Caprese salad with basil-spinach pesto
What to cook for dinner when you don't want to turn the stove on
Caprese salad is the perfect light supper when you don't want to turn the stove on and you want to spend only 10 minutes preparing dinner (including the time it takes you to open a bottle of wine.) The key is really great ingredients: fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and really good first-press olive oil.
Classic Caprese salad
Caprese salad is a simple salad named for the isle of Capri. In Capri, this salad is traditionally made with cow's milk mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula, oregano and a splash of olive oil. This Caprese salad recipe is closer to the Caprese salad most people are familiar with, which simply includes Buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil.
There are lots of things you can do to create variations on Caprese salad. In this recipe, I add basil-spinach pesto, and sandwich it between the tomatoes and mozzarella. If you are pressed for time, you can use store-bought pesto. Here are some other variations to try:
- Substitute slabs of watermelon, slices of fresh pears, pineapple, mango or strawberries for the tomatoes.
- Add capers and/or anchovies for a salty-savory touch.
- Have fun with the herbs. Try with mint, chives, sorrel or oregano. Or serve with arugula instead of basil.
- Serve with toasted bread rubbed with a clove of garlic.
- Put the Caprese salad ingredients between two slabs of bread and grill it on the stove or in a panini press.
- Toss chopped Caprese salad ingredients with some hot pasta and a big spoonful of pesto.
However you construct your Caprese salad or variation of Caprese salad, you will want to finish it with a great olive oil, a sprinkling of flakey sea salt (I like Maldon), and fresh ground pepper. Alternatively, you can sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you want a little more heat.
A splash of vinegar can add a little flavor pop. You can use a good quality balsamic, a balsamic vinegar reduction, or I like Mutti tomato vinegar for its intensely tomato flavor and its very reasonable price.
Caprese salad can be served as an appetizer, a side salad or a main course. Just vary the quantities. Caprese salad goes great with a glass of red wine and a good Italian bread.
- 1 ball of fresh Buffalo mozzarella
- 2-4 multi colored heirloom tomatoes, about 2 pounds total
- A big handful of fresh basil
- ½ cup basil-spinach pesto, or other pesto
- Good quality first-press virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Flakey sea salt such as Maldon
- Fresh ground pepper
- Slice the heirloom tomatoes, about ⅓" thick. Arrange half the tomatoes side-by-side on a serving platter, alternating different colors and sizes of tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Slice the buffalo mozzarella into ⅓" slices and layer over tomatoes. Put a spoonful of pesto on top of each slice of mozzarella. Layer the remaining tomatoes on top of the mozzarella.
- Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck fresh basil leaves around the tomatoes.