Insalata caprese

Insalata caprese As with many great Italian cuisine inventions such as pasta and pizza, for the Caprese salad as well origins are not precisely known. It is easy to fall in love with this simple but refined dish, which has in itself the colors and flavors of products that have made the history of Italian cooking: tomato, basil and mozzarella. The caprese is also a lifestyle, being an uncooked dish where ingredients are everything, and the taste is simple but intense.


Some sources report it was an invention of a patriotic mason who after World War I loved to enclose the colors of the tricolor inside a fragrant bun. Surely the first historical mention is from the early 1920s when it appeared in the menu at the Hotel Quisisana where Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, founder of Futurism, in the summer of 1924 raged against pasta calling it "outdated".

Decades later, precisely in the 1950s, it is reported that King Farouk, asking for something light as an afternoon appetizer, was served a sandwich stuffed with mozzarella, tomato and basil. It is therefore definitely one of the discoveries of the twentieth century.

With mass tourism the caprese ceased to be a Capri recipe and became an international dish, a Mediterranean dream just as a quick sandwich on the streets, in motorway and airport autogrills. Meanwhile, the dish was improved when the traditional vaccine mozzarella started to be replaced with bufala mozzarella, a dairy product typical of Campania.

The Recipe

What are the secrets of a good caprese? Everyone has their own, but the basic rules on the island of Capri are as follows.
  • The mozzarella must be large, if possible a piece of at least half a kilo, because the quality of the flavor is directly proportional to its size. Small mozzarelle are therefore not suited. Buffalo milk is tastier than cow's milk, and a mozzarella di bufala, a handmade product, is the best.
  • The tomatoes should be neither unripe nor overripe: that is, they must have some sauce but also retain consistency, the color should be ramato (a copper red). They should be cut a little in advance to lose the cold of the refrigerator if kept there, lightly salted and gently turned into a bowl to let the excess sauce come out.
  • When it is time to put the salad together, just a little tomato juice and mozzarella milk will keep the dish moist: but, as the Latins used to say est modus in rebus (= there must be a measure in all things), a caprese must be neither too dry nor too liquid. The appearance of the composition is up to the creativity of the chef!
  • Basil leaves must be broken by hand and not with a knife (the basil otherwise may take a metallic taste, or, according to an age-old superstition, scorpions will rise from it...). It should never be substituted with oregano, which might be too invasive for this recipe.
  • Then, the caprese should rest a quarter of an hour, and consumed without bread. If you want to, but it is not necessary and some do not like it, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil can be added.