Caprese Salad

Nothing screams summer more than Caprese salad made with juicy, ripe tomatoes, creamy mozzarella cheese, and sweet and spicy basil!

The post Caprese Salad appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Oh, Caprese Salad… let me count the ways! Nothing screams summer to me more than perfectly ripe, juicy, colorful tomatoes, and this fresh and flavorful Caprese salad is loaded with them! Creamy mozzarella cheese and sweet and spicy basil round out this easy salad, and I drizzled it with some balsamic glaze to bring it all together. It’s truly summer on a plate!

overhead view of a serving of caprese salad on a white plate with balsamic glaze.

This Caprese Salad is the perfect way to honor the summer season because of its simplicity. No one wants to turn an oven on in this heat! This recipe is super easy to prepare, surprisingly elegant, bright, and fresh. It’s a crowd-pleaser! I like to tear the mozzarella because I like how the olive oil and balsamic glaze cling to more of the surface area better.

What is Caprese Salad?

Caprese salad is a classic Italian salad made from fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and, of course, fresh basil to represent the colors of the Italian flag. It’s not your typical salad in that it doesn’t have any lettuce, but allow me to widen your horizons on what a salad can be. Dressed in our favorite easy homemade balsamic glaze, this simple salad is ridiculously fresh and flavorful.

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make a Caprese salad:

  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese: You’re looking for a ball of fresh, soft mozzarella cheese, not a block of low moisture!
  • Fresh Basil Leaves: Keep them whole for a punch of fresh and herbal flavor.
  • Fresh Tomatoes: You can use any variety of tomatoes for this recipe, but I love how flavorful and colorful cherry tomatoes are. If you want to go as budget-friendly as possible, Roma tomatoes always seem to be the best price!
  • Olive Oil: Use high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Balsamic Vinegar: Adds a sweet and tart flavor to the salad.
  • Brown Sugar: Helps turn the vinegar into a thick, sweet glaze.
  • Salt and Pepper: Enhance the natural flavors of the cheese and tomatoes.

What Else Can I Add?

This Caprese salad is so delicious with a bit of kale pesto drizzled over top or some walnuts for crunch. In the heat of deep summer, I like to add some thinly sliced peaches, too, for a little extra sweetness!

caprese salad on a white serving plate.
overhead view of a serving of caprese salad on a white plate with balsamic glaze.
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Caprese Salad

Nothing screams summer more than Caprese salad made with juicy, ripe tomatoes, creamy mozzarella cheese, and sweet and spicy basil!
Course Salad
Cuisine Italian
Total Cost ($13.93 recipe / $2.32 serving)
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 (1 cup each)
Calories 203kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. ball of fresh mozzarella, torn $4.26
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, whole $1.78
  • 3 cups tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces* $6.37
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.34
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar $1.08
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar $0.08
  • 1/8 tsp salt $0.01
  • 1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper $0.01

Instructions

  • Halve or quarter the tomatoes (depending on their size), pick the basil, and tear the mozzarella.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and set aside.
  • Combine balsamic and brown sugar in a skillet and whisk to combine.
  • Bring the mixture up to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced in volume by about half. This should take around ten minutes, but the total time can vary depending on your cookware and burner. You'll know it's done when the simmering bubbles linger on the surface of the vinegar instead of immediately popping.
  • Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to cool. It will thicken considerably more as it cools. Test the glaze with a spoon, if it leaves a lingering residue that clings to your spoon, it’s done! If it isn't to your desired thickness, you can simmer the glaze again to further reduce.
  • Drizzle balsamic glaze over caprese salad. Season with a crank or two of salt and pepper and enjoy!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Notes

* I used a variety of cherry tomatoes and heirloom slicer tomatoes that I picked up from the farmers market and picked from my garden, but any variety of tomatoes will do.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 203kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 13g | Sodium: 295mg | Fiber: 1g
overhead view of a serving of caprese salad on a white plate.

how to make Caprese Salad – step by step photos

torn mozzarella, basil leaves, and halved tomatoes on a cutting board.

