Summer on a plate. A delicious ‘Insalata Caprese’ is the ultimate summer salad. Fresh, light and full of flavour this dish proves that simple ingredients can make a fabulous feast. Enjoy it as a starter or as a main dish with a side of artisanal sourdough bread to mop up all those flavours!
Juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fragrant basil are the stars of this Italian dish. This summery salad truly is the easiest and quickest recipe to make. Within 10 minutes you can enjoy this flavourful salad. Italians have a way with food, they can transform the simplest of ingredients into the tastiest meals. This dish from the island of Capri is no different. It’s a classic that finds its way to my dinner table regularly. You should definitely give it a try!
Quality over quantity
Since it is such a simple recipe, this is where your choice of ingredients really matters. Each component of this recipe should be of the best quality you can find so that the finished dish will be simply superb.
Tomatoes are tastiest in summer, that’s why this dish is best served in the summer months. Choose any type of tomatoes you like and feel free to mix them up. I always like to use a combination of different types of tomatoes, so my salad looks and tastes more interesting. I always include a handful of cherry tomatoes. Do not store your tomatoes in the fridge. This will make them taste less sweet and sometimes even changes the texture, making them mealy. I keep them on my counter, but any colder place in your kitchen will do.
Fresh mozzarella is juicy and has a soft, mild and creamy flavour. ‘Mozzarella di Bufala’ is made with milk from water buffalos. This is the best mozzarella you will ever taste! Milk from water buffalos has a much higher fat content than cow’s milk. This results in very creamy mozzarella with a delicate, rich flavour. If you cannot find buffalo mozzarella go with full-fat cows milk mozzarella. (Skip the low-fat version, it has no flavour and a very rubbery texture.) Full-fat cows milk mozzarella is called ‘Fior di Latte’ in Italy.
Fresh basil gives this salad its green colour and adds a fragrant sweet peppery taste to the dish. I absolutely love the smell of basil and usually have a small basil plant in my kitchen. By plucking the leaves straight from the plant, you ensure the freshest flavour. Basil is a herb that will wilt very quickly, so pick the leaves off the plant right before you put them on the salad. You can tear the larger leaves in half to ensure bite-size pieces.
Olive oil is drizzled generously over this salad. Make sure you use a good quality extra virgin olive oil - the kind you can also dip bread in. Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined, this means it is pure and untreated. It is cold-pressed and therefore full of healthy antioxidants and full of flavour. Make sure you check the back of the bottle, some brands will mix refined and unrefined olive oils and still call it extra virgin. For maximum flavour and health benefits, you definitely want the real deal for this salad.
Dried oregano is the wild card in this recipe. Many recipes omit this ingredient, but in my opinion, it adds extra flavour to this dish. It is the secret ingredient that will make your Caprese salad spectacular!
Salt flakes and black pepper
Salt flakes and black pepper add the finishing touches to this salad. Regular table salt has a very fine grain, because of this it will disappear in your dish. Salt flakes give your salad a slight crunch, plus it looks pretty. Salt flakes are usually very pure, they don’t contain any additives such as anti-caking agents or iodine that are sometimes added to regular table salt. I like the taste of salt flakes better and have them in a variety of natural flavours. For this salad, pure salt flakes are your go-to salt, take a pinch and crush the crystals between your fingertips while you sprinkle it over your fresh salad. Use freshly ground black pepper to ensure maximum flavour. Pre-ground black pepper has lost a lot of its punch and aroma. In the case of pepper, fresh really is best.
- Pair this fresh salad with a loaf of artisanal sourdough bread. This combination will make for an excellent meal. You can use the bread to mop up all those delicious juices from the tomato and mozzarella.
- As you can see, there is no balsamic vinegar or pesto added to this salad; this is the way they enjoy this dish in Capri, Italy. All ingredients have beautiful but soft flavours and are in harmony with each other. Adding a bold flavour like balsamic vinegar or pesto will overpower these delicate flavours. Try it like this and see if you like it...
- If you can resist digging into this salad right away you will be rewarded by extra flavour. Let the salad sit for about 5 to 10 minutes so the salt can extract some of the juices from the tomatoes and mozzarella. These juices combined with the olive oil will make your salad even more delicious!
More Salad Inspiration
If you liked this Caprese summer salad I'm sure you'll love my Mexican Shrimp Salad as well! Full of flavours and vibrant colours this shrimp salad will be the highlight of your day!
Are you in the mood for more Italian dishes?
If you're looking for comfort food you should definitely try this Spring Risotto with lemon, asparagus and peas. It's warm, rich and cheesy while still light enough to be a spring and summer favourite!
For more cheesy deliciousness in the colours of the Italian flag check out these Extra Cheesy Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells for the ultimate hearty, comforting and crowd-pleasing veggie dinner.
Another all time favourite is this Classic Homemade Lasagne with a hearty bolognese filling and a velvety smooth béchamel sauce.