Tomato mozzarella balsamic salad

Nothing beats a Caprese Salad Recipe made with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, sweet basil, and a homemade garlic balsamic dressing! The perfect salad all year long.

There are very few {healthy} foods I love much more than brownies. And cookies. And fries. But one thing that actually makes my heart go pitter patter is a really good salad. More specifically, this Caprese salad.

What is Caprese Salad?

Caprese Salad is a simple Italian salad made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, salt, and olive oil. Like the Italian flag, this salad features the white, red and green colors.

Caprese Salad Recipe

I like to make my version of this salad very similar to the classic version, but use Bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls), sweet grape tomatoes, add coarse ground black pepper and make a balsamic-garlic dressing. I also added in a few extra greens to fill the salad out more and make it go a little further…slash so I didn’t just eat all the fresh mozzarella on its own….by myself. If you’re feeding a crowd, this is a great way to stretch a dollar. Of course, the addition of lettuce is totally optional.

Plus you could add this with a protein to make it a meal. Chicken Parmesan would be super tasty with this salad recipe.

How to Make Caprese Salad

This Caprese Salad could not be any easier to make. Follow these quick and simple steps to make your tasty salad.

  1. Place baby greens onto a serving platter. Top with bocconcini, tomatoes, basil, and pepper.
  2. To serve, try putting blocks of color together instead of spreading everything out evenly over the top to make it look pretty. That’s just my personal preference.

How to Make Caprese Salad Dressing

I LOVE a good garlicky dressing and this one does not disappoint. It’s not the most traditional thing to drizzle over a Caprese salad, but man is it delicious. It’s like creamy, herby, sweet and spicy health food.

  1. Measure out garlic, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper into a small jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Shake it all up to incorporate the dressing, then drizzle it over the salad.

Just a small FYI, this dressing is for drizzling over your salad, not for mixing in.

Can this be Made Ahead of Time?

Yes! But just so you know, the salad tastes best when freshly made and assembled. Plus it’s super quick to throw together. However, you could probably make it then store it in the fridge the day before and still be fine. But make sure not to store the dressing and salad together. You can make the dressing ahead of time and store in an airtight container. Right before serving drizzle on the dressing and enjoy!

More Italian Salads!

  • Italian Pasta Salad
  • Watermelon Caprese Salad with Balsamic Glaze
  • Grilled Herb Pizza with Smoked Mozzarella and Basil

Anyways, the moral of this blog post is…

1. I like this salad recipe slightly more than fries.

2. I like to eat copious amounts of fresh mozzarella.

And there you have it. Printable recipe card is below, make sure to save/pin/print this one out. Enjoy!

5 from 16 votes

Easy Caprese Salad

Nothing beats a Caprese Salad made with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, sweet basil and a homemade garlic balsamic dressing! The perfect salad all year long.

Course Salad, Side Dish Cuisine Italian Keyword caprese salad, italian salad, side salad Prep Time 15 minutes Total Time 15 minutes Servings 4 servings Calories 539 kcal Author Lauren Brennan

Ingredients

  • 1 plastic container of washed baby greens any kind {about 6 cups}
  • 1 lb. Bocconcini drained, patted dry and halved {baby mozzarella balls}
  • 1 lb. grape tomatoes washed and halved
  • 12 large basil leaves chopped
  • cracked black pepper to taste

for the dressing-

  • 1 clove garlic grated
  • 4 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Place baby greens onto a serving platter. Top with bocconcini, tomatoes, basil, and pepper.
  2. Measure all ingredients for dressing into a small jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake and drizzle over salad. Serve immediately.