Halve or quarter 3 cups of tomatoes (depending on their size), pick 1/2 cup of basil, and tear 8 oz. of mozzarella.

pouring olive oil over caprese salad on a white serving plate.

Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and set aside.

pouring balsamic vinegar over brown sugar in a saucepan.

Combine 1/2 cup balsamic and 2 Tbsp brown sugar in a skillet and whisk to combine.

whisking balsamic glaze in a saucepan with a whisk.

Bring the mixture up to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced in volume by about half. This should take around ten minutes, but the total time can vary depending on your cookware and burner. You’ll know it’s done when the simmering bubbles linger on the surface of the vinegar instead of immediately popping.

thickened balsamic glaze on a spoon.

Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to cool. It will thicken considerably more as it cools. Test the glaze with a spoon, if it leaves a lingering residue that clings to your spoon, it’s done! If it isn’t to your desired thickness, you can simmer the glaze again to further reduce.

drizzling balsamic glaze over caprese salad on a white serving plate with a spoon.

Drizzle balsamic glaze over caprese salad. Season with a crank or two of salt and pepper and enjoy!

a forkful of caprese salad.

This super simple Caprese salad is going to be your favorite Summer salad recipe!

The post Caprese Salad appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Seasonal Spinach Salad

Make this spinach salad recipe to serve with your favorite main dishes! This fresh spinach salad features seasonal fruit, creamy goat cheese, toasted pecans, just enough red…

The post Seasonal Spinach Salad appeared first on Cookie and Kate.

best spinach salad recipe

Make this spinach salad recipe to serve with your favorite main dishes! This fresh spinach salad features seasonal fruit, creamy goat cheese, toasted pecans, just enough red onion, and the perfect amount of vinaigrette. It’s finished with a drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze.

This spinach salad is beautiful, absolutely delicious, and holiday worthy. It’s also easily adjusted to the changing seasons, and simple enough to make on a weeknight. Hooray!

spinach salad ingredients

You’ll see raspberries in these photos, which are wonderful. You’re not limited to raspberries, though—this spinach salad would be equally great with apples, pears, strawberries and more. You’ll find a full list of options below.

I’ve created quite a few green salad recipes over the years, but not a lot of spinach salad recipes. Arugula, kale, romaine and spring greens are usually my fresh greens of choice. The other day, I tried a spinach salad at a local French restaurant that inspired me to give fresh spinach in salads another chance. Let me tell you, this spinach salad is worth making! I love it and hope you do, too.

Continue to the recipe...

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Strawberry Spinach Salad

A fresh, vibrant, Strawberry Spinach Salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing, candied pecans, and insanely delicious flavors!

The post Strawberry Spinach Salad appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I’ve made several versions of Strawberry Spinach Salad over the years, but this by far is my favorite! It includes fresh strawberries, salty feta cheese, candied pecans, and an easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette. The textures and flavors are insanely delicious and compliment each other perfectly! It reminds you of a fancy salad that you’d get at a cafe, but you can make it at home for a fraction of the cost. This is one of those “summer” salads that I could literally eat all year long!

Close up overhead shot of plated strawberry spinach salad.

What’s in Strawberry Spinach Salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad includes lots of wonderful flavors and textures that compliment each other perfectly. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Baby Spinach – a simple bed of spinach greens is the base foundation for this salad.
  • Strawberries – fresh, juicy, strawberries add a simple and wonderful sweetness.
  • Red onion – slightly sharp and a nice contrast to the sweetness of the strawberries and candied pecans. 
  • Feta cheese – soft, creamy, salty feta cheese pairs well with the strawberries in this salad. If you’re not a fan of feta cheese, goat cheese or blue cheese would also work well.
  • Candied pecans – these candied pecans, in my humble opinion, are one of the best parts of the salad. It adds a crunchy, sweet texture, and you can swap the pecans out for toasted walnuts or toasted sliced almonds, which would also be totally delicious!
  • Balsamic vinaigrette – easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing tops it all off.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

The dressing for this strawberry salad is probably my favorite part…ok it’s actually tied with the candied pecans! I started with Beth’s easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette and made one adjustment by replacing the mayonnaise with honey for a slightly sweeter taste. The results – absolutely amazing!

