Few ingredients showcase the magic of eating with the seasons better than the humble summer tomato. A ripe, juicy, perfectly imperfect mid-August heirloom is so vastly superior to the sad, mealy, flavorless supermarket tomato you'll find come December that they may as well not be related at all. Your friends who claim they despise raw tomatoes? Feed them one in August and they'll likely change their minds.
The end of summer is pure euphoria for tomato lovers — it's when you'll find plump, sweet-smelling tomatoes in a stunning array of shapes, sizes, and colors at the farmers market that are begging to be toted home and devoured. Because they're so darn scrumptious on their own, the best summer tomato recipes let the tomato take center stage — which is where this easy caprese salad comes in.
All we've added is a milky mozzarella, fragrant fresh basil, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a spoonful of balsamic glaze, and a shower of flaky sea salt to help draw out the sweet tomato juices. It's so incredibly simple and quick, there's no reason it can't be on your table tonight.
Easy Caprese Salad: Watch the Video
The Best Tomatoes for Caprese Salad
The great thing about making a caprese in the summertime is that pretty much any tomato you use will taste great. I personally prefer larger varieties of tomatoes, which, when sliced, end up being similarly sized to the sliced mozzarella. Most often I grab a variety of heirlooms from the farmers market: Cherokee Purple or Green Zebra are both delicious, and I love the way each heirloom has its own distinct personality. Big, bright red beefsteaks are also good contenders. When selecting tomatoes, choose fragrant ones that smell earthy at the stem end and feel heavy for their size. Avoid any with wrinkled skins.
You can also make a caprese with smaller tomato varieties, such as plum, roma, cherry, grape, or sungold. If you go that route, tear the mozzarella into smaller pieces so that every bite strikes the right balance of flavors. No matter how you prepare it, be sure to use the freshest whole-milk mozzarella you can find.
Although I strongly recommend saving the caprese experience for summertime (it makes it that much more special when tomato season rolls around), you can make a caprese salad at any time of year. If a craving strikes in mid-March, let's say, be sure to follow these instructions for picking the best supermarket tomato.
The Case for Balsamic Glaze
Although balsamic vinegar in any form isn't used in a classic Italian caprese, I'd argue balsamic glaze more than deserves its place in this salad. When cooked down to a thick, syrupy glaze, balsamic vinegar becomes deliciously tangy and sweet, adding extra oomph to every bite. While vinegar straight from the bottle will pool around the tomatoes and make them soggy, a thick glaze can be drizzled with intention, dressed perfectly to your liking. You can either follow our easy 1-ingredient recipe for balsamic glaze, or pick up a bottle at the store. We like this one from Trader Joe's.
Buy: Trader Joe's Trader Giottos Balsamic Glaze, $10.30
More Ways to Enjoy Caprese
How To Make Easy Caprese Salad with Balsamic Glaze
Prep time: 10 minutes
What You Need
3 to 4
medium ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced 1/4-inch thick
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
packed fresh basil leaves
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons
Large serving plate or platter
Place the tomatoes and mozzarella on a platter. Arrange tomatoes and mozzarella on a platter in an alternating pattern.
Top with the basil leaves. Scatter the basil leaves over the tomatoes and mozzarella.
Season with flaky salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of flaky salt and several grinds of black pepper, to taste.
Drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic glaze. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic glaze over the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Serve immediately.