Caprese is a simple but flavorful Italian salad made with a handful of ingredients, like tomatoes, cheese, basil leaves, and olive oil. Making good Caprese is an art, and the secret lies in choosing the right ingredients. So, what tomatoes are best for Caprese?
The best tomatoes for Caprese are fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes, Cherry tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, Oblong Plum tomatoes, Costoluto tomatoes, Campari tomatoes, Beefsteak tomatoes, and many heirloom varieties. You can either use only one of these tomatoes or combine them all for a flavorful Caprese.
Let’s talk about these in more detail now. But first…
What Makes A Caprese Special?
Caprese is an iconic Italian salad that mirrors the colors of the Italian flag and celebrates the best produce of the country.
The beauty of this dish lies in the simplicity of its ingredients and how well they integrate together.
There are no elaborate preparations required, and everything boils down to using high-quality ingredients.
There are many recipes for Caprese salads. Nevertheless, the process remains the same throughout.
The salad is prepared by layering sliced tomatoes, basil leaves, and cheese and dressing them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Traditional Caprese recipes use mozzarella cheese made from water buffalo milk.
However, you can experiment with other cheese varieties, including smoked cheese, to create interesting flavors for your Caprese.
You can even marinate the tomatoes in salt and oil to enhance the flavor of the salad.
How To Choose The Best Tomatoes For A Caprese?
The star ingredients of a Caprese are tomatoes, cheese, and olive oil.
The taste and quality of the Caprese will depend on the quality of each of the ingredients that you choose.
High-quality, juicy, and fresh tomatoes are the key to preparing a great Caprese.
Summertime is the best time to prepare this dish because tomatoes are abundantly available and taste the best at this time of year.
You can easily find tomatoes that are bursting with flavors at this time of the year.
When fresh tomatoes aren’t in season, you can make Caprese with the best available tomatoes.
For less flavorful tomatoes, you can marinate or sauté them with spices like garlic to add more depth of flavor.
The good thing about a Caprese is that you don’t need a specific type of tomato to make this recipe.
You can experiment with different varieties and even mix and match tomatoes to create a great Caprese.
So, how to choose tomatoes for a Caprese?
Use the following selection criteria.
Ripe and juicy tomatoes are the best choice for Caprese, and the color is a good indicator of a ripe tomato. A fresh and juicy tomato will have a rich red color all over.
If the tomato has green or yellow patches, it may not be ripe enough.
However, there are delicious green tomato varieties that are an exception, and they work beautifully in Caprese salads. They will be green but soft and juicy when fully ripe.
You can recognize the juiciest tomatoes by holding them in your hand. They will be full of liquid and feel heavy in your hand.
The exterior will be smooth, without any wrinkles.
Juicy tomatoes will bruise easily. So be careful while holding them.
The odor of a tomato is a good indicator of its freshness. Good tomatoes will be sweet and citrusy, without any off-putting odor.
4. Size Of The Tomato
You can make a Caprese with big and small varieties of tomatoes. Adding a variety of tomatoes to a Caprese will enhance its visual appeal and flavor.
Always choose the biggest and juiciest tomatoes available to ensure that your Caprese tastes best.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best tomatoes for preparing a Caprese.
7 Best Tomatoes For Caprese
Here are some of the best tomatoes for Caprese salads.
1. Roma Tomatoes
Roma tomatoes are garden-fresh Italian heirloom tomatoes with a fresh tangy taste. They’re naturally sweet and juicy, making them great for Caprese.
Roma tomatoes are determinate tomatoes that are ready to harvest in the summer.
They’re at their juiciest during the peak summer, and this is the best time to use them in salads.
2. Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are an excellent choice for Caprese because they’re very juicy and sweet.
They’re sweeter than other tomato varieties, and this sweet profile adds a delicious flavor to the Caprese.
You can add them raw. However, if you prefer an Umami flavor for your Caprese, you can roast the cherry tomatoes.
3. San Marzano Tomatoes
San Marzano tomatoes have a rich flavor, tender texture, and delicious acidity. They’re thinner and more pointed than Roma tomatoes.
The thick flesh and fewer seeds make them an excellent choice for a Caprese. The taste is stronger, and it works very well with cheese and olive oil.
4. Oblong Plum Tomatoes
Oblong plum tomatoes are long, red tomatoes with thick juicy flesh and rich flavors.
They’re widely used for canning and making sauces because of their intense and delicious flavors.
They also work very well in Caprese by adding intense tomato flavors to the salad.
5. Costoluto Tomatoes
Costoluto tomatoes are an heirloom variety of Italian tomatoes. They’re meaty, aromatic tomatoes with dense flesh and a somewhat flat shape.
The flavor of this tomato is tangy and robust, making it work very well in a Caprese.
6. Campari Tomatoes
Campari tomatoes are a popular and widely available tomato variety. They’re smaller than Roma tomatoes but larger than cherry tomatoes.
They’re often available on a vine and are juicy with a high acidity level.
Campari tomatoes are available all around the year and have a delicious sweetness that adds a burst of flavor to Caprese and salads.
7. Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteak tomatoes are thick and mealy. They’re deep red and very juicy.
Although they have a tangy flavor, they’re not overpowering. The flavor is mild enough to work well in a Caprese.
These tomatoes taste delicious when eaten raw and work well with the flavors of basil and olive oil.
Best Tomatoes For Mozzarella Caprese
The two main ingredients of a Caprese are tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. The taste and quality of this dish are closely linked to the quality of these main ingredients.
The traditional recipe for Caprese uses buffalo cheese. Regular fresh mozzarella will also work fine for Caprese recipes.
Now, the key to making a good mozzarella Caprese is to find the right mix of tomatoes and cheese.
Mozzarella cheese has a delicate, creamy, earthy taste. It’s a sticky cheese with a bit of tang. It’s also very moist and soft.
The rich flavors of fresh seasonal produce will work wonderfully against the delicious creamy flavors of fresh mozzarella cheese.
Mozzarella cheese makes the best pairings with tangy vegetables like tomatoes.
The creamy texture and delicate taste of mozzarella cheese work well with most types of tomatoes.
Nevertheless, it works best with ripe, juicy tomatoes with tangy flavors.
Some varieties of tomatoes that work well in mozzarella Caprese include heirloom tomato varieties, Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and vine-ripened varieties like Campari tomatoes.
Grape tomatoes also add both visual appeal and delicious flavors to a Caprese, forming a beautiful pairing with mozzarella cheese.