How To: To Boost Your Caprese Salad, Just Add Fruit

To Boost Your Caprese Salad, Just Add Fruit

We like to think of ourselves as caprese connoisseurs. When we made our first batch of the iconic tomato salad, we became obsessed with the classic combo of fresh basil, sweet tomatoes, and creamy mozzarella cheese. But after a while, we wanted more than just the basic, layered Italian summer staple.

Here is how we make the classic caprese, and three spins we like to put on it when we're feeling adventurous. Our main tip: as with all things in cooking and life, starting with the best ingredients is key.

Image by Nick & Bay Nigro/Food Hacks Daily

#1. The Classic Caprese (With a Twist)

Like spaghetti to Sicily and margherita pizza to Naples, Insulata Caprese is the dish most often associated with Capri (and is, in fact, named for the Italian island).

Though the exact origin of the Italian-flag-colored salad is somewhat disputed, some stories state that the salad was first seen in the 1920s at Capri's famous Hotel Quisisana. Others refer to an event in the 1950s, when King Farouk of Egypt was visiting Capri; in response to his request for a light meal, he was served a caprese sandwich.

How to Make It

Basic caprese recipes call for tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. We like to add balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper to ours. Although sometimes we do love the traditional presentation of alternating slices of thick tomatoes, ivory mozzarella, and pristine basil leaves stacked on a plate, we also opt for what we call caprese boats.

The dish was first created for our cookbook, Living the Mediterranean Diet, and is easy to pick up and pop in your mouth at a moment's notice. The basil boat holds the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls; just stick a small skewer through if you'd like to ensure that they stay together.

Image by Nick & Bay Nigro/Food Hacks Daily

Getting Creative with Your Caprese Salad

To put together any of these variations on the caprese salad, you don't need an actual recipe or measurements or proportions. Just slice or cut up the fruit, slice or dice your cheese (or leave the small balls whole), and add basil (whole leaf or cut up). Drizzle or mix with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, season with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and you are good to go!

Please note that, for all of these caprese variations, in addition to the ingredients listed you will also need:

  • fresh basil leaves
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

#2. Watermelon Caprese

The first time we had watermelon caprese, we were blown away. The texture of sweet, pink watermelon flesh when it's perfectly ripe is beautifully complemented by the bursts of juice from the cherry tomatoes. Add the smooth and satisfying feeling of biting into the mozzarella balls and the fresh flavor of the basil, plus the tangy drizzle of sharp balsamic vinegar, and you have a variation that may even outclass the classic.

What You Need:

What to Serve It With:

Image by Nick & Bay Nigro/Food Hacks Daily

#3. Peach Caprese

The sweet, slightly gooey flesh of the peach gives this caprese an unexpected taste and texture that is irresistible. We don't include tomatoes with ours, but you certainly can add a few if you'd like to go the more traditional caprese route.

Our peach caprese begins as a neatly layered tower of sliced peaches, mozzarella, and whole basil leaves. Then, we give it a topple-over and let the pieces (and flavors) fall naturally around the plate. While we do eat first with our eyes, that beautiful presentation has to eventually find its way into your mouth, so deconstruct away!

What You Need:

  • sliced peaches (we used yellow peaches and marinated the slices in balsamic to give them their red color)
  • sliced bocconcini (large mozzarella balls)

What to Serve It With:

Image by Nick & Bay Nigro/Food Hacks Daily

#4. Strawberry Caprese

Strawberry caprese is the type of dish you indulge in once and think, "Why didn't I eat this before?" The sweetness of the strawberries is a brilliant complement to the tart tomatoes and luxuriously smooth mozzarella. With this salad, we like to go a bit heavier on the black pepper to balance the sweetness a bit.

What You Need:

What to Serve It With:

Image by Nick & Bay Nigro/Food Hacks Daily

Whether it's the classic you're craving or one of the more modern twists, caprese salads are the perfect way to take advantage of tomato season. Using simple yet outstandingly fresh ingredients is the key to this standout dish. So hit your farmer's market and start stacking (or chopping)!

Do you have your own creative caprese? Share your variations with us in the comments below!

More Salad Suggestions:

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