Caprese salad is one of the easiest to make and well-known Italian dishes. Nevertheless, there are still many mistakes people can do when following this traditional recipe. How many times have you ordered your Caprese salad and received a terrible rubbery mozzarella? How often has the olive oil used been flavourless and quite frankly pointless towards the dish? And how many times have you had watery fridge-cold tomatoes? How many times have you ordered a Caprese Salad and its full of random ingredients the chef decided to add to make the recipe his own? Well, here are all the mistakes you should really avoid when making this traditional Italian recipe.
1. What a true Caprese salad contains
The real Caprese salad comes from the small island of Capri, in the south of Italy. Here it is made with the best tomatoes, mozzarella, just a couple of basil leaves, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pincer od salt.
There is no avocado, no olives and absolutely no strawberries.
It seems quite straightforward right? Well it is, if you can stir away from easily avoidable mistakes.
2. The tomatoes
Most people will make the Caprese salad with tomatoes that have been refrigerated. But this is wrong because refrigerated tomatoes are watery and tasteless. To make the true Caprese salad you must use room temperature tomatoes for them to have the best of flavours. It would be better to buy your tomatoes somewhere where you know they will be fresh and really tasty, like from a farmer’s market. Supermarket tomatoes tend to be flavourless as they are picked before they are ripe to survive the long-distance shipments they have to face. If you are going to refrigerate your tomatoes (there is nothing wrong with doing this as it makes them last longer if you don’t plan on eating them right away) you take them out at least long enough to go back to room temperature: an hour is enough, a few would be better.
3. The mozzarella
Choosing the right mozzarella is the most important thing when it comes to making the perfect Caprese Salad. Yes, I said mozzarella and not cheese, because no other cheese should ever be used for this kind of traditional recipe.
Ideally, you would head over to the local dairy, but most people won’t have a local dairy close to them. If you live in a big city or in a hipster place you might be able to head over to a local dairy that will produce its own fresh mozzarella which will be superior in quality compared to the store bought one. However, if this is not a possibility for you, head to the supermarket. The issue here is that most pre-packed mozzarellas and very bland and milky, but, you can still find good quality ones most of the times (it has happened to me more than once that I was able to find real Neapolitan mozzarella in stores overseas). If you don’t know what to look for check the ingredients: true mozzarella is made with milk, salt, rennet and enzymes, so any other ingredients listed mark a poor quality “mozzarella”. If you can find buffalo mozzarella, then you have hit the jackpot as this kind of mozzarella is the tastier and creamier kind.
4. The basil
Finally, to make the perfect Caprese salad you will need the right kind of basil. Try looking for basil with smaller leaves, where the flavour is usually much more intense than in the bigger leaves. If you can’t seem to find them, don’t worry larger leaves will do just fine.
So there you have it, the most common mistakes when making a Caprese Salad and how to make the perfect one avoiding those mistakes. All I can say now is, BUON APPETITO!
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