Burrata Caprese Salad ~ a great tomato salad is on regular rotation throughout the summer here. My latest? A chunky riff on Caprese, with thick wedges of heirloom tomatoes, a luscious ball of fresh burrata cheese, and a vivid balsamic dressing.
I enjoy coming up with unusual recipes, but I also enjoy reinventing the classics, and this chunky Caprese salad is a great example of how we can take a beloved classic and change it up just enough to keep it interesting.
What’s the difference between burrata cheese and mozzarella?
Both are semi soft Italian cheeses, and the two look identical from the outside. The difference is that burrata is mozzarella that has been formed into a pouch and filled with soft cheese curds mixed with cream. It’s very delicate, and when you cut into it, the soft filling oozes out.
Whereas you might use mozzarella on a pizza or in lasagna, burrata is usually served as is, in a salad, or with bread.
Ingredients for a burrata Caprese salad ~
- ripe tomatoes, either regular or heirloom
- burrata cheese, a fresh mozzarella style cheese filled with cream
- fresh basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- fresh cracked black pepper
What makes heirloom tomatoes different from regular tomatoes?
Many people think that these colorful tomatoes are genetically modified, or somehow a newfangled invention, but it’s just the opposite ~ heirlooms are the original tomatoes, the way they used to be before commercial farmers started to breed tomatoes to be uniformly round and red, and sturdy enough for shipping.
- Heirlooms are tomatoes grown from seeds passed down from many generations. They are ‘open pollinated’ which just means they’re naturally pollinated in the open air. They’re tomato varieties that have stood the test of time and have not been commercially bred.
- Heirlooms are more expensive than regular tomatoes…they’re bred for flavor not for commercial qualities like shippability, or shelf life. They require extra care, and are more costly to grow.
- These tomatoes have a variety of flavors, generally more ‘tomatoey’ and more complex than supermarket tomatoes.
- Heirlooms have a short season, so grab them while you can.
- Heirlooms can sometimes be found in the supermarket, and at places like Whole Foods, but farmers markets and roadside stands are where you’ll find the best.
Because of their interesting colors and subtle flavors, I like to use heirloom tomatoes raw or very lightly cooked when I can, I think it makes the most of their assets. I love to cook them just until they split their skins, like in my Bucatini with Burst Tomatoes.
They’re a no brainer in salads, I use them in this Heirloom Caprese Salad with Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette, and in this pretty Basil Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes. You can make a main course out of them with my Summer Tomato and Tuna Salad.
Heirloom tomatoes make amazing chilled soup, and in my Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho post I use multiple varieties for the prettiest results!
And of course they’re always perfect on burgers, baked up in a tart or in a Southern Tomato Pie with Fried Onions!
Heirloom tomato etiquette ~
- Heirloom tomatoes are delicate, their skin is thinner than commercial tomatoes, and they spoil easily. Squeezing or rough handling is a no-no.
- Supermarkets will stack their heirlooms according to ripeness. The firmer, less ripe tomatoes will be on the bottom, and the most ripe, on top.
- If you must rifle through the stack, do it gently.
- Heirloom tomatoes generally aren’t marked as to which variety they are, so you just have to choose what looks good and experiment. Each type will have a different flavor profile, so mix and match.
- All tomatoes continue to ripen after being picked, so if yours are hard, leave them out on the counter for a few days. Definitely don’t put them in the refrigerator, their texture will suffer.
Some common types of heirloom tomatoes
Black Krim: a large, dark purple/red tomato with olive green ‘shoulders’ from Russia. It’s a glorious crimson when sliced.
Brandywine: probably the most common heirloom. Large, pink/red, with a deep ‘tomatoey’ flavor. Great for slicing.
Cherokee Purple: another large tomato, with a deep dusty rose color. It’s actually a very old Cherokee Indian variety.
Costoluto Genovese: a beautiful bright red tomato with lots of ruffly ribs, this is one of my favorites. It’s an Italian heirloom that’s great raw or cooked.
Dona: this French heirloom looks the most like a classic red round tomato, but with an extra boost of flavor.
Earl of Edgecomb: an English golden/orange tomato that brightens any tomato platter or salad.
Green Zebra: I love the pretty green stripes on this tomato, and I always grab them when I see them. They tend to be firmer than other heirlooms, and sometimes downright crunchy if you don’t let them ripen. I like to use them to make Fried Green Heirloom Tomatoes.
Marvel Striped: a bicolored Mexican tomato combining bright red and orange. They’re especially pretty when sliced.
Yellow Ruffle: gorgeously lemon yellow and deeply pleated, this tomato is almost too pretty to eat. It’s a very old beefsteak variety, often stuffed, because it has a relatively hollow interior.
Kumato: if you shop Trader Joe’s you’ll know this deep olive medium sized tomato from Spain; it’s firm, and a beautiful dusty pink when sliced.
Reader Rave ~
“Well that was fantastic! If burrata wasn’t so expensive my hubby would want to eat this salad every day.” ~ Niki
Burrata Caprese Salad
- 3-4 heirloom tomatoes
- 1 ball burrata cheese about 7 ounces
- fresh basil
- fresh cracked black pepper
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar or to taste
- pinch of salt
- Carefully place the cheese in the center of a bowl or plate. Take care not to tear its delicate skin.
- Slice the tomatoes into fat wedges and arrange around the cheese. Add the basil leaves.
- Whisk the dressing together and drizzle over the tomatoes. Season with black pepper.
- To serve, slice into the burrata to allow the insides to ooze out a little bit.