Capresto (Pesto Caprese Salad)

Capresto is a fresh take on the classic caprese salad featuring an incredible homemade pesto sauce that is so craveworthy, I would literally eat it on anything. A vertical stack of fresh mozzarella cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, and gorgeous green basil pesto is the perfect Summer appetizer to serve family and guests!

I love how easy it is to put together this magazine-worthy recipe, which is not only rich in flavor but refreshing and colorful! The best part is that this homemade pesto requires only 6 ingredients to make and comes together within minutes!

I have included some variations on the Capresto pesto recipe toward the end of the article. Try some of the alternatives out and let me know which ones you love!

Capresto (Caprese salad with pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil)
Capresto (Caprese Salad with Pesto)

Before you get started

  • Gather your equipment and ingredients so that you have them ready to go when it’s time to start making this beautiful appetizer! 
  • For this recipe, you will need a food processor, a platter or large plate for serving, measuring cups, a chopping board and sharp knife, and a small-medium airtight storage container.

Suggested Equipment & Appliances

  • Food processor (any size will do)
  • Platter or large plate, for serving
  • Measuring cups 
  • Chopping board and sharp knife
  • Airtight food storage container (small-medium)

Recipe Yield and Cook Time

  • Recipe Yield: 2-4 Servings
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

For the Basil Pesto: 

  • 3 (small-medium) cloves garlic, peeled (or 2 large cloves)
  • ⅓ cup raw or roasted pine nuts
  • ½ cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves

For Assembling the Capresto Salad:

  • 2 small/medium vine-ripened tomatoes (or 1 large)
  • Fresh (unshredded) mozzarella cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt or sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Start by making the basil pesto sauce. In a food processor of any size, pulse together the garlic cloves, salt, and pine nuts until a coarse paste forms. 
  2. Add in ½ of the extra olive oil, parmesan cheese, and basil leaves. Pulse the food processor again until evenly combined. Lastly, add in the remaining olive oil and pulse until the pesto is smooth and thoroughly processed. 
  3. Transfer your homemade pesto from the processor bowl to a small tupperware, sealing the contents airtight. Store the pesto in the refrigerator for use later. 
  4. Prep the mozzarella cheese and tomatoes for the caprese-style salad by slicing each into slices about 1 cm thick (about ⅓ inch). Arrange the sliced tomato and mozzarella onto a platter or large plate, alternating with each slice. You can arrange your salad in a long line, a circle, or try a vertical stack for a show-stopping appetizer! 
  5. Grab your pesto from the fridge and dollop or drizzle your desired amount of it over your assembled caprese salad. The amount of pesto added is up to you, I tend to serve my caprese with about ⅓ cup of pesto sauce. 
  6. Garnish your capresto salad with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and fresh ground black pepper, to taste.

Tips and Tricks

  • Though this recipe is very simple, using fresh, high-quality ingredients will result in a phenomenal appetizer or salad that you will want to make over and over! 
  • For a bit of tang and brightness in this homemade pesto recipe, 1 squeeze (1 tablespoon) of lemon juice can be added along with the basil leaves. I love the refreshing flavor that this adds to the delicious pesto. 
  • The pesto sauce will keep well in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. If lemon juice is added to the homemade pesto, it will safely keep in the fridge for up to 6 days. Read my note at the end of the article to learn more about this! 
  • You can also store the pesto in your freezer for up to 3 months! Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving. 
  • ¼ cup of softened sun dried tomatoes adds an incredible flavor and color to this homemade pesto. The flavor becomes richer and more hearty!

Substitutions

Any of the following ingredients can be swapped for some alternatives at the same quantity:

  • Pine Nuts can be replaced with pistachios, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or hazelnuts! Given that pine nuts are very pricey nowadays, I often swap other varieties of nuts when making this homemade pesto! My favorites are pistachios and macadamia nuts! You can use any of these alternatives either in full or as a partial replacement for pine nuts. 
  • Fresh Basil Leaves can be replaced with fresh parsley, fresh mint leaves, fresh oregano, steamed asparagus, fresh cilantro, steamed broccoli rabe, arugula, or fresh spinach. You can use any of these alternatives either in full or as a partial replacement for fresh basil leaves. 
  • Parmesan Cheese can be replaced with Romano cheese, Asiago cheese, Grana Padano cheese, extra pine nuts, fresh green olives, or nutritional yeast!

Food Safety Information

  • The combination of oil and garlic in this recipe can create an optimal environment for botulism spores to form and spread, creating a food safety hazard if not handled properly. 
  • To reduce any risk of botulism forming in your homemade pesto, serve and eat your pesto immediately, or immediately store in a sanitized jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 DAYS. 
  • Given that the garlic and oil emulsion is the culprit here, preparing the pesto without the garlic and processing it into the paste/sauce before serving not only ensures the safest pesto, but it promises the most flavorful and antioxidant-rich sauce!
  • As noted under Tips and Tricks, this pesto will keep well if frozen for up to 3 months. Make sure that the pesto is thawed in the refrigerator and NOT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. 
  • As noted under Tips and Tricks, adding lemon juice to the homemade pesto reduces risk of food-borne illness. This is the case for any acid you might want to add, including balsamic vinegar, raw tomato, or white balsamic vinegar.