“Caprese” refers to something that comes from or is in the style of Capri, an Italian island off the coast of Italy near Naples.
Insalata Caprese, or Caprese Salad, as it is commonly referred to in the United States, is a simple salad made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Traditionally, it is seasoned with salt and olive oil. Variations include adding chopped garlic, parsley, and various sauces such as Balsamic vinegar or Italian dressing. I take my own liberties with this salad, sometimes substituting feta or using Caprese as a theme for other recipes, such as this recipe for Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Tomato Feta Salsa. A friend of mine recently made a tomato-less Caprese salad, incorporating cucumbers instead of tomatoes. It was cool, crisp, and clever!
The following recipe is another variation on this simple yet delicious theme. It also happens to be quick, economical, and the perfect way to enjoy the season’s best vine ripened tomatoes and fresh herbs. Sweet basil, of course, is traditional and happens to be quite plentiful in my garden right now. (A funny aside: When I pinch back the herbs and greens in our garden, I give the extras to our backyard chickens who go crazy for them. So far, the eggs still don’t have a basil or kale flavor, but I am convinced that the more greens they eat the more orange their yolks become!)
If you prefer some complexity, try adding a sprinkle of fresh parsley for a bitter counterbalance to the sweet basil. Here, I forgo fresh mozzarella, which is often blander here in the United States than in Italy, where mozzarella is traditionally made fresh every day. Also, fresh mozzarella often releases water when cooked, and no one wants watery eggs! I love this recipe with a combination of Sargento’s thickly shredded, all-natural mozzarella and their more finely shredded 6 Cheese Italian blend. If you like Parmesan, add a sprinkling of that, too. Either way, this is an easy, protein-packed dish that may be enjoyed for any meal. Good, crusty bread or a side of toast is the perfect accompaniment.
For a heartier, whole-grain meal, serve over a bed of cooked quinoa or other grain of choice. Then top with a drizzle of olive oil and/or Balsamic vinegar and a grating of Parmesan cheese.
- 1-2 eggs, depending on appetite
- 1 small Roma tomato (or about 3 cherry or 4 grape tomatoes)
- 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons Italian blend cheese (may use all of one or the other)
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Crusty bread or whole-grain toast for serving, optional
Preheat the oven to 350℉.
Oil or butter a small, shallow, single-serving baking dish or ramekin.
If using a Roma tomato, cut it in half, squeeze out the seeds, and coarsely chop or slice. If using grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half, squeeze out the seeds, and halve or quarter depending on size. Removing the seeds and excess juice will prevent your eggs from becoming watery.
Distribute the tomatoes evenly in the baking dish. Top with 2 tablespoons of the basil followed by the mozzarella cheese.
Carefully crack the egg(s) into the dish. I gently use a fork to make sure the eggs whites have gotten in and around the tomato layer. Top with the remaining basil and the Italian blend cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Change the oven to the broil setting and broil for 1-2 minutes, watching carefully, or until the eggs are set to your liking. If you realize the eggs are not cooked enough as you begin to eat, simply stir a bit and return to the broiler for another minute or so. Better to undercook the first time, until you know how long this will take in your oven, than to overcook.
Serve with crusty bread or toast, if desired.