Tomato Salad Caprese | Florence, Italy

By Sally Cameron on June 27, 2011

Salads, the daniel plan, Vegetarian

Tomato Caprese salad is the essence of summer, just vine-ripened tomatoes, moist mozzarella cheese, and aromatic basil leaves. No cooking required, just slice, arrange, dress and enjoy. It’s the perfect example of the power of simplicity, allowing great ingredients to shine. With wonderful varieties of summer tomatoes available choose whatever looks best at your market. Try meaty Roma’s or colorful heirloom varieties.

Tomato Caprese Salad

It was lunchtime in Florence, Italy. Touring the huge central market, the Mercato Centrale, left us hungry and ready for lunch. The market was filled with colorful produce stands and wine shops, butcher counters and fishmongers, heavenly cheese shops and bakeries. The prosciutto counter alone left us tourists standing in awe.  We tucked into a local ristorante.

We watched with curiosity as the waiter delivered a platter of thinly sliced Prosciutto and a platter of freshly sliced tomatoes with mozzarella to the Italian family sitting next to us. Along with some bread and wine, it was a wonderful way to start a meal. Whenever I make a salad Caprese at home, I remember that sunny day in Florence.

Buffalo Mozzarella

When it comes to cheese, my favorite for a Caprese is buffalo mozzarella. Made from water buffalo milk, it has a sweet flavor and creamy texture.  Buffalo mozzarella comes in a container surrounded with a milky liquid. Drain off the liquid and slice. Its messy to cut because of its softness but the flavor and texture are heavenly. It melts in your mouth. If that’s too messy for you, choose cows milk mozzarellas. Some are even pre-sliced for easier assembly. Choose a fresh style cheese, not the hard rubbery balls.

Traditional Ingredients

Traditionally a Caprese has basil leaves tucked between the layers of tomatoes and cheese and is dressed with good olive oil. Because we love basil, I also dress the salad with a basil dressing. Stir a tablespoon or two of basil pesto into olive oil (liquifying the pesto) you get a fragrant emerald green dressing. Click here for my basil pesto recipe. Another option, add a drizzle with good quality balsamic vinegar.

Whatever your choice in tomatoes, mozzarella and dressing, try making an easy salad Caprese this summer. For an appetizer style Caprese on a stick, try this recipe. It’s great for entertaining.


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Tomato Salad Caprese | Florence, Italy

Choose the best fresh ripe tomatoes you can find, whether Roma’s or heirlooms. I love the sweet flavor and creamy texture of buffalo milk mozzarella, but use whatever good fresh mozzarella you can find, just not the hard rubbery balls. Fresh basil leaves and a basil vinaigrette complete this easy, classic Italian salad. Serve as a delightful starter or even a light lunch with some fresh bread.


  • 4-8 fresh tomatoes depending on the size and how much you plan to serve
  • 4-8 ounces fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto see recipe here, preferably homemade
  • 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • High quality balsamic vinegar optional


  • Slice tomatoes about 1/4″ thick and place on a platter or plate. Drain and slice the mozzarella cheese. Place cheese slices between the tomato slices. Tuck fresh basil leaves in here and there.
  • For dressing, stir together the basil pesto and olive oil until it’s a thin dressing. Drizzle over the salad and season with salt and pepper. As an option, splash on a little high quality balsamic vinegar but it’s lovely on its own.


Serving: 4
  1. Michelle - June 28th, 2011

    Beautiful photos (as usual!) and great article. Three things I stopped and thought about. FIrst, I often don’t think I can make this sort of salad without using a nice thick balsamic vinegar reduction sauce, (which is yummy, but then hard to pair with light afternoon wines), so this is a wonderful solution. Second, I love the statement about great ingredients are wonderful simple. As my cooking has improved I have felt like I can use less ingredients, but you just put words to the slow transformation! Last, I didn’t pay attention to which type of soft mozzarella I was picking up, so I will definitely be watching for buffalo vs cow to try! Thanks for sharing your passion with all of us!

  2. Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) - June 29th, 2011

    What spectacular photos. I love how you used a mix of red and yellow tomatoes. SO pretty!

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