I am a big fan of serving a selection of appetizers for dinner, and this Caprese salad recipe is often on the menu. Sometimes I’ll make a hot dish like mini meatballs or puff pastry bites, but my must-haves are a cheese platter (check out my tips for making a cheese platter that wows!), olives, baguette or crackers, a charcuterie plate, and either crudite (veggie platter) or a salad – along with a bottle of wine of course! My Caprese salad recipe is light, healthy, and so refreshing. The bright colors also make a beautiful and elegant presentation with minimal effort. With just a few simple ingredients, you can make your own Caprese salad, one of my favorite easy appetizers.
Caprese Salad Recipe
3 large tomatoes (or equivalent amount of smaller ones)
8-12 oz. fresh mozzarella (aka buffalo mozzarella)
large bunch of fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
2 cups balsamic vinegar (or prepared balsamic glaze for drizzling)
kosher or sea salt
coarse black pepper
Bring the balsamic vinegar to a gentle boil over low heat until it starts to reduce and thicken to a syrup-like consistency (about 15 minutes). Set aside to cool. If you’d prefer, you can skip this step and use pre-made balsamic glaze.
Depending on your preference, you can construct your Caprese salad in a couple of different ways: thick slices or bite-size chunks. Beefsteak, heirloom, or Roma tomatoes work well as slices, or you can also cut them into chunks. Cherry or grape tomatoes can just be cut in half. Colorful heirloom tomatoes make a particularly pretty presentation.
Cut the fresh mozzarella into slices or chunks – choose the same style as the tomatoes.
Rinse and pat dry the bunch of fresh basil. Remove the larger bits of stem. If you’re using slices of tomato and mozzarella, leave the basil leaves whole. If you’re cutting your Caprese salad into bite-size pieces, julienne the basil by stacking the leaves, rolling them up, and slicing them into thin ribbons. Do this part right before serving, as cutting the basil will cause it to wilt.
If you’re using slices, stack your salad by placing a basil leaf on a tomato slice and then topping the basil with a thick slice of mozzarella. If you’re doing chunks, mix the tomato pieces with the mozzarella on your serving plate, then sprinkle with the julienned basil. As an artist, I believe in the power of plating! It makes your dish look even more inviting whether you’re having guests over or it’s just family. I like to use a glass serving plate because I like the contemporary style of the clear glass and the rectangular shape.
Finish off this Caprese salad recipe with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze, then a sprinkle of kosher or sea salt and coarse black pepper. I prefer sea salt due to the bit of crunch it adds.
The photo on the left is a Caprese salad recipe with sliced and stacked Roma tomatoes and whole basil leaves. In the right photo, I used baby heirlooms and ribbons of basil. Personally, I prefer this one because it’s just so pretty and bite-sized, but the stacked version would be easier to serve as finger food at a party.
And that’s it! You’ve made a super easy appetizer that tastes great. Serve your Caprese salad with some crusty French bread and a light entrée or simply add a few other appetizers and turn it into a meal. My sweetie and I have an appetizer-dinner at least once a week. Who says appetizers are just for parties?
Make sure you don’t forget the vino! I like to pair my Caprese salad recipe with a wine that’s light and crisp with a bit of tartness. It seems to compliment the acidity of the tomato while not overpowering the delicate mozzarella. Here are a few options: a chilled Sauvignon Blanc; a chardonnay aged in steel barrels (not oak since you’re looking for tart, not buttery), or even a rosé. If you prefer red, maybe try a Pinot Noir.
Stay cool and enjoy this easy appetizer and wine pairing!