This Winter Caprese Salad featuring slow-roasted tomatoes is an elegant and creative dinner party appetizer that can be made ahead of time for easy entertaining!
This past weekend Asheley and I voluntarily participated in a sleep deprivation experiment, also known as chaperoning our church’s middle school youth group on their Winter Weekend retreat. For many of the kids, it was their first time going away without their parents. And for middle school boys, apparently that means let’s eat as much junk food as possible and not shower all weekend. I smelled things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to erase from my memory.
But in all honesty, it was a wonderful experience for both the kids and us leaders. Watching kids interact with each other and forming friendships. Joining together with a whole lot of other kids from various churches in worship and game time. Having great, in-depth discussions about some difficult subject matter. It was a really great weekend.
And let’s just say that when we got home, Asheley and I enjoyed a long, LONG night’s sleep.
I wish I could somehow make some sort of crazy, clever transition into talking about this Winter Caprese Salad. But my brain is still not caught up on sleep apparently.
But let’s just say this. If you are a fan of caprese salad in the summer, when tomatoes are at the very peak of optimal ripeness and juiciness, you are going to go bonkers over this dish. And if you’re a fan of Mario Batali, you’ll go extra bonkers.. this is a dish from his restaurant Otto in NYC.
Winter tomatoes stink. Flavorless. Pale. Sad. But when they are gently slow-roasted in the oven and then tossed in agrodolce (the Italian answer to “sweet and sour”), something utterly magical happens.
This is a dish that I have repeatedly served at dinner parties, and because everyone always raves about it, will continue to be featured as an appetizer for years to come. All the components of the dish can be made ahead of time way before guests arrive, which is a major plus in my entertaining book.
And listen, you’ll notice in the recipe I suggest pine nuts as a garnish. I apparently forgot to do that in the photos above. Doh! Hate it when that happens.Print
Winter Caprese Salad
- Yield: 4-6 servings 1x
- Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
- Basil Pesto
- Six 3-ounce balls fresh mozzarella (preferably mozzarella di bufala)*
- Pine Nuts, for garnish
for the Oven-Roasted Tomatoes:
- 12 Plum Tomatoes
- Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt, for seasoning
for the Agrodolce:
- 1/8 c. red wine vinegar
- 1/8 c. sugar
for the Basil Pesto:
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh basil
- 1/8 cup pine nuts (also called pignoli)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup good-quality parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
for the Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the tomatoes length-wise in half and using your fingers, scoop out the seeds and pulp. Place tomatoes on the baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Using your hands, make sure tomatoes are evenly coated with the oil and salt. Arrange cut side down on the baking sheet.
- Bake the tomatoes for 20-30 minutes, until the tomato skin begins to shrivel. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F.
- Carefully remove the skin from the tomatoes and discard. Transfer peeled tomatoes to another baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and roast for about 1 1/2 hours, until the tomatoes are collapsed and slightly wrinkled but still moist. Let cool. These can be made a couple days ahead of time and kept refrigerated.
for the Agrodolce:
- Combine the sugar and red wine vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool. This can be made a few days ahead of time and kept refrigerated.
for the Pesto:
- Place the garlic in a food processor and chop. Add in the basil and pine nuts and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in Parmesan cheese. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. If making ahead of time, top pesto with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil to prevent browning and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and stir before serving.
When Ready to Serve:
- Combine the tomatoes and with agrodolce in a small bowl.
- Divide the tomatoes among six plates. Top with mozzarella and pesto. Garnish with pine nuts and serve.
Really? I can enjoy a caprese salad in the middle of January? Awesome! Looks gorgeous!
Thanks so much Melanie! Hope you are enjoying the week!
Oh man, now that I have three boys in my house I can only imagine the things I am going to smell once they become more independent (toddlers don’t smell too bad because at the moment, I’m in charge of their hygiene)
So this dish is beautiful. I have been meaning to get motivated to make my own mozzarella and burrata…I bet this dish would be awesome with some homemade burrata..ummmm!!! (Chris you could totally make your own cheese too..get on that) Oh and while I am here writing this I see on the right…what’s this…Kimchi Bacon Quesadillas…WHY did I not see those before. HELLO 🙂
Oh Sandra, enjoy those toddlers (and your control over their hygiene) each and every second! And you are so right, some homemade mozzarella or burrata would be absolutely wonderful. I’ve actually tried making mozzarella once. It came out okay, but I just didn’t season it enough with salt. I guess it’s time to try it again, huh?! Hahaha, so glad the quesadillas caught your eye 😉
Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps
So gorgeous Chris!!! Love the idea of taking out-of-season tomatoes and cooking them! This is on my to-make list.
Thanks so much Nicole!! Have a great week!
Ah, sleep is a wonderful thing! Although this Caprese Salad would be worth missing a little. I love how you put it on basil pesto. I just love pesto and fresh mozzarella. Delicious!!
Thanks so much Cindy! Hope you are having a great week!
lol about those Middle School boys – I think you just got your one way ticket to heaven! this salad looks simply beautiful Chris, your pictures are stunning everytime!
Hahaha thanks Christine. Middle school boys are definitely a different breed… but they are totally cool and awesome. They get my humor as well, which is a big plus, haha.
So great of you to guys to help out at the weekend retreat! Me and the hubs would love to do something like that, even if it means sleep deprivation.
I am totally loving this salad Chris! Caprese is such a classic but you are right, winter tomatoes = no bueno. Thanks for solving the sad tomato dilemma!
Haha, it was a really great experience and in all honesty, something we would jump at the chance to take part of again! I love being a part of the middle school youth ministry at my church. It’s a wacky age group but the kids are super awesome.
Yum – We made a pizza version of this tonight, but it never occurred to me to make a salad of it in the winter!
And I’ve never thought of making it into a pizza! Super smart! I’m definitely going to try that!
Oh I love this … winter tomatoes do stink (I’ve been roasting them like crazy too). And this is such an awesome play on a regular caprese salad – I need to try this asap!
Oh man, that had to have been an adventure! I remember doing a lock-in once when I was in middle school – the poor teachers! haha
Thanks so much Ashley! And yes, it totally was an adventure! Haha oh yea I remember having some lock-ins back in the day as well!
Winter tomatoes DO stink. But these roasted ones look amazing, and so flavorful. I love this salad!
Glad to hear you had such a good time in the end. Get some relax now! 😉
Haha, yes some relaxation time is essential! But it totally was a great, worthwhile experience 🙂
Yum! I love this idea for the slow-roasted tomatoes. Sounds delectable! I’m glad you had a fun weekend! Retreats are always so crazy but so impactful for everyone involved. Catch up on sleep/sanitization. 🙂
You are so right, Erin. Crazy yet impactful. That’s the perfect explanation and recap of our weekend 🙂
What a lovely, simple appetizer idea, Chris! I think that’s something that most people would enjoy and it seems like it would be pretty easy to put together. Do you think balsamic vinegar could be used instead of the agrodulce?
This salad looks amazing!!! Winter tomatoes are the worst – such a great idea to roast them and make a caprese salad with that! Hope you are caught up on sleep!
Thanks so much Cate! Yes, all caught up on sleep. That snow day sure helped 🙂 Phew…
Sarah & Arkadi
Great looking salad! Nice to hear you have enough energy for the kids! hehe
This looks delicious!
That it isn’t a cold salad is bonus in my books.
I was also thinking that for a quick supper, this would be great with a poached egg or two. With or without the mozzarella.
Have a Joyful Day :~D
Love the idea of adding a poached egg!