Caprese what!?

This sandwich is named after Capri. The island, not the pants.


Once again I decided to turn to random sites on the internet to provide all of my fun historical facts about food. It appears that caprese salad is only about 100 years old. There’s a lot of speculation about when or who invented it first, but most sources believe caprese originated in the southern Italian region of Campania. More specifically, caprese is named after the island of Capri, which is an island in the Campania region.

Caprese as a salad is thought to have been first mentioned on a menu at the Hotel Quisisana in the early 1920s. If you’d like to read a good breakdown on caprese sandwiches (including pizza and salads) check out the Sandwich Tribunal’s caprese post.

At its simplest, a caprese salad or sandwich includes three ingredients; basil, mozzarella and tomato. Most caprese salads will also have drizzles of olive oil, salt and possibly some balsamic vinegar. Green, white and red are the colors of Italy’s flag and with the basil, mozzarella and tomato, caprese mimics the colors of the flag much like another very simply adorned Italian dish, pizza margherita.

This isn’t my first salad to sandwich post and it likely won’t be the last. Let us walk through the steps I took for this sandwich.

The focaccia

You can add all sorts of herbs or green things to the top. This one had fresh sage leaves and Italian seasoning.

King Arthur’s Blitz Bread is a very easy bread recipe. In my experience, focaccia is some of the best bang for your effort bread you can make. In less than two hours you can have this baked up and ready to eat or slice for sandwiches.

Focaccia is some of the best bang for your effort bread you can make.

The recipe mentions using a mixer, but you really don’t need anything to make this properly other than a scale (here’s the scale I use – Amazon affiliate link). The dough never really comes together like typical bread dough (it stays more like a thick batter) so you should make sure to have some olive oil handy to spread on your fingers if you need to handle it very much.

If you’re a rookie at baking bread, I suggest you give focaccia a try. This recipe gives you a great result with very little way to mess things up unless you incorrectly measure your ingredients. Use a scale.

Once you get your focaccia mastered, you’re about half way to one of the best types of pizza you can make at home, Detroit Style!

Prior to baking, add olive oil and poke the top a little to create small indentions for the oil and spices to pool up.
Post bake. This one is just Italian seasoning and flaky salt.

Part of why I love focaccia is the crispy almost fried texture you get from the bread frying in the pan due to the oil underneath. I’m also a big fan of the salted and seasoned top.

Soft on the inside but crispy on the outside with crumb for a good sandwich or to serve on the side of some soup or pasta.

GREEN: the walnut basil pesto sauce

Instead of just straight basil leaves, I decided to make one of the world’s best sandwich condiments, pesto. Pesto can be and has been made from almost anything green, but typically it’s basil. It’s also usually made with pine nuts, but my wife had a lot of extra walnuts left over from cake or brownies and I used those.

This recipe is solid and once you try it, you’ll want to put it on all of your sandwiches.

10 minutes
Walnut basil pesto

Pesto is a great option for a fresh spread or sauce for your next sandwich. The key is adding the oil slowly to help create the proper emulsified consistency.

Get Recipe

WHITE: the mozzarella

I’ve never made cheese and there’s no time like the present (or past since I made this in the past). So I decided to make my mozzarella.

I first watched this youtube video and then I followed this mozzarella recipe from thekitchn.com. Making your own mozzarella relies on buying two special ingredients, citric acid and liquid rennet (both Amazon affiliate links). The two ingredients together cost me around 20 bucks. Then after that initial investment I was able to turn a gallon of milk into two fairly large mozzarella balls and one smaller one. Enough for a weeks worth of sandwiches at least. In glancing at my local grocery store website, the cheapest ball of fresh mozzarella costs about the same as the cheapest gallon of milk, so if you plan to keep making mozzarella it should eventually pay for itself.

The whole mozzarella making process took me around 45 minutes to do. It’s a fairly active recipe and it requires you to hit certain temperatures, so you’re definitely going to need a probe thermometer or just get really lucky with your guesses.

Now that I have both citric acid and liquid rennet, I will definitely be making mozzarella again. Would I suggest you try? Sure. If you have the time and want really fresh really tasty cheese, I say go for it. But if you don’t have excess in your schedule you can always just buy fresh mozzarella at the store and slice it yourself.

I’M CUTTING THE CHEESE
The recipe requires you to hit certain temps so you’ll need a thermometer.
Finished balls of fresh mozzarella.

RED: the tomatoes

If you read my BLT post you already know that I like to support my Farmer’s Market in the summer. Growing up, my Dad had a fairly large garden and grew a lot of tomatoes, but as an adult I like to let others do my gardening and weeding for me and then I pay them for it. If you don’t have a garden, I suggest you do the same and buy a bunch of tomatoes during the later part of summer when they’re at their ripest and tastiest.

A red and an orange tomato ready to sandwich.

Let us put the colors together

Look how simple this sandwich prep looks. Don’t forget to add a tiny bit of salt to your tomatoes to help accentuate their flavor.

All the pieces arranged and ready to sandwich.

A good caprese sandwich with a ripe tomato is a fantastic experience. To make a sandwich like mine fully from scratch you really only need a food processor or blender and a thermometer. But if you didn’t want to go through the trouble of making your own mozzarella and you have a good source for focaccia (or other types of bread) you could have one of these sandwiches ready to go in minutes.

The sandwiches

It tastes like eating an Italian flag. This is not true. I’ve actually never eaten a flag. Yet.
It’s an Italian flag with some orange color splashed on it!
Back to the tricolor flag sandwich.

And an extra

Here’s another similar-ish to a caprese sandwich.

Grilled chicken thigh with melted cheddar, salted tomato and pesto on focaccia. No mozzarella, but still very good.

Make more caprese sandwiches and focaccia

If you take nothing else from my caprese ramblings today, I’d love for you to try to make your own focaccia. If you do, share a picture with me on instagram or twitter. Check back next week when I turn a thing that’s not supposed to be a sandwich into a sandwich. Again.