This incredibly delicious and vibrant Easy Caprese Salad Recipe is a popular Italian favorite! Made with layers of ripe juicy tomatoes, thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, and fragrant basil, this authentic Italian version from Campania is then finished with a drizzle of rich olive oil and a sprinkle of herby oregano. It’s a simple 7-ingredient palate-pleasing salad that comes together in minutes and makes the perfect appetizer or side to any meal!
What is Caprese salad?
It’s a simple classic Italian salad that was named after and originated on the island of Capri around 1920 to please the visiting royalty and socialites. Very typical of Campania cuisine, Caprese salad is composed of slices of plump ripe tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, and leaves of aromatic basil that are seasoned with a bit of olive oil, salt, fresh ground black pepper, and a pinch of oregano. These simple ingredients create the perfect plate of fresh Italian flavor.
Caprese salad is almost always beautifully arranged on a large plate and served as a cold summer antipasto or side dish. But this delicious dish can be served any time of day all year long. And one can not help but notice that its bright colors resemble the Italian flag!
What do you need to make this recipe?
Cutting Board – You need a cutting board to slice the tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese on.
Sharp Knife – When slicing tomatoes you always want to use a sharp knife. Dull knives will often squish the tomatoes before cutting into them.
Serving Dish – Caprese salad is typically arranged and served on a large flat plate. The dish should be big enough to fit the entire salad comfortably.
What ingredients do you need to make this recipe?
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – You will need a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese. Ideally, choose buffalo mozzarella for the best flavor. And don’t buy pre-sliced fresh mozzarella that isn’t packaged in water because it often doesn’t have the same yummy texture.
Basil – Fresh fragrant basil leaves are a must for this recipe. It’s a key Caprese salad ingredient.
Oregano – A pinch of dried oregano adds a lovely herb flavor and is what makes this version more authentic.
Olive Oil – You always want to use high-quality Italian extra virgin olive oil for any Italian recipe. Just a good olive oil alone can make the dish.
Salt – Needed to season the tomatoes. Sea salt or fine-grain kosher salt are the best choices.
Black Pepper – Use freshly ground black pepper if you have it on hand. Otherwise, ground black pepper works just fine.
How to make this recipe step by step
1. Slice and season the tomatoes
To begin, you need to prep the tomatoes by cutting them into ¼-inch slices with a sharp knife (photo 1). It’s important that the knife be nice and sharp so that you don’t squish them. Then arrange the tomato slices on the cutting board or a plate and season them with a sprinkle of salt (photo 2).
2. Slice the mozzarella
Next, use the same sharp knife to cut your fresh mozzarella ball into ¼ inch slices (photo 3). Then use a clean kitchen towel or a few paper towels to dab all the slices to remove any excess moisture (photo 4).
3. Assemble the layers
Now, you can put all the salad components together. First, place a few of the fresh basil on the bottom of your serving dish (photo 5). Ideally, this should be a large flat plate. Next, begin layering the slices of tomato and mozzarella, topping every few pieces with more basil leaves (photo 6). You can arrange the layers in any pattern you like.
4. Finish the Caprese salad
To complete the dish, sprinkle the layered tomato and mozzarella cheese with a pinch of dried oregano and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Finally, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and garnish it with a few more basil leaves. Now, serve the beautiful salad immediately.
Use ripe and ready-to-eat tomatoes for the best flavor. And season them with salt before you assemble the salad.
You must use fresh basil. Dried basil is not going to do it.
Buy a ball of fresh mozzarella packed in water. The pre-sliced stuff doesn’t have the same soft texture and yummy flavor.
Anytime you make an Italian dish you want to use quality ingredients like extra virgin olive oil for the most authentic taste.
Serve the salad right away. If you can’t serve it right away then keep it chilled in the fridge and don’t add the oregano, black pepper, and olive oil until right before serving.
This recipe is an authentic Italian version from Campania, which includes the addition of some dried oregano. However, there are many different variations of this well-known simple salad. And while they may not be authentic they are all still delicious!
Most Caprese salads served in the United States are drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction, which is the same thing as a balsamic glaze.
Garnish the salad with some store-bought or homemade pesto at the end in place of the extra basil leaves.
You can use burrata cheese or grilled halloumi cheese instead of fresh mozzarella.
Add other fresh herbs like parsley and mint to the salad.
Use a combination of heirloom tomatoes and peaches. Then drizzle with a finishing touch of vinaigrette.
Make it vegan by using avocado in place of the mozzarella cheese and serve it with some crusty bread.
Try other salad recipes:
What does Caprese mean in Italian?
It literally translates to “salad of Capri” where Caprese salad is believed to have originated around 1920 in the famous Hotel Quisisana.
Which tomatoes are best for Caprese?
If you can find them, fresh San Marzano tomatoes are the best in Caprese salad and what was traditionally used. However, any type of seasonal tomatoes can be used. The most important thing is to choose in-season ripe tomatoes for the best flavor.
What can I substitute for mozzarella in Caprese salad?
The best substitution for fresh mozzarella is a ball of burrata cheese. Regular sliced mozzarella can also be used but the texture is not ideal. Other good options include goat cheese and feta cheese.
How long can Caprese salad be in the fridge?
It’s always best to serve and eat the salad right away. Yet, it will keep in the fridge for about 2 to 3 days in an airtight container.