I guess I would be missing the boat, with a big picture of tomatoes at the top of this blog, if I didn’t post occasional tomato-highlight recipes. Although this is the quintessential summer dish, I offer up this little recipe as a nod to spring time and warmer days to come. Insalata Caprese is so refreshing and so simple you can make it with your eyes closed. But I wouldn’t do that because it involves a knife. So keep your eyes open and your taste buds perked. First a little background…
The lore of this salad: it was apparently invented on the Isle of Capri (hence the name) in the early 1950s. But here the story thread diverges. Some reports say the dish was designed at a local trattoria as a simple but tasty homage to Italy and it’s red, white and green flag. Another legend has it that the dish was made in honor of King Farouk who was living in exile in Italy during that time. But non importa. It belongs to all of us now!
Here in our family we put together this little jewel both at home in the U.S. and at our house in Italy. We also order it in restaurants in Italy as a primo or first course. Though we prefer to have the cheesed served sliced, some restaurants in Italy serve Insalata Caprese with sliced tomatoes surrounded by a big ball of cheese. Like this.
They really make you work for your dinner.
I’ve seen people add balsamic vinegar to this dish. I’ve seen people sprinkle oregano on this dish. To each his own. But I think these additions compete with the subtle flavor of the tomatoes and mozzarella. Here’s how this dish is served most often in Italy and the way we serve it at home and have grown to love it.
This wonderful dish is about as simple as you can get.
- 2 firm but ripe tomatoes
- 1 ball of mozzarella, the freshest available
- 6 - 8 fresh basil leaves
- olive oil poured to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange them alternately and overlapping on a plate.
- Wash and gently pat dry the basil leaves. Sprinkle them over the tomatoes and mozzarella.
- Pour olive oil over the salad. Then salt and pepper it to taste.
- Enjoy this dish with some sliced bread for mopping up the lovely juice that left.