My Caprese Christmas Wreath is the ideal addition to your festive table. Not only is it a delicious and popular salad, but it makes an attractive table centrepiece. Enjoy it as an appetiser or serve it as a side dish; it is the ideal companion to hot or cold dishes, meat, fish or poultry.
Why we love this recipe:
This classic Italian salad is ideal when you’re short on time, and who isn’t these days? It is a great last-minute addition to your festive table as it is quick and easy to prepare from ingredients which are readily available in the supermarket.
This is my Christmas interpretation of the traditional and popular Italian appetiser. I thought that making it in the shape of a wreath was a great way to serve it. It adds the perfect celebratory note when served this way.
When making plans to entertain over the festive season, it is essential that some, if not all elements, be simple to prepare. I like the idea of colourful platters of food that are simple to prepare, such as this salad.
It is light and healthy and is an ideal contrast to the heavier foods that many of us will consume over this season.
Despite being simple to prepare, when presented in the style of a wreath, it still provides a “wow” factor. It looks so good that it’s perfect to use as your table centrepiece. And I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of a centrepiece that is edible. For a start, there’s one less piece of Christmas décor to store after the festivities are over!
About the Caprese Salad:
In Italy, this traditional salad is known as Insalata Caprese, which roughly translates as “salad of Capri”.
The best Caprese Salad starts with the best ingredients. In its basic form, there are just 6 ingredients; tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
This is a recipe for summer; this is when tomatoes are at peak perfection. For the best flavour you will need to find tomatoes which are perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy.
The cheese for a Caprese Salad is fresh mozzarella. Look for good quality mozzarella. There is generally just four ingredients; milk (cow or water buffalo), salt, rennet and starter cultures.
Ingredients in this recipe:
Please see the recipe card further along in the post for exact quantities of ingredients and the full method.
Fresh basil – for the wreath, we use fresh basil leaves. Basil is a delicate herb which bruises easily. When selecting basil, look for vibrant green leaves with no dark spots or signs of bruising.
Although it is often suggested that basil should not be refrigerated, I have found that the most successful way to store it for a day or two is to wrap the stems in damp kitchen paper, loosely cover the basil with a plastic bag and stand it in the door of the refrigerator.
My best advice is to not buy basil until the last moment and do not wash the leaves until you are ready to use them.
Small bocconcini balls – bocconcini are balls of fresh mozzarella. They are white, semi-soft and rindless with a sweet, mild flavour. The yellow ball of mozzarella which is often used on pizza is not suitable for this salad.
They come in various sizes from those about the size of a tennis ball to those the size of a cherry. I have selected the size which is similar to the size of the cherry tomatoes.
They are readily available in supermarkets, either sold loose or in a plastic tub. They are generally sold in a brine solution which helps maintain their freshness.
My preference is to buy the bocconcini which are in a sealed, plastic tub as they have a longer shelf-life and their use-by date assures me of their freshness. After opening the tub, they should be used within a day or two.
Cherry tomatoes – I have chosen to use cherry tomatoes as they reach a higher concentration of naturally occurring sugars than large tomatoes. In addition, they also have lower acidity, which makes them a popular choice. They are sweet and juicy yet have a slight tartness, the two contrasting tastes combining beautifully.
When purchasing tomatoes, look for those that are fully ripe. They will be a vibrant red and still be firm to the touch. Avoid those with dark spots or wrinkles. The little red orbs will add a decorative note to your Caprese Christmas Wreath.
To maintain the best flavour, store them at room temperature. Storing them in the refrigerator will dull the flavour.
Extra virgin olive oil – as always, to obtain the best flavour when a salad has few ingredients it is essential to use the best quality.
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper – your Caprese Wreath should be seasoned to taste. For the best flavour it is important to use sea salt. Sea salt is naturally produced, using a method of evaporation to extract the salt. There is minimal, if any, processing required.
Step by step instructions:
First, I select a large white platter.
Then, I lay a garland of basil leaves around the perimeter of the platter. Randomly and decoratively place cherry tomatoes and bocconcini balls on the basil leaves. It’s as simple as that, you can’t get it wrong.
The salad can be prepared to this stage if making slightly in advance. If making it early and it needs to be refrigerated, just ensure that it is returned to room temperature for serving.
Just before serving, drizzle the salad with extra virgin olive oil and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Tips for success and FAQs:
Although this Caprese Christmas Wreath is easy to prepare, I have several tips to help you make it as delicious as those you will find in Italy.
My best advice with a dish is as simple as this one, is that it is essential to use the best ingredients.
The cherry tomatoes must be fully ripe, a vibrant shade of red. Although ripe, they should still have a firmness when touched. And please, don’t refrigerate tomatoes as it dulls their flavour. Ideally, store your tomatoes at room temperature.
The basil leaves must be fresh and unblemished, the bocconcini should be about the size of the cherry tomatoes.
For the best flavour, use extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Yes, you can. If you have larger tomatoes of excellent quality and flavour, they will be delicious. Just slice them and arrange decoratively on the platter.
You can prepare it up to the stage of adding the olive oil and seasoning. If you are preparing it hours in advance you will need to refrigerate the salad. Be sure to bring it to room temperature to serve. Add the olive oil and seasoning just prior to serving.
More delicious recipes for you to try:
Fresh tomatoes are a favourite ingredient to use in our household. Here are some more recipes we love:
- Caprese Bread Tartlets
- Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad
- Quinoa Tabouli
- Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- Crispy Baked Parmesan Tomatoes
- Marinated Tomato Salad
- Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta
- Fresh Tomato Salsa
If you have not tried it before, you will discover that our Caprese Christmas Wreath is a perfect combination of vibrant, fresh flavours and is an ideal addition to your festive table. Not only is the shape seasonally appropriate, like Pizza Margherita, it displays the three colours of the Italian flag, red, white and green.
If you need to prepare something that’s quick, tasty, and still “Christmassy” this will fit the bill. Not traditional, but still delicious, is to serve the Caprese salad with a drizzle of our Balsamic Glaze.
If you are after another festive idea, be sure to also try our Smoked Salmon Wreath.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below when you try this Caprese Christmas Wreath!
Caprese Christmas Wreath
- 1 bunch basil See Note 1
- 100 g (3.5 ounces) baby bocconcini balls See Note 2
- 250 g (8.8 ounces) cherry tomatoes
- 30 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil See Note 3
- sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper – to taste See Note 4
- balsamic glaze – to serve, optional
- For an attractive presentation and the maximum effect, choose a large, white platter.
- Gently wash and dry the basil.Remove the basil leaves from the stems and arrange decoratively around the edge of the platter.
- Arrange the cherry tomatoes and bocconcini on the basil leaves.
- The salad can be prepared to this stage a little in advance. If you do refrigerate it, ensure that it has returned to room temperature prior to serving.If preparing the salad in advance, do not season with salt and pepper or add the olive until just prior to serving.When ready to serve, season to taste and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.
- Fresh basil bruises easily so it is important to handle it gently.
- Bocconcini are balls of fresh mozzarella, found in the refrigerator section at your supermarket. They range in size through large, medium and the very small, cherry sized ones that I have used here. The measurements are by weight.
- In Australia, the tablespoon is 20 ml or 4 teaspoons. In many other countries, the tablespoon is 15 ml or 3 teaspoons. You may have to adjust the recipe accordingly.
- For the best flavour, I recommend that you use sea salt. My preference is Maldon sea salt; as well as flavour, the flakes provide some texture.
- Please note, the nutritional information is based on this being enjoyed as four servings. The nutritional information is an estimate only.