Caprese salad may have been what caused Julia Child to remark that Italian cooking of this sort is not cooking at all - it's shopping! It's certainly true that this salad is elemental, and the elements depend very much on the quality of the ingredients. Fresh tomatoes, hot off the vine, and sun-warmed basil give an insalata caprese its sublime and classic character.
But the age-old combination was the product of some cooking genius - sweet and spicy basil, tangy tomatoes and creamy cheese are so perfect together. Some classics just shouldn't be messed with.
Use whole milk mozzarella - the best you can find, and make sure that the tomatoes smell good.
1/2 pound mozzarella, in slices
8 small plum tomatoes, sliced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Rough salt and pepper
Layer the slices of cheese with tomato and sprinkle the basil leaves over. Drizzle just a bit of good olive oil on top, and dot with balsamic vinegar, if desired. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
You can also toss all the ingredients together, like we did here.