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Vegetarian Recipes

Classic Caprese Salad

I’ve posted a few Caprese salad recipes over the years. If you look through the recipe index, you’ll find one with strawberries, one with plums, one with a drizzle of mint pesto, and even cute little Caprese skewers with peaches! What you won’t find, though, is this: a classic Caprese salad with soft, creamy fresh mozzarella, juicy seasonal tomatoes, and a generous amount of basil leaves. It’s a salad that’s been near and dear to my heart ever since we visited the island of Capri, years ago, just after Jack proposed. It was a magical trip where we ate Caprese salads every day while questioning how a dish with such simple ingredients could possibly taste so amazing. This is a recipe that you hardly need a recipe for, but keep reading for my tips to make the best(!) Caprese salad, along with a few more fun variations.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

How to Make Caprese Salad

A great Caprese salad starts with great ingredients. This recipe is meant for summertime, when tomatoes are at their juiciest, sweetest, and most flavorful. I like stop by the farmers market and collect as many colorful heirloom tomatoes as I can. Not only are they beautiful, but each type tastes a little bit different, and it’s fun to showcase them in this simple salad. Look for greens, yellows, and reds, and try to find a variety of shapes – cherry tomatoes are fair game here too!

In addition to peak-season tomatoes, you need these 5 simple ingredients:

  • Fresh mozzarella cheese. Look for soft, spongy mozzarella balls that are packed in water. Use a good sharp knife to gently cut them into thick slices. You don’t want squished mozzarella!
  • Basil. Only fresh leaves here! Dot them over the tomatoes and mozzarella whole, or gently tear larger leaves before adding them to the salad.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil. It’s worth finding good-quality, 100% extra-virgin olive oil to use in this recipe, because you can really taste it here. Extra-virgin olive oil has a strong, fruity flavor that’s a great finishing touch for the juicy slices of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil – I don’t recommend using another oil in its place.
  • Freshly ground black pepper. If you don’t already have a pepper grinder, now’s the time to get one. Grind it straight over the salad for the best flavor!
  • Sea salt. I like to sprinkle the salad with generous pinches of flaky sea salt, such as Maldon sea salt. Regular sea salt will work too, but skip the iodized stuff here. It has a slightly bitter taste that can stick out in such a simple dish.

Slice your tomatoes and mozzarella and layer them onto a platter with the fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve!

Caprese Salad Recipe Variations

In the recipe below, you’ll see that I suggest a few variations. While it’s hard to beat a traditional Caprese salad made with good heirloom tomatoes, sometimes it’s fun to change things up. Here are a few of my favorite ways to do it:

  • Use part peaches and part tomatoes, like I do in this burrata recipe. Or, skip the fresh mozzarella in this recipe and serve the tomatoes and basil with a ball of burrata instead!
  • Add avocado, or use avocado in place of the cheese if you’re vegan.
  • Try a combination of fresh basil & mint.
  • Drizzle the whole thing in a balsamic reduction or balsamic glaze for extra tangy flavor.
  • Finish the salad with generous dollops of basil pesto.
  • Top the salad with toasted pine nuts for crunch.

How do you like your Caprese salad? Let me know in the comments!

If you love this Caprese salad recipe…

Try one of these summer salads next:

Caprese Salad

Author: Jeanine Donofrio

Recipe type: Salad

  • 3 to 4 medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Drizzle of balsamic vinegar or reduced balsamic
  • Dollops of pesto
  • Sliced peaches
  • Mint leaves
  • Avocado slices
  • Strawberries (see this strawberry salad)
  1. Arrange the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. If desired, add ingredients from the variations list.


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Vegetarian Recipes


“I want you to come watch the movie with us ON the couch, not be in the kitchen!”

I’ve been filling out this one-question-a-day journals for moms that I received for Christmas. It records a little thought or memory over the last year, and then starts again, so you can see how your answers change over a few years. One of the recent ones, prompted me to jot notes about what I am learning as a mom, and I found the question so general I was basically annoyed. I am a romantic, and also wildly pragmatic. In the span of a day I can tear up over the depths of love I feel for my kids, and also wish for them to have a mute button. We all have worlds within us; mothering pushing me into the corners of myself I am sometimes proud of or other corners ashamed of, but am I learning? Yes, every single day. Sometimes in the moment and other times after a particular season. But in 2021, my answer in the bullet journal was that I see my kids are wanting me to play with them. They aren’t registering all the service and shuttling and laundry and what it takes to pull off a week, they just want to play WITH me. It’s natural for me to move within lists and tasks and responsibilities and hustling, but playing is something I have to pay attention to. For them and for me. We usually do a family movie on Friday nights and my son (6.5), see quote above, pointed out that I don’t actually watch the movie, I tinker in the kitchen and he wants me in the couch cuddle. Flattered, and found out that I’d rather make granola than watch The Croods 🙂 So from annoyed, to passing on the question to fellow parents, what are you learning? Try not to be annoyed. Maybe circle back to it.

I published this recipe over on SKCC a few weeks ago and wanted it to live here. We’re trying to find more family-friendly vegetarian recipes (it’s easy for me to fill up on roasted veggies and big salads, not so much for the kids). This batch lasts us two meals – once with noodles, maybe half zoodles, and the second round on toast or english muffins with cheese melted on top, like a pizza sort of thing? It freezes well and is great to deliver to new parents.


Serves 6


2 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion – roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 head of cauliflower (about ¾ lb. or 12 oz. riced)
1/2 cup of raw walnuts pieces
1/2 tsp. of Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. of fennel seeds – crushed
2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of red wine (or broth of any sort, and double the vinegar to mimic the wine’s acidity)
28 oz. of canned, crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup of red lentils
red pepper flake to taste

For serving

12 oz. of pasta or choice, zoodles, etc.
fresh, torn basil


In a large Dutch-oven or stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.

In a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic into smaller bits. Add them to the pot with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté to soften, about 3 minutes.

Pulse up the cauliflower florets to get a rice-like texture. Add the riced-cauliflower to the pot and sauté to soften, about 5 minutes.

Pulse the walnuts in the processor and add those to the pot along with the Italian seasoning, fennel seed, another few generous pinches of salt and pepper, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. Sauté until fragrant.

Add the red wine, cook about 3 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes, ½ cup water, lentils, pinch of pepper flakes and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low, put the cover ajar and let it simmer gently for 30-35 minutes. Turn off the heat, taste for seasoning and adjust.

Cook your pasta or zoodles according to instructions. Top with cauli Bolognese, grated cheese, fresh basil and enjoy!

The Bolognese will keep in the fridge for a week and can be frozen for a few months.

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