I recently hosted 12 friends at my house on a Wednesday night. I rarely entertain during the week – I try not to anyway – because I prefer not to try to juggle the demands of my job with time-consuming food preparations. Anyway, this particular event had to be during the week, so I needed some easy-to-make-and-serve appetizers. I also prefer healthy and low-calorie when possible. Finally, when serving only appetizers at an event where people tend to mill around, and not sit at a table, I like finger foods. This eliminates the need for forks. It makes things simpler when all I need is paper plates and napkins. Easy-peasy.
I really enjoy a good Caprese salad, but you can’t serve salad without forks. So, I came up with the idea of serving individual-sized portions in clear plastic cups. The end result was a beautiful display of miniature caprese salads that were delicious, and quick and simple to pull together. There are only five ingredients and for the most part can be assembled the day before. SKIP DIRECTLY TO RECIPE
I ordered both the clear plastic square cups and the fancy little skewers on Amazon. The square cups came with little spoons that might work well for a dessert, but they did not work for my salad. Keep in mind that you can make this same delicious salad in one large bowl and it will still be a big crowd-pleaser. But for a little bit of extra effort (very little bit actually), the individual cups make a big splash and are very easy for guests to eat.
This recipe is not highly structured, so it is hard to provide exact amounts of each ingredient. I made 20 small appetizer cups using one package of the refrigerated tortellini. Just divide the contents of the package amongst the cups. There ended up being 2-3 tortellini in each. For the remaining ingredients, you can eyeball how much to buy keeping in mind you will want to add at least 2-3 cherry tomatoes in each cup and 2-3 small squares of mozzarella. One container of pesto should be more than enough.
Easy Caprese Salad Recipe
5 Ingredient Caprese Salad in a Cup
- 1 package Refrigerated Cheese Tortellini
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Fresh Mozzarella (in a block) Cut in squares
- Pesto Use your favorite recipe! If you don't have time to make your own, you can usually purchase high-quality fresh pesto in the refrigerated section of your supermarket.
- Balsamic vinegar
- Place a few tomatoes in the bottom of your clear plastic cup. Some people like to cut them in half, but sliced tomatoes create a lot of liquid in the cup if you are making this recipe the night before. I recommend you leave them whole.
- Add a few each of the mozzarella squares and tortellini. The amounts are up to you.
- Spoon a little of the pesto into the cup. Again, it's up to you how much. You can stir the pesto in with the other ingredients if you like. I did not as when you add the balsamic vinegar, the pesto will drizzle down.
- If you decided to organize this caprese salad in a cup recipe the night before, then put the cups on a tray and cover with saran wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight. You'll want to wait to add the balsamic vinegar until a few hours before serving.
- When you are ready to add the balsamic vinegar, simply drizzle it over the top. I tend to add a little more as I love the flavor of balsamic vinegar and enjoy swirling the ingredients in it with my fancy bamboo toothpick.
- And that's it - they are ready to serve!
For those who want or need larger print for the recipe, here it is again. The easy print version recipe is too small for me, though keep in mind that you can indicate that you want it to print out with larger text after clicking the print button).
Caprese Salad in a Cup
1 Package Refrigerated Cheese Tortellini
Fresh Mozzarella – Cut in Squares
Pesto (Use your favorite recipe or purchase in the refrigerator section at the supermarket)
1. Place a few tomatoes in the bottom of your clear plastic cup. Some people like to cut them in half, but sliced tomatoes create a lot of liquid in the cup if you are making this recipe the night before. I recommend you leave them whole.
2. Add a few each of the mozzarella squares and tortellini. The amounts are up to you.
3. Spoon a little of the pesto into the cup. Again, it’s up to you how much. You can stir the pesto in with the other ingredients if you like. I did not as when you add the balsamic vinegar, the pesto will drizzle down.
4. If you decided to organize this caprese salad in a cup recipe the night before, then put the cups on a tray and cover with saran wrap. Then place in the refrigerator overnight. You’ll want to wait to add the balsamic vinegar until a few hours before serving.
5. When you are ready to add the balsamic vinegar, simply drizzle it over the top. I tend to add a little more as I love the flavor of balsamic vinegar and enjoy swirling the ingredients in it with my fancy bamboo toothpick.
6. And that’s it – they are ready to serve!
Little Known Facts About Caprese Salad
The Caprese salad is a classic Italian dish known for its simple and refreshing combination of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Here are some lesser-known facts about Caprese salad:
The Caprese salad, or “Insalata Caprese” in Italian, originates from the island of Capri in the Campania region of Italy. It’s believed to have been created in the 1950s and was inspired by the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green.
The Caprese salad’s colors of red, white, and green are not only a nod to the Italian flag but also reflect the fresh and vibrant flavors of Mediterranean cuisine.
Traditionally, Caprese salad is made with only the freshest and ripest ingredients. It’s best enjoyed during the summer months when tomatoes are at their peak sweetness and basil is abundant.
While the classic Caprese salad consists of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, there are variations that include additional ingredients like tortellini, avocado, prosciutto or arugula
The mozzarella used in Caprese salad is typically fresh mozzarella, also known as “mozzarella di bufala,” which is made from the milk of water buffaloes. This type of mozzarella has a softer texture and a slightly tangy flavor compared to regular cow’s milk mozzarella.
This one is for those who garnish with their caprese salad with basil. To preserve the flavor and prevent bruising, it’s recommended to tear basil leaves instead of cutting them with a knife. Tearing helps release the natural oils and aroma of the basil.
While balsamic vinegar is sometimes used to drizzle over Caprese salad, in the traditional version, it’s actually omitted. The focus is on the simple combination of flavors, and too much vinegar can overpower the delicate taste of the ingredients.
A true Caprese salad is often presented by arranging the tomato and mozzarella slices alternately on a plate, creating a visually appealing pattern. This attention to presentation adds to the overall enjoyment of the dish.
Salt and Pepper
A pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper are sometimes added to enhance the flavors of the ingredients, but it’s important not to overdo it, as the ingredients are meant to shine on their own.
Caprese salad pairs well with a variety of dishes. It’s commonly served as an appetizer or side dish but can also be enjoyed as a light main course. It’s often accompanied by crusty Italian bread or served with grilled chicken or seafood.
Remember that the beauty of Caprese salad lies in its simplicity and the quality of its ingredients. It’s a dish that celebrates the natural flavors of fresh produce and showcases the elegance of Italian culinary culture.