If you’re looking for an easy, basic Caprese Salad Recipe, look no further.
It’s called a salad, but it has no lettuce or greens other than fresh basil.
Like many things in the culinary world, sometimes naming is all over the place.
I’ve known this to be called “Mozzarella Caprese” too, and I tend to still call it that.
For the record, you can add your own greens as a foundation to this if you want, and then you really do end up with a “salad” as you might know a salad to be.
So if you want a good, easy Caprese salad recipe, you are in the right place.
- Cut a washed and dried RIPE tomato into ¼”-thick slices.
- Layer a slice of room-temperature mozzarella cheese on top of each tomato slice.
- Place a single fresh basil leaf on top of each stack of tomato/cheese.
- Then drizzle all with a generous amount of balsamic glaze reduction and then olive oil.
- Add over the plate a dash of sea salt or flake salt and fresh cracked pepper.
- See below for more detailed instructions and tips.
It is hard to beat such a classic dish as this one, but there are ways to tweak it and make it even better.
About the mozzarella
One large mozzarella ball should suffice.
If it is in dry packaging, leave it in the plastic and let it come to room temperature before cutting and serving.
If you are using “wet” mozzarella, the kind that is floating in the water, remove it from the opaque brine, pat dry, and cut while it’s cold.
If you are really feeling fancy, use burrata, the cream-filled, tender, fresh mozzarella you can buy in water.
It’s pricey (and a bit hard to cut because the balls are rather delicate), but the sweet, mild flavor and luscious cream center are pretty much to die for.
About the basil
Fresh basil smells and tastes incredible.
When I opened the container for the fresh basil, the scent just wafted through the entire house.
We have made this Caprese salad recipe with dried basil or even just Italian seasoning in the past when we couldn’t get our hands on the fresh stuff.
The salad tasted perfectly fine with dried basil, but the presentation factor was not there.
So if you are throwing a dinner party, I highly recommend sourcing some fresh basil.
About the tomato
The better quality of the tomato, the better the dish.
If you can get your hands on an heirloom tomato, I highly recommend it.
For this round, I used on the vine tomatoes from the grocery store.
These have a nice, rich flavor and I love cooking with them too.
Tips for making easy Caprese Salad
- Use the freshest ingredients possible. Caprese salad is a simple dish, so the quality of the ingredients is essential. Look for ripe, juicy tomatoes and flavorful, high-quality mozzarella cheese.
- Don’t overdress the salad. Caprese salad is all about the fresh flavors of the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Don’t drown them. A simple drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze is all you need.
- Let the salad sit for a few minutes before serving. This will give the flavors a chance to meld and the tomatoes to release their juices.
- That said, serve the salad soon after assembling. This Caprese salad recipe is best served fresh and is not great when made too far in advance. If you have any leftovers, you may want to separate the tomato from the cheese, then recombine them at serving time. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a day.
- Serving tip: This is a fork-and-knife side dish and salad since the tomatoes are usually not tender enough to cut with a fork. Also, it’s not great on paper plates because of the tomato juices and balsamic.
The bottom line
The balsamic reduction process made this recipe so much better.
Previously, we would just drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top of our Caprese salad and that was plenty tasty.
However, if you have the time, I highly recommend creating a reduction or picking up a bottle of balsamic glaze (it’s thicker and sweeter than just the balsamic vinegar).
Love this combination of flavors? Try our Chicken Caprese Recipe too!
More about basil
- How to preserve basil
- Fresh basil recipes
- What does basil taste like?
- 5 methods for drying basil
- Spinach Basil Pesto Recipe
- Cocktails made with basil
- 2 large ripe tomatoes
- 1 large mozzarella ball
- About 10 leaves of fresh basil
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 c balsamic reduction or glaze
- Sea salt or flake salt to taste
- 3 turns of fresh, cracked black pepper
To make your own balsamic reduction (glaze)
- Add 1 c of balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle boil.
- Allow it to boil for 30 seconds.
- Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until the liquid reduces to about one-third of its original volume. This should take about 5 minutes.
- The glaze should coat a spoon but not be as thick as syrup
- Remove balsamic reduction from heat and allow it to cool completely before using.
Prepare the tomato, mozzarella, and basil
- Wash the tomatoes and fresh basil. Use a paper towel and dry completely.
- Slice the stems off of the tomato on each end.
- Slice the tomatoes into ¼” thick slices.
- Slice the mozzarella into ¼” thick slices.
- Cut or pluck the basil leaves off of the stem. Tear each leaf once to release the fragrance.
Plate the ingredients
- Place the tomato slices flat on a serving plate.
- Layer the mozzarella slices on top of the tomatoes.
- Add a basil leaf on top.
- Drizzle the olive oil on next.
- Drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction over all.
- Finish the dish with a dash of salt and pepper.