Caprese Salad, or Insalata Caprese, originated on the Isle of Capri in the Campagna region of Italy in the 1950’s. Traditional Insalata Caprese uses cow’s milk mozzarella, fresh tomatoes (preferably plum), and extra virgin olive oil. The recipe is sometimes garnished with oregano and arugula, but always complemented by lots of fresh BASIL. The following recipe is from Mrs. P.’s kitchen at home and at the Inn. Note the addition of toasted pine nuts and the attractive arrangement that symbolizes the colors of the Italian Flag from top to bottom. The green of the basil pesto identifies with the first color of the “il Tricolore” interpreted as hope. The white cheese represents the faith of the Italian people, and the ruby red plum tomatoes are the “Amore” in their hearts. Caprese Salad is most often served as an antipasto, but can be served anytime of day to whet the appetite for the “protata principale” – main course.
Mrs. P’s variation on Insalata Caprese is her Ciliegini Insalata – featured on the Stroudsmoor Salad Bar regularly. This is a recipe for another day . . . Enjoy making Insalata Caprese for your next gathering.
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Recipe yields 8 servings
- Preheat the oven to 200°F.
- In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1/2 cup of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place cut side down on a small baking sheet and bake for about 2 hours, or until the tomatoes are softened.
- Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let cool.
- Transfer the cooled tomatoes to a colander and set aside to drain while you make the pesto.
- Combine the garlic and Parmigiano in a blender and pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped. Add the basil and pulse 7 or 8 times, or until the leaves are shredded. With the blender running, slowly add the remaining 1 cup olive oil, blending until smooth.
- Toast the pine nuts in an 8-inch sauté pan over medium heat, tossing frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- To serve, arrange 3 tomato halves cut side down on each plate. Place a ball of mozzarella in the center and spoon 2 tablespoons of the pesto onto each ball of mozzarella. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and garnish with basil leaves.