Caprese salad, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, is one of the most toothsome and easiest Italian recipes. All bright sides: this dish always turns out right, everyone enjoys it, and most of all it makes a fast lunch or dinner with a few ingredients you have in your pantry.
Can you enjoy it only in the summer? Not at all if you have a couple of tasty ripe tomatoes, high quality buffalo milk or fiordilatte mozzarella, and a few other ingredients to season.
Here it is, your caprese salad will make your guests happy!
A dish which dates back in time
Here, I am not only going to write a recipe, I am going to write a milestone of the Neapolitan culinary tradition. In Campania, mozzarella is as precious as gold, white gold! Something you can’t joke around. Its taste and its texture makes this dish famous (and hacked) all around the world. Unluckily, tasty mozzarella can’t be easily found outside Campania.
Is this a fresh low calorie dish?
Caprese salad is not a low calorie dish, but you don’t have to give it up. It doesn’t spoil you diet: it makes a perfect balanced main course with a crispy fresh salad (tomatoes are not very satiating) and a slice of rustic toasted bread.
Mozzarella cheese is mistakenly believed to be light and weight loss friendly. Of course, compared to other kinds of cheese, it is definitely the lowest in fat and calories, second only to ricotta, but generally it is higher in calories than a lot of main course, meat for instance. The calorie intake of 100 g of mozzarella is about 230-240 Kcal with 19g of fat, not light indeed! So, do not esagerate with this fresh tempting dish: a moderate serving once a week won’t spoil your diet.
Is it a dangerous dish?
Not, definitely! It is very very easy to prepare: a few tricks make it perfect.
When I am on a business trip both in the Usa and in Italy I always ask for a Caprese salad to enjoy something fresh and easy to digest. Unfortunately, not all the caprese salads are the same: sometimes they are really toothsome, other ones may easily let you down!
Let’s look into the strong points of this dish
Every traditional dish has got its own rules to apply in order to avoid very frequent mistakes.
The worst ones? Too bland and watery mozzarella, too ripe tomatoes, low quality oil.
Chose the right ingredients for a perfect caprese
- Mozzarella: opt for only and definitely tasty extra fresh one! It must taste milk, butter, yogurt, and cream altogether. The original recipe wants fiordilatte, but the tastier buffalo milk mozzarella fits well too. It mustn’t release too much juice, otherwise caprese would get watered and runny and the taste of the tomato would be spoilt. Serve mozzarella at room temperature.
- Tomaotes: choose them carefully as they are very important; they are not all the same! The best? “Fiascona” tomatoes, also known as Re Umberto tomatoes. If this is not a possibility, opt for ripe fleshy “oxheart type” or a mix of diced tomatoes along with Pachino cherry tomatoes and datterino ones. Slice the tomatoes and allow to sit for a few minutes to drain a little juice.
- Basil is not only ornamental, it is essential! Tear a decent handful of big fresh basil leaves; add them onto the salad just before serving because they tend to wither and turn black easily.
- Salt? Sprinkle it only on tomatoes, never on mozzarella!
- Extra virgin olive oil: absolute high quality one with low acidity level. Scented and fruity, you don’t need much to season your salad.
- Extras: oregano may replace or come along with basil. Opt for fresh or dry scented good quality one. Pepper may be added too, anyway it is not necessary.
- Keep away from: mayo, olives, capers, balsamic vinegar, pesto or any other sauces. These ingredients are all very toothsome, but they will spoil the genuine taste of the recipe. You don’t want that!
A short vademecum to choose the right mozzarella:
- Generally oval molded and glossy, it is made of (fresh pasteurized) milk, rennet, lactic ferments, and salt. Industrial mozzarella cheese is added with citric acid, an addictive which makes the production process faster, and sometimes replaces lactic ferments;
- Mozzarella must not be “bleached”: if it is too white to translucent, it must have undergone several industrial processes, and it might contain not only milk;
- Plastic, stringy but not chewy at all, it must not melt easily as stracchino cheese, for instance;
- White surface means mozzarella is not fresh or it is too rich in salt;
- Characteristic drops of milky liquid should seep out when you cut it: the so called “holes” ;
- A quite laborious process is needed to produce handmade mozzarella cheese with organic milk: low prices mean it is an industrial product. Be careful with what you buy!
How to know if mozzarella is bad:
- Visually inspect mozzarella: cracks on the surface mark it is not good. Scratch the surface of mozzarella with finger-if it “cracks”, it is not fresh or its water is not good quality;
- If it smells bad and sour, throw it away it has gone off;
- If the water is yellowish, and tastes sour milk, mozzarella has gone off, do not use it.
The genuine Italian Caprese Salad
- 500 gr extra fresh fiordilatte or buffalo milk mozzarella
- Fleshly ripe tomatoes (if you are in Italy, those from Sorrento are wonderful: they grow and ripen on the plants)
- Fresh basil
- Fine salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Extra: dry oregano to taste
- Let mozzarella stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes;
- Wash the tomatoes and cut away the stem scar;
- Pat dry the tomatoes with some kitchen paper; if they are perfectly ripe they won’t release any juice;
- Cut them the lengthwise into 1cm thick slices;
- Cut mozzarella into 1cm thick slices (so, not very thin) and drain them
- Rinse the basil;
- On a large serving dish, arrange the mozzarella and tomato slices alternating and overlapping them. Put some salt only the tomato slices;
- Tear the basil leaves with your hands and place them onto every mozzarella slice;
- Sprinkle with oregano to taste;
- Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil;
- Combine the dish with a few slices of toasted bread and lightly seasoned crispy salad.