This easy and delicious Italian Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad is the perfect summer appetizer! Bursting with flavor, it only takes a few quality ingredients -fresh mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, and fragrant basil leaves. Don’t let summer go by without making this classic Insalata Caprese!
Originating from the beautiful island of Capri, this Italian appetizer for a classic Caprese salad recipe is a summer must.
Using the freshest ingredients is key to achieving that sought-after Mediterranean taste, especially since these are simple ingredients.
That is, after all, one of the most important aspects of Italian cuisine.
If you have visited here before, I have shared dozens of recipes for Italian appetizers, including this basil tomato bruschetta.
No one can resist no-cook appetizers, especially in the summer!
What is Caprese?
A Caprese (pronounced ca-preh-zseh) salad is a simple Italian salad made with fresh creamy mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil before being served. It is often served as an entrée.
How to make Caprese salad
Rinse the tomatoes and basil leaves and gently dry with a tea towel.
Using a very sharp knife, slice tomatoes about ½ inch thick. If you prefer, cut it into chunks or even cubes.
The number of fresh tomatoes you use will depend on their size. It’s safe to say that you will need the equivalent of 2-3 medium-large tomatoes for 4 servings. That’s about one pound.
Place the thick slices of tomatoes on a large platter and season with salt.
Including a variety of tomatoes, like heirloom sweet cherry tomatoes provides a splash of color. Use a large enough serving dish, so the tomatoes form a single layer. It’s okay if there is a little overlap.
Next, pull apart small chunks of creamy fresh mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces, at room temperature) and place them on top of the tomato throughout the platter.
For a more traditional appearance, slice the mozzarella into ½ inch thick. Layer the mozzarella slices and tomatoes alternately in a concentric circle on the serving platter.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves (20-25 small leaves). Leave the basil leaf intact if small and tender. Otherwise, tear it into small pieces.
Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste).
Add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, about 3-4 tablespoons over the entire platter.
Allow the flavors to meld for 15 minutes before serving.
5 tips to make the best Caprese salad
1-Use fresh, in-season ripe tomatoes. You will find the best-tasting tomatoes in backyard gardens or the farmers’ market towards the end of summer. Choose ripe and firm-fleshed tomatoes that are sweet-smelling. Since one of the main ingredients is tomatoes, sub-par tomatoes will not create a tasty salad.
2-Use fresh mozzarella. A buffalo mozzarella will contribute both a tangy taste and a creamy texture. If not available, a good quality fresh mozzarella (from cow’s milk) is equally delicious.
3-Use fragrant basil. The most aromatic of all Italian herbs is sweet basil, also known as the Genovese variety. In my opinion, this completes the triforce of the Caprese salad.
4-Use high-quality olive oil. When purchasing olive oil, look at the production date and only buy oil produced within the window of 2 years. Since exposure to light affects the taste, do not purchase olive oil in clear bottles.
5-Use the right amount of salt. This potent condiment can draw out the juices from the tomatoes and create a unique tasting experience.
Feel free to use any variety of in-season, very ripe yet firm tomatoes. Using heirloom tomatoes creates both a beautiful and delicious appetizer. Although not the classic version, use the yellow, orange, or even black variety to provide a visually appealing presentation.
No. This simple Italian salad takes 5 minutes to put together and should be made at least 15 minutes before serving it. If you are pressed for time, you can leave it at room temperature for up to 30 minutes, but the quality will not be the same. Whatever you do, please promise me that you will never, ever refrigerate this salad.
There are a few different ways to answer this question. In its simplest form, a Caprese comprises four basic ingredients: tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil. An authentic and traditional Caprese salad does not include balsamic glaze or vinegar. That being said, it is a matter of personal taste whether or not to drizzle a balsamic dressing over this fresh summer salad.
What to serve with Caprese?
Serve this fresh Caprese salad as an appetizer, with Italian focaccia bread to mop up all the tomato juices left behind.
This cast iron focaccia‘s deliciously seasoned crisp crust is another perfect pairing to this delicious summer salad. The overnight process makes it simple and easy to make – you’ll have amazing appetizers in no time!
Easy Italian Appetizers
- Marinated Mushrooms
- Marinated Mozzarella Balls
- Easy Mushroom Risotto
- Eggplant Caponata
- Chicken Spiedini
If you’ve been here before, you know I had an Italian upbringing.
I had the privilege of living with my paternal grandparents during my youth; as a result, I experienced many wonderful family traditions firsthand.
Most Italian families I knew would grow their tomato plants from their seeds.
I can still remember how, at my parents’ house, these tiny seedlings were placed right next to the patio door – it was the area that had the most sunlight in the spring and so, naturally, was reserved for the tomatoes until they were transplanted outside.
As the days got longer and warmer, these tiny plants would be placed outside in direct sunlight during the day and transferred back inside for the evening.
This was a labor of love.
My mom always made this simple salad with juicy seasonal tomatoes, homegrown fresh basil, and homemade mozzarella cheese. She would layer the tomatoes and the mozzarella in concentric circles on her serving plate and sprinkle the dish with chopped basil.
Just recently, I was inspired by this picture to pull apart the mozzarella instead of slicing it. I love this idea!
This is a great summer appetizer you can make with just a few fresh, simple, and high-quality ingredients.
THANKS SO MUCH for following and being part of the She Loves Biscotti community, where you will find Simple & Tasty Family-Friendly Recipes with an Italian Twist.
Ciao for now,
★★★★★ If you have made this tomato mozzarella basil salad, I would love to hear about it in the comments below, and be sure to rate the recipe!
Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad: Insalata Caprese
- 3 medium tomatoes fresh, rinsed , about 1 pound
- 8 ounces mozzarella fresh, room temperature
- 20 leaves basil fresh, rinsed
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon pepper or to taste
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- With a very sharp knife, slice the tomatoes ½ inch thick.
- Place the thick slices of tomatoes on a large platter and season with salt.
- Tear off pieces of the mozzarella and place throughout the platter, on top of the tomato slices.
- Garnish with basil leaves. Leave the basil leaf intact if small and tender. Otherwise, tear into small pieces.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle olive oil over the entire platter.
- Allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.
This post was originally published on September 4, 2019, and republished on August 13, 2022 with updated content and a video. Thanks for sharing!
Add a splash of wine vinegar and a splash of balsamic vinegar for more flavor
I made this salad today and it was amazing! Such a simple salad with so much flavor… thanks Maria!
Great to hear you enjoyed this Caprese salad. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, appreciate it.