Brilliant red tomatoes with fresh mozzarella topped by bright basil leaves and you have the classic Caprese Salad. It originated on the Island of Capri shortly after World War I by a returning soldier looking to create a patriotic dish for a gathering of family and friends who was inspired by the garden bounty of tomatoes and basil. How better than with a fresh salad displaying the colors of the flag of Italy. At least that is one of many versions on how this salad became such a traditional fare but it my favorite so I’m going with it.
Isle of Capri Melted Caprese Salad changes the classic slightly by melting the fresh mozzarella and using pesto rather than basil leaves. The flash grilling creates a bit of oozy mozzarella atop the thick slices of ripe tomatoes and the pesto adds a flavor complexity
With only 3 ingredients, the quality of each is critical. The tomatoes must be ripe but not overly ripe or they are too soft to hold up to the mozzarella. The mozzarella should be the whole ball not pre-sliced to provide thick slices to withstand the bit of heat. The pesto should be fresh and is easily made. With fresh basil readily available is almost every grocery store, Taggiasca Basil Pesto with Roasted Walnuts is easily made and provides a wonderful final Flavor Tier.
Presented here as an appetizer or side, this easily translate to a light lunch by adding a crusty bread and glass of wine.
3 medium tomatoes, room temperature
8 oz fresh mozzarella
1/3 c pesto, room temperature, such as Taggiasca Basil Pesto with Roasted Walnuts
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)
Cut off the top and bottom of the tomatoes and discard. Cut the tomato into ¼’ – ½” slices. Cut the mozzarella into ½” slices.
Spray griddle pan with cooking oil and heat to high. Once griddle is hot, place the slices of mozzarella on the griddle. Cook for 1 minute. Carefully slide a spatula under the mozzarella and turn over. Be sure to capture and browned cheese crusts. Cook an additional 1 minutes. Remove from heat and place mozzarella on a plate.
One each serving plate, place a tomato slice. Top with a slice of mozzarella. Spread 1 teaspoon pesto on the mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil if desired. Repeat layers one more time. Serve with extra pesto.