Recipe Video

Nutrition Facts Easy Caprese Salad Amount Per Serving Calories 539 Calories from Fat 441 % Daily Value* Fat 49g75% Saturated Fat 11g69% Cholesterol 40mg13% Sodium 147mg6% Potassium 286mg8% Carbohydrates 7g2% Fiber 1g4% Sugar 5g6% Protein 21g42% Vitamin A 1010IU20% Vitamin C 16mg19% Calcium 424mg42% Iron 0.6mg3% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.Christopher Boswell uses semi-green tomatoes. Photograph: Felicity Cloake/The Guardian

Interestingly, Christopher Boswell, executive chef at the Rome Sustainable Food Project, and author of the book Verdure, explains that: “In southern Italy, caprese is almost always served with semi-green tomatoes, and this is intentional. Unripe tomatoes … have higher acidity than juicy red slicing tomatoes. Buffalo milk mozzarella is quite rich, and if served with a ripe sweet tomato and with sweet basil, the dish can just fall flat. A more acidic varietal, or the acidity of a slightly under-ripe tomato brings out the distinct flavour of each ingredient in the dish.” His caprese is crunchy and refreshingly sour – quite a different dish to one made with fully ripe tomatoes. My testers enjoy it while also regretting the loss of sweetness, so I think a mixture of different varieties is ideal if you can find them. Saveur magazine suggests combining big beefy berthas and little cherry or grape tiddlers, while Jamie Oliver simply recommends “good mixed ripe tomatoes of different shapes and sizes”, which just about covers it, although try and include some tarter or greener ones in there if you can. Greengrocers, farm shops and markets should have a decent selection in August if you don’t grow your own.

Russell Norman’s book Polpo contains a recipe that starts by sprinkling the tomatoes with salt “to pull on the juices” before putting the salad together, a step that really seems to bring out their flavour, as well as creating an instant and intensely tomatoey dressing.

Saveur suggests combining beefy berthas with cherry tiddlers. Photograph: Felicity Cloake/The Guardian

Mozzarella

To be honest, before soft, tangy fresh mozzarella came into my life I was pretty happy with the milky vacuum-packed variety. Sadly, now I know better and it’s impossible to go back. You don’t need a lot here, so splash out on the good stuff. Saveur suggests burrata instead, which is mozzarella’s blingier, cream-filled cousin – undoubtedly decadent, and undoubtedly delicious, but too blandly rich here for my testers, who miss the lactic sourness of straight mozzarella.

Tear it, as Oliver suggests, rather than cutting it into uniform slices. It’s easier to dot around the salad, and looks, as he says in Jamie’s Italy, more rustic, which is rarely a bad thing in a salad.

Russell Norman’s caprese. Photograph: Felicity Cloake/The Guardian

The basil

Another revelation last week – I finally realised why so many chefs, including Hartnett, Boswell and Saveur, call for basil “ideally with small leaves”. Genovese basil, which is the proud holder of a European protected designation of origin, has tiny leaves, and an intensity of fragrance and flavour that makes it almost unrecognisable for those of us used to the standard sort. It’s so sweet it’s almost clove-like. That said, it’s also pretty expensive, and fiendishly hard to get hold of – and even the ordinary stuff is pretty good, especially if you save the larger leaves for pesto.

Oliver makes his into a “lovely smashed basil dressing” by grinding it up in a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of salt and some olive oil. It looks pretty, but the herb seems to lose some of its potency, which is a shame, so I’d mess about with it as little as possible.

Jane Baxter and John Vincent add shallot and garlic. Photograph: Felicity Cloake/The Guardian

The extras

Oliver adds a little finely chopped spring onion to the mix, while Jane Baxter and John Vincent’s Leon Happy Salads opts for shallot and garlic; both excellent things with tomato, but they rather overpower the mozzarella, as does Saveur’s balsamic vinegar. Indeed, a debate rages as to whether vinegar, also used in various iterations by Baxter and Vincent, and Oliver, has any place in a caprese at all. Marcella Hazan, the grande dame of Italian food writing in the US, writes that, “in the classic caprese, there is no vinegar, but Victor insists it is a required part of the juices in his version” – so clearly there’s some leeway. If you have a good mix of different tomatoes, however, including some sharper varieties, then I don’t think vinegar is really necessary, so taste before adding. Decent olive oil, however, is non-negotiable.

