference is the best determiner of quality.
When slicing the mozzarella, I like to use a ring cutter the size of a slice of tomato to cut the edges away from the mozzarella, forming a circle. However, this only serves to give the salad an aesthetically pleasing appearance. This extra step plays no part in the final taste of the salad.
There are over 7000 species of tomatoes, so telling you which ones are best to use wouldn’t be possible. My best advice is to use the freshest tomatoes, with firm flesh and a higher juice content, allowing the mozzarella to absorb the flavour.
Basil has a sweet flavour hence its name, sweet basil. The delicate herb is included in many Mediterranean recipes and features predominantly in the famous pesto of Genoa. The leaves are kept whole here, as basil’s delicate nature doesn’t take to chopping well. Keep the leaves whole to protect the herb and its secreted aromatic oils.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
All olive oil is derived from olive trees. However, the category of olive oil confuses some people. What makes extra-virgin olive oil so unique is its production. And those methods also make it more costly. Extra-virgin olive oil is produced without chemicals or heat treatments during oil extraction. It’s usually light green compared to the more yellowy refined olive oils.
Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Sometimes known as balsamic glaze, it’s simply balsamic vinegar brought to a boil and cooked until some liquid evaporates. The result is a thick, syrupy-like consistency that helps give the vinegar a sweeter, more pronounced flavour. Regular balsamic vinegar can also be used, but its unique flavour is hard to replace with another type of vinegar.
- 3 125 g Balls of Buffalo Mozzarella sliced into 5 1cm thick, round slices.
- 3 Large Tomatoes sliced into 6 1cm thick, round slices.
- Handful of Basil Leaves
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Tbsp Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt / Pepper to taste
- Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste, then set aside in a thin layer. Season the mozzarella with pepper. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Pat the tomatoes dry, then arrange them in alternating layers.
- Garnish with basil, drizzle with olive oil and the reduced balsamic vinegar before serving.