This is a classic Italian salad with a few different variations. Some use whole basil, some use thinly sliced ribbons, called a chifonade in culinary terms, as I do. Most recipes don’t involve pine nuts, but some do involve shaved parmesan or balsamic vinegar. There are also variations, which I greatly enjoy, that use marinated balls of fresh mozzarella (boccancini in Italian) and grape tomatoes to make a bite size salad.
This Recipe is somewhat more traditional, and visually impressive. The caprese salad is the unofficial national dish of Italy. So try to do it justice by getting the best ingredients possible – avoid beefsteak or other sandwich tomatoes, and go for ones that are sold still attached to the vine, even if they’re a bit smaller. Often, large tomatoes have been bred primarily for their size, which means their flavor profile is neglected. Fresh basil and good quality mozzarella are also a must.
- 3 mid sized tomatoes ripe but still firm, preferably off the vine
- 1 8 oz block Sargento or other good quality whole milk mozzarella
- 15 leaves fresh basil chifonade
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Small handful toasted pine nuts
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Whole basil sprigs for garnish
- 1 tsp Mediterranean seasoning or any nice low key Italian seasoning blend (optional, use your favorite)
Heat a saucepan on medium low and add the pine nuts. Toss them about often until they start to smell delicious and very, very lightly brown. This can be done in the oven as well, but pine nuts are easy to burn so care must be taken. Slice the tomatoes into thick slices after coring out the little tough area around the stem. Then cut the mozzarella into similar slices. Layer them alternatingly on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the Mediterranean seasoning and pine nuts, salt and pepper, and then drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle the sliced basil overtop and serve.