This is a classic Italian antipasti (the plural is antipasto, and it is the first course of an Italian meal – what we might call an appetizer.) It can be made in a myriad of ways, using any type of tomato, any shape of fresh mozzarella, and you can even experiment with different types of balsamic vinegar and other aromatic herbs. We once watched Lydia Bastianich make a version using celery instead of basil! Something different might be nice on occasion, but, you just can’t improve on perfection…
There are no specific amounts in this recipe, at least not when I make it. It’s really a balance, no matter how much you’re making. This dish is easily adapted for 2 people or 10 people, just remember when you get to the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to go light – you, or your guests – can always add more to taste, but you can’t take it away once it’s on there.
The important thing with a simple recipe like this is to use fresh, tasty ingredients. Bland tomatoes, for instance, will completely ruin the balance of flavors you want to achieve. It is better to use flavorful grape tomatoes (which I frequently resort to up here in Alaska) even though the plating is not nearly as impressive, than to end up with a beautiful plate that lacks pizzazz.
Enough pondering and pitfalls – here is the recipe:
Fresh, Tasty Tomatoes – Red are traditional, but not required. About 1 medium tomato or 6 cherry/grape tomatoes per person.
Fresh Mozzarella – About the same volume as the tomatoes.
Fresh Basil Leaves – The number will depend upon the amount of salad you’re making – about 2 Basil leaves per person.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Slice the tomatoes into 1/8 inch slices. I have been known to use almost any type of tomatoes, Romas included, if they have nice flavor. If you’re using cherry or grape tomatoes, cut them in half or in quarters, depending upon their size.
Slice the Fresh Mozzarella into 1/8 inch slices. If you’re using smaller tomatoes, you might want to halve the slices, or even quarter them. If using cherry or grape tomatoes, you can cut the mozzarella into chunks. Try to balance the amount and the size of the tomatoes and mozzarella in the dish. There are smaller balls of mozzarella that you can buy if you don’t want to have to cut it, and they also look prettier with the cherry and grape tomatoes if you’re preparing the dish for guests.
If serving the tomatoes and mozzarella in slices, whole basil leaves look great, but with the smaller pieces the basil should be cut in a chiffonade and mixed into the dish.
Your plating will depend upon the tomatoes and mozzarella types and sizes that you’ve used. The lovely plate here Caprese in Catania
was served at a lovely restaurant in Catania, Italy, and the oil and vinegar were served on the side.
When I make it at home and use grape tomatoes, it is much more rustic and I just stir it all together as you see it here.
The slices of tomato and mozzarella are often stacked with basil leaves on top, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar then sprinkled with salt and pepper and served. If you have gone for the more rustic approach, simply toss the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil chiffonade together, drizzle with the oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss lightly again and serve.
Try this classic Italian salad, with its vibrant red, white and green colors as the intro to your next DIY Italian meal!