A super fun way to enjoy local tomatoes is to make a heirloom tomato caprese salad! Beautiful colors and flavors create a side which is a feast for the eyes and the mouth. I’ve paired the salad with fresh mozzarella and balsamic pesto for a delicious twist on the Italian classic.
One of my favorite things about the explosion of local and organic farms is their interest in heirloom and niche varieties of all sorts of fruits and vegetables. No where is that more apparent than with tomatoes. Growing up, there were slightly smaller or slightly bigger round, red tomatoes. Wrapped in cellophane and tasting like cellophane. No more!
Now we have striped tomatoes, and green tomatoes, and green striped tomatoes, and orange and pink and yellow and more. So many beautiful, wonderful varieties. This heirloom tomato caprese salad is a celebration of all those colorful and yummy tomatoes.
Recently my neighbors stopped by with some tomatoes and zucchini (giant zucchini!) from their garden. Unlike most people, I’m happy to see a giant zucchini and I’ll have a recipe, or two – it was a BIG zucchini, I made from that zucchini here on the blog soon. The tomatoes, though, the tomatoes got me thinking. They were beautiful red and yellow tomatoes.
What did I think about?
Well, heirloom tomato salad of course! 🙂
That night for dinner, I tested out the idea. I had the lovely, garden ripe tomatoes. I had some sweet onions from the farmer’s market. I had plenty of basil and balsamic. A quick trip to the store later, and I also had some tiny, mozzarella balls.
Happily, it was awesome and yummy and I wanted to share it with y’all. Unhappily, we ate it all and I couldn’t take any photos. 🙁 However, that just meant I had to go to the farm stand and get some of their heirloom tomatoes. We’re lucky in town to have a great local farm which has a wide range of heirloom tomatoes (and watermelons and potatoes and all kinds of great produce), so another quick trip and I was in the possession of yellow, pink, orange, green, red, and stripy tomatoes.
There are so many different types of heirloom tomatoes! See what you have near you.
Tip: Heirloom tomatoes aren’t grown to keep on shelves. Buy them in small quantities and eat them soon after buying them.
There are differences in flavor, sweetness, meatiness, and so on between different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. For most people who don’t eat heirloom tomatoes very often, including me, the differences are fairly subtle. If I were buying one variety for a specific dish, I would chat with the farmers and see what they recommended. However, the point here is to have as varied a selection as possible! Don’t worry about specific flavors in this recipe.
Fill your bag with as many different colors, sizes, and patterns as you can find.
Then come home, slice them up, layer them with some sweet onions, add some fresh mozzarella, and drizzle pesto over the whole beautiful salad.
Pour a glass of wine, a nice Chianti or a light white depending on your tastes, maybe make some Grilled Chicken Wings or Cold Cucumber Buttermilk Soup or Grilled Sicilian Swordfish to have alongside, and enjoy the evening.
If you try my recipe for Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Pesto
- 2 lb mixed heirloom tomatoes
- 1/2 medium sweet onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 4 oz small mozzarella balls, perline or ciliegine
- 1/2 cup prepared pesto
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Cut the tomatoes according to the size and shape of the tomato. Cut large, round tomatoes into 1/4 inch round slices. Cut small, cherry sized tomatoes into halves. And the elongated tomatoes (like the Speckled Romans I used) are best cut down the long way so their shape and coloring is shown.
- Layer the tomatoes, onions, and mozzarella balls on a platter.
- Mix the pesto and balsamic together. Taste and add more balsamic if needed. Drizzle some of the balsamic pesto over the salad, saving the rest for the table.
- Heirloom Tomatoes: Try to find a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors for the tomatoes. It makes the salad visually interesting. I used a mixture of Speckled Roman, Green Zebra, German Johnson, Orange Jazz, and Golden Jubilee. Experiment with whatever varieties are available to you!
- Fresh Mozzarella Sizes: Perline mozzarella is 'pearl-sized' and ciliegine is 'cherry sized.' In US supermarkets the smallest size of mozzarella is often called pearls.
- Pesto: You can either purchase the pesto or use your favorite recipe.
- Add Some Extra Virgin Olive Oil! If you wish, drizzle some flavorful, extra virgin olive oil over the top.