Finally, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before you start – not that you should be refrigerating your tomatoes or basil anyway.

Perfect caprese salad. Photograph: Felicity Cloake/The Guardian

(serves 4 with bread)

About 600g tomatoes of different shapes and sizes, including some slightly under-ripe or more acidic varieties
Extra virgin olive oil
250g buffalo mozzarella
Small bunch of basil, preferably with smallish leaves

Cut the tomatoes into different sized slices and chunks depending on their size and shape – large craggy fruit often looks better cut into cross sections. Cut out the core if it looks chewy. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt, leave to sit for 10 minutes, then add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and gently toss with a couple of spoons.

Arrange the tomatoes on a platter, spooning over their juices. Tear the mozzarella over the top, and scatter with torn basil leaves. Drizzle with more oil and season with a little more salt. Serve.

Caprese: a classic that’s impossible to get wrong, or a recipe for disaster at the hands of creative cooks? Do you prefer to keep it simple, or have you got a special tweak you think improves on perfection?

Caprese salad, or insalata caprese, is a classic Italian appetizer or salad; it is made with fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, basil leaves, and usually drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. There are many different variations of this traditional dish: I’ve had it served as a salad with greens or arugula, with capers, with onions, and there are modern caprese variations that replace the tomatoes with avocado, peaches, strawberries, etc.

I do sometimes add fresh basil leaves, whole or chopped, when I prepare this caprese salad; however lately I prefer to make a basil oil sauce that I drizzle over the tomatoes and mozzarella.

The basil oil sauce is similar to a more liquid pesto sauce (without the cheese or pine nuts), and is made by blending olive oil, basil and garlic. Using the sauce, instead of the whole leaves, allows the flavor of basil to be more distributed on the entire salad – plus it’s so addictive. You can use regular balsamic vinegar, but if you have time I highly recommend making a balsamic reduction which will give you a much more flavorful and concentrated sauce.

En Español

Tomato mozzarella caprese salad

Easy recipe for homemade tomato and mozzarella caprese salad with balsamic vinegar reduction and basil garlic oil. 4.74 from 208 votes Pin Course: Appetizer, Salad Cuisine: American, International, Italian Keyword: Basil, Caprese, Tomato mozzarella salad Prep Time: 30 minutes Servings: 8 people as a salad or 12-16 people as an appetizer platter

  • 4-6 ripe medium to large tomatoes can use regular vine tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes or 2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 lb of fresh mozzarella of your choosing
  • ½-1 cup basil garlic oil sauce adjust to taste
  • 4- 6 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar reduction sauce to drizzle adjust to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional side:

  • Slices of bread to help soak up the sauces
  • Slice, quarter or halve the tomatoes, based on your preferred salad presentation.
  • Slice, quarter or leave the mozzarella whole, again based on you would like to assemble the salad.

For a caprese salad platter:

  • Arrange the salad on a large platter; you can use one or two platters depending on the size. If using slices, you can add the tomato slices first and then either add the mozzarella slices on top, or stack them alternating the cheese and tomato slices in a slightly diagonal way. For a rectangular or square platter, you can create straight horizontal layers, and for a round platter you can form round spiral like layers.
  • You can also place the mozzarella, whole or quartered, in the center of the platter, and arrange the tomatoes, sliced or quartered, around the cheese.
  • Drizzle the tomato mozzarella salad with the basil garlic oil and the balsamic reduction
  • Serve immediately

For individual caprese tomato stacks:

  • Place a tomato slice on a small or medium sized plate, add a sliced of fresh mozzarella, drizzle a small amount of the basil oil on top of the mozzarella.
  • Repeat the same process until you have 2-3 layers of tomato and mozzarella. Drizzle the balsamic reduction on top of the caprese salad stacks.
  • Serve immediately.

