This is one of the best things to eat when the weather it’s hot and you just want something refreshing and not heavy, no doubts about it 🙂 And look at it and its colors! That’s Italy! 🙂
Let me say that I cannot call this a “recipe”, because basically this is just assembling few good quality ingredients together, but like all the apparently simple things there are details to take care to obtain the best results 🙂
The Caprese is typical of Campania region, and its name is related to Capri island. The ingredients are just 6: buffalo mozzarella, tomato, basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper.
Let’s see them in the details 😉
– Mozzarella: this is the main ingredient, so you must choose a good quality buffalo mozzarella, and unless you are in Italy, to find a good one you should usually go to specific stores (with exceptions). As Italian I have to say that most of the so called mozzarella sold abroad in most of the supermarkets, well, they are not real mozzarella in my opinion (especially the not-Italian ones). They are often like chewy balls made of milk, nothing more, and quite tasteless and dry…and sometimes with extra additives which shouldn’t be inside a good quality mozzarella…so, you will not make a great Caprese with those ones, let’s be honest. The top quality buffalo mozzarella are sold few hours after they are made, and they must be eaten in few hours to fully appreciate and enjoy their qualities (the ingredients are just fresh buffalo milk, lactobacillus, calf rennet and salt…the lower quality mozzarella instead don’t have lactobacillus and can contain acidity regulators as citric acid and lactic acid, which are cheaper and they make much faster the whole process, skipping completely the fermentation time, but in this way the final product has less taste than a good product properly made, so usually also more salt is added to it), and clearly those top quality mozzarella are in most of cases possible to find only in the production areas, and not everyone is so lucky to be there (me neither! 🙂 but I had the chance to try and yes they are different). But there are some good buffalo mozzarella available also abroad, and when you find them you immediately realize the difference: they stay in a generous quantity of “liquido di governo“, their “water” in few words; they are very soft when cut, and when you cut it you will see “tears” of milk (whey) coming out (bad mozzarellas don’t, just drops of water, maybe, and because of citric acid and because they are made with fast industrial processes, for example starting from the so called “cagliata” and leading to lower quality products, HERE you can see a good example of what I mean); and you can eat it pure, with nothing else on it, and its taste is amazing and so refreshing. So, find a good shop of dairy products and choose a good mozzarella, that’s the first fundamental step for a good Caprese 🙂 (I suggest to choose at least a 250g mozzarella, smaller ones, especially smaller than 125g, are often more dry and if I can choose I choose 250 g or bigger). The only good alternative can be a good “treccia di fiordilatte“, probably even more difficult to find outside Italy.
Look for these symbols on the package:
This symbol is a big help to find a trustworthy real buffalo mozzarella abroad, in the reality there are some other small producers which are not part of the Consortium but they have great products too, sometimes with even higher standards (for example Vannulo is often cited as one of the very best, but is not DOP), but in those cases you need a direct relationship and it’s impossible to find those products far from the production area.
UPDATE 10-07-2017: unfortunately the Consortium of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP modified its official procedural guidelines, and now also frozen mozzarella will be allowed to have a DOP label, and that’s a lower quality product than a fresh mozzarella (just think to the fact that already the fridge kills part of its aroma). So there is to keep the eyes even more open than before, now. It’s a new thing, and if I understood well on those frozen products there will be written “frozen” on the label, but I repeat I’m not sure in this moment. It will be a product mostly for export.
– Tomato: it must be a good tomato, ripe, juicy, sweet, not flourish. The best ones in my opinion are the types “costoluto fiorentino“, or “cuore di bue“. Here in Hungary I cannot find them easily, so this time I used another type of tomato, but I think it’s good to tell you which are the best choices in my opinion 🙂 but if you prefer smaller tomatoes, it’s also ok, that’s up to your taste…in any case, what’s really matter is their quality. And if they have too much water inside, drain that water a bit, so you will not have an unpleasant “lake” in your dish 🙂
– Extra virgin olive oil: absolutely, a good quality extra virgin olive oil it’s needed. Possibly a light one with fruity notes, not too overwhelming, otherwise there is the possibility to cover the delicacy of the buffalo mozzarella. But this is the smallest of the possible “problems” to reach the perfect result…indeed a good quality extra virgin olive oil is always a good quality extra virgin olive oil, in any case 🙂
– Basil: I prefer the small leaves, in any case it must be always in the “right measure”, not too much, otherwise also in this case there is the risk to cover the other ingredients too much.
– Salt: only on the tomatoes. A good quality buffalo mozzarella doesn’t need salt.
– Pepper: also in this case, just a bit, again the “right measure” 🙂 don’t cover too much the other ingredients.
Someone add also a little bit of oregano, but in my opinion with just basil is better, and it’s enough. Just don’t forget that the main subject is the buffalo mozzarella 🙂
Another important thing, take out the buffalo mozzarella from the fridge at least 30/45 minutes before eating it, also one hour: if you eat it too cold you will lose a big amount of flavor and aroma.
And I finish with a last tip: the best way to finish your dish is to clean with a slice of good bread all the liquid in the bottom of your dish, made of a mix of extra virgin olive oil, tomato water and the buffalo mozzarella milk….it’s impossible to have this tasty liquid with a not good quality mozzarella, too dry to have milk coming out, as we said at the beginning 🙂
PS: No balsamic vinegar, please! You “kill” the buffalo mozzarella in that way 😉