Featuring juicy summer tomatoes, creamy mini mozzarella balls and fresh, bright green basil leaves, these Caprese skewers are always a welcome appetizer. Whether you are gathering to celebrate Father’s Day, 4th of July or just a “let’s get together this weekend” date, make some. They are easy and fresh tasting.
The Famous Caprese Salad
You might be familiar with the famous Italian Caprese salad, named for the southern island of Capri. History says it was created to resemble the colors of the Italian flag. In Italy, it is usually served as a starter or antipasto.
Caprese Salad is standard summer fare at our house when colorful heirloom tomatoes are at their peak. It’s simply slices of fresh, ripe tomatoes and creamy mozzarella cheese (we use buratta) with fresh basil leaves tucked between the slices, dressed with good olive oil. The simplicity is beautiful.
Caprese Skewers with Basil Vinaigrette
For years I’ve made an appetizer version of this salad for catered parties and family events. Instead of full size heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes and large balls mozzarella, think smaller. Choose cherry or grape tomatoes for their size. If you can get them, choose multi-colors for more visual appeal.
While many recipes skewer the whole tomato, I like to get the cherry size and cut them in half crosswise. They look so nice on the skewers, and they don’t explode quite as much in your mouth, so they are easier to eat.
Use bamboo skewers to assemble the skewers. the 6″ size work perfect. If all you have is larger ones, cut them down to size.
For the mozzarella, I buy what is called Ciliegine. Don’t ask me to pronounce it. It was hard enough to spell for the post! Ciliegine are fresh, mini mozzarella balls 1 ounce in size. I cut them in half for a 1/2 ounce of cheese per skewer. If all you can find is the large balls of mozzarella, cut them into 1/2 ounce size pieces.
This is fresh mozzarella. If all you are familiar with is the hard rubber balls of mozzarella for shredding pizza, you are in for a nice surprise. Fresh mozzarella is soft. It comes packaged in liquid to keep it soft and fresh. Don’t dump out the liquid. Store any used mozzarella in the container with the brine.
An 8-ounce container will have 8-1 ounce balls which will make up to 16 skewers. I saw a 16-ounce container at Costco the other day, which would make 32 skewers for a bigger party (at a great price I might add, making this pretty economical for a party appetizer).
Basil Leaves and Pesto
For basil leaves, buy a bunch, wash and dry the leaves, then choose the best leaves for the skewers. Use the rest to make the pesto. Choose smaller leaves, rather than the big giant ones. You can even use two small to medium leaves and fold them together. For produce wash I use Eat Cleaner, on my basil and the tomatoes as well/
Making homemade pesto is quick and easy with a food processor. My recipe is here. Why bother making it? Homemade is always better, and you know exactly what goes into it, and no unwanted additives. You can also control the flavor for what you like.
Once the pesto is made, add a little more olive oil adn lemon juice to thin for the vinaigrette to dress the skewers.
Caprese Skewers with Basil Vinaigrette
- 16 cherry or large grapeseed tomatoes multi-colored looks great
- 8 ounces mini mozzarella balls AKA ciliegine
- 1 bunch of basil so you can choose the best leaves
- 3 tablespoons homemade basil pesto recipe link below
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 16 6" bamboo skewers cut longer ones down to size
- Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise for 32 halves. Cut the mozzarella balls in half crosswise for 16 pieces.
- Build skewers starting with a tomato half, then basil leaf (leaves), then half a cheese ball, then leaves, the a tomato half.
- Whisk together the basil pesto, oil and lemon juice. If you need to thin it further, add a little more of both.
- Place the skewers on a platter and serve drizzled with the vinaigrette