You can certainly use a store bought balsamic vinaigrette if you don’t have a well stocked pantry with all the necessary ingredients on hand, but I promise this homemade balsamic vinaigrette will taste wayyy better! I highly recommend you give it a try! ;)

Budget-Friendly Recipe Tips

  1. If chopped nuts are a little too costly at your local store, toast up some day-old bread to use in place of the chopped pecans, similar to our Panzanella salad.
  2. To bulk up the salad and make it stretch a little further, add your favorite pasta like penne or bow-tie pasta.
Side view of plated strawberry spinach salad

How To Store Strawberry Spinach Salad

Strawberry spinach salad stores well in the fridge for up to 3 days. In order to keep the spinach from wilting too much, it’s best to store the strawberries and the dressing separately and add them to the salad right before you’re ready to serve.

Serving Suggestions

This salad makes a great lunch meal by itself, Monti and I totally gobbled it up at the test studio, but you can also add some grilled chicken or sautéed shrimp on top for a more filling meal. This salad also pairs well with other leaner protein like baked cod and pan-seared chicken.

Overhead shot of two plates of strawberry spinach salad with a small bowl of strawberries and feta cheese on the side.
Overhead close up shot of plated strawberry spinach salad.
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Strawberry Spinach Salad

A fresh, vibrant, Strawberry Spinach Salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing, candied pecans, and insanely delicious flavors!
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Total Cost $8.72 recipe / $2.18 serving
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 side salads
Calories 405kcal

Ingredients

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup olive oil $1.10
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar $0.45
  • 2 Tbsp honey $0.50
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard $0.09
  • 1 garlic clove, minced $0.08
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.01
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper $0.02

Candied Pecans

  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.07
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar $0.08
  • 1 pinch salt $0.01
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans $1.15

Salad

  • 8 oz baby spinach $1.83
  • 1/2 lb strawberries, sliced $1.25
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced $0.21
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese $1.82

Instructions

  • Start by making the homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, minced garlic clove, dried basil, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper to a jar, bowl, or blender. Close the jar and shake the ingredients together, whisk in a bowl, or blend until the dressing is evenly combined. Set the dressing aside.
  • Next make the candied pecans. Add the butter, brown sugar and a pinch of salt to a small non-stick skillet. Heat over medium heat while stirring.
  • Once the butter and brown sugar begins to melt add the chopped pecans to the skillet and stir with the brown sugar mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring every 10-15 seconds until the brown sugar fully melts (looks glossy instead of grainy) and completely coats the pecans.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat immediately and transfer the candied pecans to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the pecans out evenly in a flat layer and allow them to cool for 10 minutes while the candied coating fully hardens.
  • Now prep the strawberries, red onion and feta cheese. Remove the stems and slice the strawberries, thinly slice the red onion, and crumble the feta. Set these ingredients to the side.
  • Divide the spinach between four plates. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of balsamic vinaigrette on top of each bed of spinach.
  • Add sliced strawberries, red onions, a tablespoon or two of candied pecans, and a tablespoon of feta cheese to each salad. Feel free to drizzle a little more balsamic vinaigrette over the top of each and enjoy!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 405kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 33g | Sodium: 400mg | Fiber: 4g

Do you love easy summer salad recipes? Try our Creamy Cucumber Salad, Panzanella, or Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad.

HOW TO MAKE STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD – STEP BY STEP PHOTOS

Prepared balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Start by making the homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Add 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp honey, 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 garlic clove minced, 1/2 tsp dried basic, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper to a jar, bowl, or blender. Add a top to the jar and shake, whisk in a bowl, or blend until all the ingredients are evenly combined. Set the vinaigrette dressing aside.

