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This easy Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes is only 3 easy ingredients and can be made in 5 minutes (or less). A bright and fresh side dish that is perfect for summer!
Looking for more summer side dish ideas? Check out some of our favorite BBQ side dishes including our Vinegar Marinated Cucumbers or our Light Greek Pasta Salad.
A Twist On Traditional Caprese Salad
This recipe is a slight twist on your traditional Caprese salad. When you make traditional Caprese salad, you layer big slices of tomato, basil, and mozzarella together. Although I LOVE the traditional way, I also love this easy, “toss-it-all-together” variation. It is a fresh, gorgeous, vibrant salad that you will be craving all summer long!
What’s In Caprese Salad?
With this salad, you don’t want to take shortcuts. Use ALL fresh, high-quality ingredients, all the way down to the salt and pepper. After all, if you are going to make this salad, it is worth making right!
- Tomatoes – For this recipe you can use cherry tomatoes, sun gold tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or any bite-sized tomato. You can also dice up your favorite garden tomato if you don’t have any cherry tomatoes.
- Mozzarella – We like using bite-sized marinated mozzarella balls (aka ciliegine) in this recipe because they are just so convenient. You can also use bocconcini or dice fresh mozzarella into small cubes.
- Fresh Basil – This is a MUST. Not only does it taste the best, hands-down, it is also part of what makes this dish so gorgeous!
- Salt and Pepper – We always use Kosher salt or sea salt. Additionally, if you really want to bring out those flavors, use a course variety. In addition to that, you will want to use a grinder for the pepper. You definitely want to have fresh, ground pepper for this recipe!
Where To Find Marinated Mozzarella Balls
You can find marinated mozzarella balls at most grocery stores. We found a LARGE tub of them at Costco for a great price. I usually also see them at Trader Joes. Typically, you can find them near the FRESH mozzarella near the deli in most stores.
How To Make Mozzarella Balls
If you can’t find marinated mozzarella balls at your local store, you can always marinate your own! You can use plain ciliegine or bocconcini, or additionally, you can cut up fresh mozzarella into cubes and marinate those. Here’s what to do:
- Firstly, combine ½ cup olive oil, 2-3 cloves fresh minced garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh basil, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon finely chopped green onion, and 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes in a bowl.
- Stir in fresh mozzarella balls or cubed fresh mozzarella until well coated.
- Then, cover and refrigerate 1 hour (best overnight).
Tips For Making This Recipe
- Drain off some of the oil from the marinated mozzarella. Sometimes the mozzarella comes packed in a LOT of oil. So, it’s ok to drain some off to make it healthier.
- Use a variety of tomatoes. When they are in season, we like to use cherry tomatoes and sun gold tomatoes from our garden. However, if they aren’t in season, we like to use the big variety pack from Costco. Serve at room temperature. This one is a biggie. DO NOT REFRIGERATE before serving. You want this salad to be bursting with flavor and that can only happen at room temperature.
Add A Little Balsamic Reduction…
Kick it up a notch and add a little balsamic vinegar or reduction to your Caprese salad. We love using “Nonna Pia’s” Balsamic Glaze. It is a little sweet with a rich, bright, vinegar-y punch so, it pairs perfectly with this dish.
“Caprese” is a culinary term that refers to a dish consisting of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil. It is said to have originated from the island of Capri in Italy. Especially when layered on a plate, these ingredients are believed to symbolize the Italian flag.
In short, no. Do not make this dish ahead of time and refrigerate. It is meant to be served at room temperature. To clarify, tomatoes DO NOT do well in the cold. Tomatoes are not meant to be refrigerated. They will lose so much flavor. Moreover, they just don’t taste right when they are cold. Prepare up to an hour ahead of time and, most importantly, serve at room temperature.
If you have leftovers and absolutely MUST store them, you can store them in the refrigerator. It won’t be the same, but it’s better than letting them go to waste. When ready to serve, take the salad our of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
Small mozzarella balls (like the ones in this recipe) are called Ciliegine. Additionally, the mozzarella balls that are slightly larger are called bocconcini. Either one can be used in this recipe.
In short, yes! To clarify, Caprese salad is low in carbs and sugars and high in protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium. Tomatoes are high in lycopene and very healthy for you. If you want to make this dish even healthier, drain most of the oil from the mozzarella balls before tossing with the tomatoes.
This dish can be serve with sliced baguette bread, over pasta, with grilled chicken, or any number of dishes! See below for more Caprese-inspired recipes.
This is a big debate among chefs. I like to tear the basil to keep the bright green color and get a punch of flavor when I bite into it. Some prefer to cut the basil to release the flavors throughout the whole dish, however, it all comes down to personal preference.
More Caprese-Inspired Recipes
- Tomato and Basil Pasta
- Margherita Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Peach Caprese Salad Skewers
- Caprese Chicken Sliders
Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes
- 12-16 ounces marinated mozzarella balls (aka bocconcini or ciliegine)
- 8 fresh basil leaves (or to taste)
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper (to taste)
- balsamic glaze or reduction (optional, to taste)
- Rinse tomatoes and basil. Cut about half of the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a serving bowl.
- Cut about half of the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a serving bowl. Add mozzarella balls (marinade and all, drain lightly if desired) and stir gently until well combined.
- Tear basil leaves and place them over the top. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Drizzle with balsamic glaze (optional). Serve at room temperature.
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Beautiful & delicious
Yum! This salad was so good even though its so simple. I will definitely make it again!
One of our favorite summer meals. So light and fresh!