02 August 2009

SUMMER CLASSIC: Insalata Caprese

I love summer, with its abundance of fruit and vegetables. I find myself being more adventuresome with my cooking. I also find myself returning to some classic dishes--after all, there’s a reason they’re classics, eh? This one, with its riperipe tomatoes and creamy mozzarella and basil that smells like sunshine is one of my favorites. I make it as soon as there are good tomatoes. I always use buffalo mozzarella. When I first heard about buffalo mozzarella, I thought it was a joke--after all, mozzarella is Italian and everyone KNOWS that buffaloes aren’t found in Italy, they’re found in North America, right? (NORTH AMERICA ROCKS!) And I don’t know about you, but I sure-as-heck wouldn’t want to try and milk one. And furthermore...

But then I found out that real mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffaloes. Oh. Never mind.


Do we need a recipe for this? Ok, if you insist. You’ll need:

  • 4 perfectly ripe tomatoes, preferably still warm from the sunshine and shouting “my roots! I can’t feel my roots!”
  • 2 - 125 g/4 oz balls of buffalo mozzarella
  • Some large, intact basil leaves--the exact number depends on how thin you slice your tomatoes. I love basil, and I slice my tomatoes very thin...
  • A sharp knife. I only add this because I’ve cooked in a lot of kitchens where there was not one single knife that would cut a tomato. You really need one. I use a filet knife, meant to filet fish. It’s perfect for this job.
  • About 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella as thin as you can. It helps with the mozzarella to really slice it--don’t just push down with the knife, move it back and forth. This will yield thinner slices. In the center of the mozzarella, the slices may be larger than the tomatoes. If that happens, you are allowed to cut them in half. If you’re really good, you’ll have as many slices of mozzarella as you have of tomatoes. If you don’t, just eat the extras. Sometimes we shoot for imperfection.

Arrange the salad as follows: a slice of tomato, a slice of cheese, a basil leaf, repeat. Finish with a basil leaf. Drizzle vinaigrette over it all.

Serves 4 if they like it, and 10 if they don’t.


  1. You can make this with the little pearl mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. You’ll want to cut the tomatoes in half so that they don’t squirt on your silk shirt when you bite into them (trust me on this). Add a chiffonade of basil--cut the basil leaves into thin strips and mix with the mozzarella and tomatoes.
  2. You can hollow out a tomato and fill it with little pearl mozzarella or just mozzarella cut into small cubes. Pour over a loose pesto made with basil, pine nuts and good olive oil.
  3. You can cut a tomato into 8-10 wedges and arrange them artfully around a ball of mozzarella that you’ve cut into. Cut an X-shape, not quite through the ball, and fill the center with basil pesto.


Grace said...

I love, love, love this salad! I make it many times over the summer, but
I never knew it had a name. My husband, who is one fourth Italian,
said the colors represent the colors of the Italian flag. Cool!

Grace said...

this is the quintessential summer dish. the fresh tomatoes are fantastic, and as for the whole buffalo mozzarella thing—i don’t care how it gets made as long as it gets made. period. :)

Anonymous said...

What a great recipe!

Anonymous said...

Spent a summer in Cortona... there is nothing like Mozzaralla Buffala and fresh tomatoes. YUMMMMMMMMMMMMY. : ) Jennifer S.

lisa (dandysugar) said...

This is one of my favorite salads. It's so simple but has so much flavor. Fresh tomatos and basil are the best combination!

Kate said...

Thanks for the comments. This is my favorite kind of 'cooking'--great ingredients treated simply. What's better than that?

Celeste Vaught said...

Kate, I love your new blog & guess what? I just ate this salad for lunch - now that's a coincidence!!! I actually added a little fresh cucumber to mine - I know, I know, not the same, but oh, so delicious!

Simply Life said...

Looks delicious and refreshing!

Thanks for your comment! The quail was flattened but not stuffed! :)

The Gypsy Chef said...

I love this salad. It certainly is the quintessential summer dish. I grew up eating tomato sandwiches; tomatoes, mayo, salt and pepper on white bread. We thought we were living high when tomatoes were in season. Now I toss them with onion, s&p and olive oil. Simple. If I'm getting crazy I add mozzarella. Life is wonderful in the summer. By the way, I always love it when you write "4 if they like it and 10......"