Chopped pecans, butter and brown sugar in a nonstick skillet

Next make the candied pecans. In a small non-stick skillet add 1/2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Heat over medium heat while stirring just until the butter and brown sugar begins to melt. Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecan and stir to coat in the brown sugar mixture. Continue to cook for 2-4 minutes or until the brown sugar is fully melted (looks glossy, not grainy) and completely coating the pecans.

Candied pecans spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet

Remove the skillet from the heat immediately, to prevent the brown sugar from over cooking and burning. Transfer the candied pecans to a parchment lined baking sheet, spread out in a flat layer. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes and the sugar coating will fully harden.

Sliced strawberries, sliced red onion, feta cheese, and canided pecans on a wood cutting board

Now prep the rest of the salad ingredients. Wash and slice 1/2 pound of strawberries, thinly slice 1/4 of a red onion, portion out 2 oz of crumbled feta cheese, and gather your cooled candied pecans.

Baby spinach in a large serving bowl with balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Divide 8 oz of spinach between four salad plates (roughly 2 oz per plate) or you can add all of the spinach to a larger serving bowl. Add 2 Tbsp of the balsamic vinaigrette to each salad plate or drizzle 1/3 cup of the dressing over the bowl of spinach. Reserve the rest of the dressing to add right before serving.

Overhead close up shot of plated strawberry spinach salad.

Divide the toppings (sliced strawberries, sliced red onion, 1 tablespoon of crumbled feta, and 1-2 tablespoons of candied pecans) between the four salad plates or add the toppings to a larger salad serving bowl. Drizzle each salad with a little more of the balsamic dressing and enjoy!

More Easy Salad Recipes

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Bruschetta Pasta

Bruschetta pasta is super light and fresh, featuring ripe tomatoes, aromatic basil, and a quick and easy balsamic vinaigrette.

The post Bruschetta Pasta appeared first on Budget Bytes.

I live off of cold pasta salads this time of year, so this week I made this really simple and delicious Bruschetta Pasta, which is just a super fresh and summer pasta that is inspired by the flavors and ingredients in Bruschetta. This easy pasta salad makes a great side to go with dinner or you can grill up some garlic marinated chicken to serve on top and make it a meal!

Overhead view of a bowl full of Bruschetta Pasta with a fork in the center.

What’s in Bruschetta Pasta

This summery and fresh pasta, inspired by Bruschetta, features tomatoes marinated in a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette, fresh basil, and tender pasta. That’s IT. It’s so simple, so fresh, and so very delicious! This is the perfect pasta to make if you have your own garden or have a friend who has a garden because fresh tomatoes and fresh basil are a must!

What Kind of Pasta to Use

I used penne pasta for this recipe because we had some on hand that needed to be used up, but I think any short-shaped pasta would be great here. Bowtie or campanelle would also be great. Longer pasta, like spaghetti would work in a pinch, but I suggest breaking it half to help the pieces of tomato mix into the pasta instead of having it all clump on the outside of the bowl.

What to Serve with Bruschetta Pasta

This easy pasta works great as a side dish to any grilled meat or fish, or you could add other ingredients to flesh out the pasta and make it a meal. Cubed mozzarella or fresh mozzarella pearls would be a natural fit for this pasta. Or you could make some garlic marinated chicken, slice it up, and serve it on top of the pasta. It would also be quite nice with seafood like garlic butter shrimp or Garlic Butter Baked Cod. And don’t forget a simple side salad to round out the meal!