For a cherry tomato and pearl mozzarella salad:

  • Use cherry or grape tomatoes, you can leave them whole or slice them in halves.
  • Place the mozzarella pearls or ciliegine in a bowl, add the basil oil and mix well.
  • Mix in the cherry tomatoes.
  • Drizzle with the balsamic reduction right before serving.

This tomato mozzarella salad is my oldest son’s favorite salad; it is guaranteed that if we go out to dinner and he sees caprese salad on the menu, he will choose it over anything else. While visiting family in Europe this summer, we found it everywhere on the menu in France, but surprisingly it was less common to see it on the menu in Italy – though of course most restaurants had the ingredients on hand, so if we asked they would make it.


This salad can be customized based on the type of tomatoes you have available, it can made with regular vine tomatoes, it is delicious with a mix of heirloom tomatoes, and can also be made with cherry or grape tomatoes. There are different types of fresh mozzarella, made with cow milk or buffalo, and you can use your favorite to make this salad: the freshly made artisan style large balls in brine to the smaller fresh pearls or ciliegine to the deliciously creamy burrata mozzarella.

The presentation of the tomato mozzarella caprese salad can also be customized based on your preference: you can slice the tomatoes and the cheese, you can cut them into quarters, for a caprese salad using burrata you can leave it whole on the center of the serving plate and arrange the tomatoes around it, for a salad using cherry tomatoes and mozzarella pearls you can leave them whole or slice them in half, you can create layered stacks, and more.


The ratio of tomatoes to mozzarella can be adjusted based on your preference (and budget), I usually use about 4-6 tomatoes (depending on the size) to one pound (16 oz) of fresh mozzarella. However, if I’m using a very expensive mozzarella, then I will probably use less cheese. In the US, Costco is one of my favorite places to buy fresh mozzarella, they have the 2-packs of sliced mozzarella and also the large container of mozzarella di buffala in brine, and both are great value for parties. One of the local grocery stores also has a very good mozzarella that they make in house; it’s more expensive than Costco, so I use it only for super special occasions.

This easy tomato mozzarella salad is so refreshing and perfect for a spring or summer side dish, plus you can make it a few different ways!

As you all know, the Oh, Sweet Basil cookbook, Our Sweet Basil Kitchen launched on March 7th and we’ve been so thrilled to see all of your pictures of the cookbook hanging out in your kitchens! We never dreamed of having this career but it’s been so much fun we just can’t imagine doing anything else.

On the front cover, and of course the recipe is in the book as well, is this Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Tart, which is really quite delicious and it looks fancy without taking any time at all, but we still wanted to show you a version you could make without turning on the oven. It’s a great gluten free side to take to barbecues or picnics too. It’s kind of like a caprese salad so if you’ve ever wondered how to make a balsamic reduction for a caprese salad keep reading.

What is a balsamic reduction?

It sounds so fancy I know you’re going to want to take off running, but don’t. What is a balsamic reduction? A balsamic reduction is just balsamic vinegar that has been cooked down until it’s a thick, syrup like consistency. It can also be called a balsamic glaze.

How to Make Balsamic Reduction

Want to know how to make balsamic reduction? Place about a cup of balsamic vinegar in a skillet over medium high heat. Your kitchen is going to smell like vinegar. You will smell like vinegar. It’s worth it. Once the vinegar begins to bubble and boil turn it down to medium low so that you don’t burn it. Cook it low and slow until it reduces down and becomes thick almost like honey. Remove it from the heat and it will continue to thicken as it cools. So how do you thicken balsamic reduction? You just wait and let it it do it’s thing. If it isn’t reducing try turning up the heat a little or switching to a lower lipped skillet. This is the skillet we use, a T-fal nonstick 12.5″ skillet. It’s ridiculously cheap but so far it’s been our favorite pan and has held up the best over the last 10 years, yes even the $200 pan didn’t pass the test.

