This is one of the most awesome Summer Salads, and, better still, it takes just a minute to two to prepare. Of course it is awesome, it originates from the Italian island of Capri, and you can just feel the summer sea and breezes in this salad. So simple – great tomatoes, sweet basil and fresh mozzarella. In Italy it is usually served as an antipasto, not a contorno (side dish).
The salad was created in the 1950s at the Trattoria da Vincenzo as a light lunch for regulars. They’d order a just-picked tomato and fresh fior di latte (cow’s-milk mozzarella — no buffalo on Capri). The salad has evolved on the island to include a few leaves of rughetta (wild arugula) and a pinch of dried wild oregano, both local products. Elsewhere in Italy it takes the form of just tomato, mozzarella and basil.
The dressing is always only a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Vinegar is thought to destroy the delicate flavour of the cheese and is never used in Italy. Because this salad is so simple, top-rate ingredients are necessary – floury tomatoes, rancid oil and rubbery processed mozzarella are unacceptable.
In fact this is so good that it is worth making double the amount, and using the remainder to pile onto flatbread, garlic toast or just on slices of fresh beautiful bread. Or turn it into another classic Italian salad by adding cubes of dried or crispy baked bread.
Caprese Salad | Insalata Caprese
tomatoes – red, yellow, green – slices of 2 large ones and a punnet of small tomatoes
230g fresh mozzarella – burrata, bocconcini, fior di latte mozzarella, mozzarella di bufala, ovolini, ciliegine, or perlini
15 – 20 basil leaves
best quality extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
Arrange the tomatoes on a platter, season with salt and pepper, and interlace with slices of mozzarella, (or if using the softer mozzarellas, dot with pieces).
Arrange the basil leaves over the tomatoes and drizzle with the olive oil.
Serve with good quality fresh bread and a glass of crisp, cool or slightly chilled white wine.
recipe notes and alternatives
Although not common in Italy, some do enjoy a good quality balsamic vinegar with this salad. Drizzle a small amount over the salad.
Replace the basil with home grown oregano, fresh or dried. Or use a combination of fresh basil and fresh oregano.