Caprese with pesto and burrata
If ya don't like Caprese salad, I can't trust ya.
But, if you don't, I still challenge you to give this version a try. Because the one thing I will concede is that sometimes, if the mozzarella isn't fresh or the tomatoes aren't ripe or it isn't dressed well, Caprese can be mediocre (although I'll still happily indulge over most alternatives). So I wanted to take the summer salad up a notch and create an appetizer that could be served my favorite way (family style) and read more like a charcuterie board than a salad. It's so easy when you're working with beautiful heirloom tomatoes, colorful cherry tomatoes, wispy arugula, and bright basil pesto. Everything goes together so magically. Even the olives help complete the rainbow of colors against the stark white cloud of heaven that is burrata. I also threw in some prosciutto because I've never been able to get past the Caprese that I had in Capri that included thin slices of prosciutto and the best damn olive oil I've ever tasted (except for all of the other olive oils I had in Italy, which were all the best damn olive oils I've ever tasted).
The whole thing gets drizzled with basil pesto and sprinkled with really good sea salt (I love fleur de sel) and freshly cracked black pepper. The creamy, mild burrata in particular can take quite a bit of salt and pepper, so don't be afraid of seasoning. It just helps the tomatoes and cheese to shine even more.
I love the wide range of tomatoes in this. It's really fun to pick from, as well as to eat, because no two bites are the same in size, shape, or flavor. The burrata works so well here, too, because it's more spreadable than mozzarella, making it great for sharing. And thinly sliced bread or crostini is, of course, always a welcome addition.
I know it will seem painful to dig into such a pretty spread, but don't worry - even the leftover scraps (if there are any) are just as beautiful.
Caprese with pesto and burrata
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer or side
¼ cup or so basil pesto
1 tsp or so extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Fresh lemon juice (maybe a ½ tsp or so, to taste)
Few handfuls Baby arugula
10 or so large basil leaves, chiffonade
Variety of fresh, ripe tomatoes in various colors (cherry, grape, Heirloom, on-the-vine)
8-10 slices good prosciutto
Fresh burrata cheese
Fleur de sel (or any good flaky sea salt)
Freshly cracked black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes, if you'd like
There really are no exact measurements for this recipe, but I’ve supplied a few where ratios might be helpful. Really, I think the pictures (and your tastes) can be your best guide because these flavors speak for themselves and the presentation is the best part. Begin by whisking your basil pesto with a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice to thin it out slightly. Then, in a small mixing bowl, combine arugula and fresh basil. Toss with a couple spoonfuls of the pesto mixture, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Slice some of your tomatoes into thin slices, or halves if they’re small; leave others whole for contrast. On a large serving platter, arrange the dressed arugula/basil in a couple of beds on opposing ends. Then scatter tomatoes in piles of like-colors (and in an ombre fashion, if you’d like) around the plate, making sure to have tomatoes of different sizes/shapes all over the platter. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Then place a few loosely rolled up pieces prosciutto in a couple areas of the platter. Fill in any last open areas with olives, grouped by color. Carefully place the burrata on the remaining bed of arugula. Season burrata with salt and pepper, and even red pepper flakes if you'd like. Then drizzle the burrata and tomatoes with the pesto mixture, as well as a bit of olive oil, too. Serve right away alongside crostini or bread if you’d like.