On that same note, if it gets too thick and you need to know how to thin balsamic reduction, don’t worry it’s very easy. Just add a drop of balsamic vinegar and whisk, repeating as necessary.

How Long to Reduce Balsamic Vinegar

I had to make this a separate answer, how long to reduce balsamic vinegar because it can be a little tricky. It often takes about 30 minutes, but depending on how much you are reducing and how high the heat is you could do it in just 10 minutes as well. The important part is not how long to reduce it, it’s how to watch it. Notice where the vinegar hits on the side of the pan when you pour it in (we use a skillet as it works better to have a bigger surface area than a pot) and keep an eye on how it reduces down.

How to Store Balsamic Reduction and How Long to Store Balsamic Glaze

One of the most asked questions we’ve gotten is how to store balsamic reduction and how long you can store balsamic glaze. You can place it in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. It’s just vinegar so there’s nothing to worry about.

How to Use Balsamic Reduction

There are oh so many ways to use balsamic reduction. Obviously we have a few recipes which I’ll list, but over caprese salad, over chicken or other meats, fruit it wonderful with a balsamic drizzle and a little honey or sugar, and oh my goodness, crusty, garlicky bread is so good! I’ll add extra recipes at the bottom of the post.

How to Make Marinated Mozzarella Pearls

Finally, how to make marinated mozzarella pearls. This is the very best part of the recipe. You can buy marinated mozzarella pearls at most grocery stores or you can whip up a batch yourself. Start out with mozzarella pearls which come in a tub with liquid. Remove them and drain the liquid. In a bowl, whisk together a simple olive oil and herb dressing and toss it with the cheese. Really, if you can cover it and let it marinate for 24-36 hours that’s ideal but even right away will be delicious. That’s it!!

Shortcuts to Make Tomato Mozzarella Salad

If you don’t want to reduce the balsamic vinegar you can totally skip that too. Buy your cheese, tomatoes and a little vinegar and toss it all together and though the balsamic will be more tangy it is still a wonderful recipe.

Easy Tomato Mozzarella Salad

5 from 3 votes Cook Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes Servings: 6 This easy tomato mozzarella salad is so refreshing and perfect for a spring or summer side dish, plus you can make it a few different ways!

For the Marinade

  • 3/4 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves minced fine
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Basil
  • 2 Teaspoons Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • 1/2 Teapoon Oregano fresh or 1/4 Teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Red Bell Pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 16 Ounces Mozzarella Pearls or Marinated Mozzarella Pearls *see note

For the Reduction

  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Halved Grape or Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Fresh Basil or Parsley for Garnish
  • In a bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients.
  • Fold in the mozzarella and cover with saran wrap in the fridge for 1-36 hours before serving.
  • Balsamic Reduction
  • Place the vinegar in a skillet, not a saucepan and cook over medium high heat until it begins to boil.
  • Turn down to medium low and cook for up to 30 minutes or until thick. Ours took 11 minutes in a large skillet, almost 30 minutes in a very small skillet.
  • Pour into a bowl to cool.
  • Toss the tomatoes, mozzarella and a drizzle of the marinade in a bowl
  • Add a sprinkle of salt and stir.
  • Drizzle with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with the garnish.
  • Serve immediately or within 1 day.

Notes

If you use the marinated mozzarella pearls you will not need to make the dressing. The mozzarella will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days. Nutrition Facts Easy Tomato Mozzarella Salad Amount Per Serving (1 g) Calories 23 Calories from Fat 9 % Daily Value* Fat 1g2% Saturated Fat 1g6% Sodium 5mg0% Potassium 34mg1% Carbohydrates 4g1% Fiber 1g4% Sugar 3g3% Protein 1g2% Vitamin C 1mg1% Calcium 10mg1% Iron 1mg6% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Author: Sweet Basil Course: 100 + Salad Recipes to Obsess Over Keyword: balsamic reduction, mozzarella, salad, side, tomatoes

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