The Murky Origins Of The Caprese Salad

Caprese salad, also known as Insalata Caprese, might be one of the simplest, most refreshing dishes on the planet. Made with sliced mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, sweet basil, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, this delectable, bright Italian staple appears on restaurant menus and picnic tables everywhere. It's extremely easy to prepare, a joy to eat, and its colors even match the Tricolore, Italy's green, white, and red national flag. Caprese is often enjoyed as an appetizer or a light lunch, and the three main ingredients can also be incorporated into paninis, pasta, pizzas, and other savory, summery meals.

Like a number of beloved dishes that are quintessential of cultural cuisine, the Caprese salad's true origins are commonly up for debate. Recipes from Italy recounts a story that claims Caprese salad was first whipped up by an Italian bricklayer in the late 1930s who incorporated the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil into his sandwich. However, a couple of other stories say the dish goes back farther in time, and they involve the elements being eaten on their own as a no-frills salad. But the way it got its name might not be tied so much to when it was created as to where.

Caprese is named after the island of Capri

The term Caprese is rooted in Italian and could be understood to mean "of or in the style of Capri," an island off the southern coast of Italy that has seemingly always been known for its glamorous charm and natural beauty. According to Italy Magazine, Roman Emperor Augustus lived in a villa on the island in the first century AD. Eventually, his stepson and successor, Tiberius, would live there. One legend states that Tiberius was the inventor of the now-famous Caprese salad recipe and was often served it.

A different account states that the Caprese salad wasn't introduced to the culinary world until much later — the 20th century, to be more specific. Eat and Walk Italy states that in this version of events, the first Caprese salad was assembled in the 1920s at the island's Grand Hotel Quisisana, where Italian poet and founder of the Futurist movement Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was a guest during a conference. Marinetti often disparaged pasta and carb-rich, complex foods. To please his persnickety palate, the hotel chefs placed mozzarella, tomato, basil, and EVOO on a plate, and the Caprese salad was born. No matter by whom, where, or when Insalata Caprese was created, the fragrant, flavorful fare is a forever classic.