A twist on the traditional Italian favourite, this springtime caprese salad features sweet strawberries.
Caprese salad has featured in many of my favourite summer travels. The first time I tasted the delectable combination of tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil was in a tiny Italian restaurant in San Francisco with my best friend Casey while we were travelling across America together about eight years ago. The best caprese salad I’ve ever eaten though was while travelling in Italy with my friend Laura. A sun-drenched cafe in Florence, creamy buffalo mozzarella layered with summer fresh tomatoes and paired with the best balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Perfection. Perhaps the gorgeous Italian waiters didn’t hurt…but I digress.
As soon as the summer tomatoes start performing at their sweetest, ripest peak I start watching for caprese salads on menus. I’ve had two supremely fresh caprese salads in the last two weeks. Both featured a mix of the ripest tomatoes, creamy buratta, and crisp garden fresh basil. Since I can’t always get to a cafe in Italy, or even in Brisbane, when the caprese craving hits, I decided that I needed to whip up my own version, with a little twist. Strawberries pair beautifully with tiny grape tomatoes, and their sweetness is balanced by the balsamic and black pepper dressing. Strawberries + balsamic = classic summer combination. I can see this sweet and astringent pair being featured a lot around here this summer.
I love using cherry bocconcini in this caprese salad as it means all the ‘bits’ in the salad are about the same size so you can get a mouthful of all the components at the same time and really enjoy the sweet, savoury, creamy, vinegary flavour all at once. If you can only find bigger bocconcini (just quarter them), or even the larger burrata or buffalo mozzarella (these you can leave whole and scatter the salad around them) then these will do just as well as they all come from a closely related cheese family (that’s a cute visual) and have similar flavour profiles. And I love them all.
As the days grow warmer this salad is sure to become a light lunch favourite with a wodge of good bread with butter, or as a starter for a warm night’s dinner. And if you make a large batch and serve it to guests on a midsummer night’s eve they are sure to be dazzled by this jewelled classic with a twist.
Strawberry Caprese Salad
| gluten free | vegetarian | serves 2 as a starter | make just before serving
- 1 punnet of strawberries
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup basil leaves (1 small bunch)
- 1/2 cup cherry/mini bocconcini
- Cut tops off strawberries and halve or quarter them depending on the size. Place them in a large bowl.
- Halve the grape tomatoes and add to the bowl.
- In a small bowl whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pepper, and salt and pour over the tomatoes and strawberries. Toss very gently to combine.
- Scatter basil leaves on your serving platter, top with strawberry and tomato mixture.
- Halve bocconcini and place them atop the salad. Add a few extra basil leaves and serve.