The beauty of caprese salad is in its simplicity. It is a basic dish comprised mostly of mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar help add more depth of flavor. When combined together, they become a bright, fresh, flavorful mouthful.
But because it is a simple dish, the quality of your ingredients makes a big difference in the final flavor. So make certain that you source excellent components so that every part can shine through.
This is an easy dish to make for a crowd. Just build and layer until there is enough for everyone to snack on. So don’t be afraid to grab a stack with your fingers and take a bite of juicy flavor.
An Italian Dish
The salad was named for the island Capri in Italy, where it likely originated. It also looks distinctly like the Italian flag, depending upon the order in which you layer it. So of course it had to be Italian with those kinds of colors.
You can make a caprese salad without the balsamic reduction. But it just sounds fancier. Try saying it out loud – balsamic reduction. Nice. And all it is is balsamic vinegar put over heat until it loses water and thickens up. Oh, it also imparts a ton of unique flavor.
So there’s that.
- Fresh Mozzarella – A soft southern Italian cheese that has a very mild flavor.
- Basil – Delicious, peppery herb that packs a punch of flavor.
- Tomatoes – Fresh from the garden are the best, but some large store-bought work well.
- Balsamic Vinegar – A dark, concentrated vinegar made from aged, mashed grapes.
- Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil will have a lot more flavor than any other variety.
- Salt – Essential food flavoring ingredient. I recommend getting a quality finishing salt for this dish.
- Pepper – Just grind some fresh stuff.
All-In on Caprese Salad
Though it is called a salad, this dish is typically served as an appetizer – an aperetivo in Italian. But it can easily be served as a side dish, salad, or appetizer, depending upon your needs.
The chocolate syrup-looking thing in the photo below is actually the balsamic glaze. You could buy a balsamic reduction instead of making one to help speed things up slightly. But it does not save much time. It also is not very difficult to make a homemade balsamic reduction. Just start with a quality balsamic vinegar, put it on the heat, and let it simmer until it is thickened.
Bonus because it also spreads warm, slightly acidic aromas through the air as it reduces on the stove. I also recommend trying out a balsamic glaze on a watermelon feta salad instead of the original dressing I paired with it. So test that out if you have any extra glaze.
As you can see from the photos, it really is a simple dish. It is easy to make and comes together in about 15 to 20 minutes depending on how long you simmer the vinegar. In my opinion, the most difficult part is getting and using the basil at the right time before any of it has a chance to discolor.
So grab the ingredients, and make this quickly to enjoy a fresh appetizer that can be dressed up or down depending on what you serve with it.
Caprese Salad Platter with Balsamic ReductionCourse: Appetizers, SaladsDifficulty: Easy
This bright, fresh, flavorful caprese salad is a perfectly stacked appetizer of mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil topped with balsamic vinegar glaze
1 cup balsamic vinegar
4 medium tomatoes
18 ounces fresh mozzarella
18 large basil leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of flaky salt
Dash of pepper
- In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer the balsamic vinegar and reduce until it has thickened by half, about 15 minutes
- While the vinegar is reducing, slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into approximately 18 thick (around 1/4 inch) rounds
- When the vinegar has reduced by half, remove it from the heat and let it cool
- On a large plate or platter, layer alternating slices of mozzarella, tomato, and basil leaves until all slices are used up
- Use two small spoons to drizzle the balsamic reduction and the olive oil over all layers of the arranged slices
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the dish and serve