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Caprese Salad

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Calories: 303
homemade caprese salad with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and balsamic

Juicy tomatoes at their summertime peak and milky, tender fresh mozzarella come together in this classic Caprese salad recipe and, friends, it is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

What Is Caprese Salad?

Caprese salad is a quintessential summertime salad that hails from the sun-soaked Italian island of Capri—thus the name “Caprese”. A simple recipe at heart, caprese salad celebrates tomatoes in all of their sun-warmed, sweet-juiced midsummer glory. Fresh mozzarella and tomatoes are a truly heavenly coupling, and need very little help to become the fragrant, delicate, colorful caprese salad of your dreams. By the time you’ve gathered your Caprese ingredients, most of the work is done. When a dish is as marvelously simple as this salad is, that usually means that its success depends entirely on the quality of the two or three primary ingredients. Caprese salad is no exception to this rule—your Caprese salad will only be as good as its main ingredients so prepare to hunt down:

  • The very best, fresh, ripe tomatoes.

  • The best, fresh mozzarella you can find.

  • Glossy, perky, bright green, fresh-as-can-be basil.

  • Very good extra virgin olive oil.

fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette for capers salad

Picking the Best Tomatoes for Caprese Salad

You cannot make a good caprese salad in the middle of winter. So, if you’re reading this in January and hankering for a Caprese, well just wait. Or accept that you’re going to be eating something that just doesn’t taste like much. Caprese is dominated by the heady, sweet, acidically-accented, umami-tinged flavor of perfectly ripe tomatoes that are fresh as can be and—in a perfect world—still warm from the garden. You want a summer tomato—ideally an heirloom variety, because they are just SO much more flavorful—that’s just a day or two shy of too ripe. Here’s how to track down the best tomatoes for your Caprese:

  1. Grow your own! Or make friends with a neighbor with a green thumb and a lot of tomato plants. Alternatively, you can....

  2. Head to the farmers market! Produce from your local farmers market is unlikely to have spent much (if any) time in cold storage, which means it’s fresh as can be and (of course) quite local, too. For super-ripe heirloom tomatoes, that’s essential. The farmers market is also your best bet for really fresh basil—two birds, one stone!

  3. Look for tomatoes without bruising or splitting, but don’t be put off by color or shape—heirloom tomatoes come in many colors and shapes.

  4. Sniff and hold the tomatoes. A really ripe tomato will be fragrant, especially near where the stem was, and will be heavy for its size (an indication of juiciness).

balsamic vinaigrette, brown sugar, garlic in a small pot
homemade balsamic glaze

Balsamic Glaze for Caprese Salad

Some Caprese salad purists like to enjoy the salad with just tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and olive oil. But here’s the thing—caprese is probably a relatively new dish, likely dating back to the 1920s, and so there’s no need to be totally married to any one particular way of doing things. We are not on hallowed ground here! So, we happen to love the extra zip and zing that a little drizzle of homemade balsamic reduction adds to a Caprese. It seeps into the fresh mozzarella and swims around with the tomato juices that swirl on the plate and when the last bite of Caprese salad is gone? Grab some bread and start sopping up all of those heady, balsamic-kissed juices. Plus, it’s really easy to make a balsamic glaze—simply simmer some balsamic vinegar for about ten minutes and you’ve got yourself a slightly syrupy balsamic glaze.

heirloom tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella on a plate for capers salad

How to Make Caprese Salad

You’ve gathered your perfectly ripe tomatoes, bought fresh mozzarella (and somehow managed not to eat it all as you slice it). You’ve got a little garlic, some good olive oil and made a balsamic reduction. Now what?

  1. Whip up a simple Caprese salad dressing by stirring together the balsamic with some olive oil, garlic and brown sugar and simmering it until thickened slightly.

  2. Arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella on a platter, alternating tomato slices and mozzarella slices to make for a lovely, colorful, composed salad.

  3. Drizzle with the Caprese salad dressing, and finish with ribbons of fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste.

homemade caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, basil and heirloom tomatoes drizzled in a balsamic vinegar glaze

What Do You Eat Caprese Salad With?

Because summer heat is at its peak when Caprese salad is on our tables, we’ve been known to plop a loaf of good bread next to the Caprese—a must for sopping up all of the tomato juices— and call that dinner. But you can also enjoy Caprese as an appetizer for a larger group, or as a hearty salad for big summertime feasts. Try eating Caprese salad with:

Tools You’ll Need:

homemade caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, basil and heirloom tomatoes drizzled in a balsamic vinegar glaze
homemade caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, basil and heirloom tomatoes drizzled in a balsamic vinegar glaze

Insalata Caprese, All Summer Long

Feasting on Caprese is something we dream of all winter long, and when tomato season rolls around, we make this lovely salad more often than we’d like to admit. Summer is fleeting, and perfectly ripe tomatoes are gone in a blink. So, while the getting’s good, we GET! We hope this salad is everything you want it to be—sweet, savory, fresh, tangy, a bit herby. An edible festival of summer bounty. If you make it, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Caprese Salad

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Calories: 303

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Light brown sugar
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • 3 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz Fresh mozzarella, sliced, torn or cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 1/2 lbs Heirloom tomatoes, sliced or cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup Fresh basil, minced or thinly sliced into ribbons
  •  Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

Method

  1. In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, bring the balsamic, brown sugar, garlic and olive oil to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vinegar thickens and is reduced by half, about 3 tablespoons. This should take about 6-8 minutes total. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.
  2. Toss the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil with the dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Alternatively you can salt the dressing to taste and then sprinkle the top of the salad with flakey salt.

Caprese Salad

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