Close up side view of a bowl full of bruschetta pasta.
Overhead view of bruschetta pasta in a bowl with a fork.
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Bruschetta Pasta

Bruschetta pasta is super light and fresh, featuring ripe tomatoes, aromatic basil, and a quick and easy balsamic vinaigrette.
Course Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Total Cost $5.30 recipe / $0.88 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 1.5 cups each
Calories 334kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil $1.10
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar $0.45
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard $0.09
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced $0.16
  • 1/2 tsp salt $0.03
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper $0.03
  • 4 Roma tomatoes $1.80
  • 12 oz. penne pasta $0.94
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, loosely packed $0.67

Instructions

  • Make the vinaigrette first. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, and pepper to a bowl, then whisk until smooth.
  • Finely dice the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to a large bowl, then pour the dressing over top. Stir the combine the tomatoes and dressing, then set them aside to marinate.
  • Cook the penne pasta according to the package directions (boil 7-8 minutes, or until tender), then drain well in a colander. Allow the pasta to cool.
  • While the pasta is cooling, roughly chop the basil.
  • Give the tomatoes another stir, then add the drained and cooled pasta and chopped basil to the bowl. Stir until everything is evenly combined and coated in dressing. Taste the pasta and add more salt or pepper if needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 334kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 13g | Sodium: 215mg | Fiber: 2g

How to Make Bruschetta Pasta – Step by Step Photos

Balsamic vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl, not mixed.

Make the vinaigrette first, so the flavors have some time to blend. Combine ⅓ cup olive oil, 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 minced cloves of garlic, ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp freshly cracked pepper. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth, then set the dressing aside.

Diced tomatoes on a cutting board.

Finely dice four Roma tomatoes or two large tomatoes.

Dressing being poured over tomatoes.

Add the diced tomatoes to a large bowl, pour the vinaigrette over top, then stir them together. Let the tomatoes marinate while you cook 12 oz. pasta (according to the package directions). Drain the pasta well and allow it to cool.

Chopped basil on a cutting board.

While the pasta is cooling, chop about ½ cup (loosely packed, or ½ oz. weight) of fresh basil.

Pasta and basil added to the marinated tomatoes.

When the pasta is drained and mostly cool, give the tomatoes another stir, then add the pasta and basil to the bowl.

Finished bruschetta pasta in the bowl.

Stir everything together until evenly combined and coated in dressing. Give the pasta a taste and add more salt or pepper to your liking. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat (1-2 days).

Overhead view of bruschetta pasta in a bowl with a fork.

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Pesto Veggie Burgers with Balsamic Aioli

We’ve done veggie burgers and pesto separately, but together? Our only regret is not trying it sooner! Herby, savory chickpea burgers join with sliced tomato, arugula, and a creamy, bright balsamic aioli for a major dose of YUM!
Just 30 minutes require…

Pesto Veggie Burgers with Balsamic Aioli

We’ve done veggie burgers and pesto separately, but together? Our only regret is not trying it sooner! Herby, savory chickpea burgers join with sliced tomato, arugula, and a creamy, bright balsamic aioli for a major dose of YUM!

Just 30 minutes required for this satisfying plant-based main perfect for summer BBQs or a quick weeknight meal! Let us show you how it’s done!

These pesto chickpea patties begin with mashing chickpeas until there are only a few large pieces remaining.

Pesto Veggie Burgers with Balsamic Aioli from Minimalist Baker →

Homemade Balsamic Glaze (Balsamic Reduction)

Did you know that you can turn basic balsamic vinegar into pure magic? Balsamic glaze is condensed balsamic vinegar that yields a beautiful dark, glossy drizzle with…

The post Homemade Balsamic Glaze (Balsamic Reduction) appeared first on Cookie and Kate.

balsamic glaze recipe

Did you know that you can turn basic balsamic vinegar into pure magic? Balsamic glaze is condensed balsamic vinegar that yields a beautiful dark, glossy drizzle with a bold, complex flavor. It’s also know as balsamic reduction… or as I like to say, balsamic magic.

It has a dark, almost honey-like sweetness and complexity, with a hint of residual tartness. By reducing the balsamic vinegar, you decrease the sourness and make the sugars even more pronounced. The flavor is difficult to describe because it is uniquely its own.

Balsamic glaze is marvelous drizzled over ripe summer produce, like perfect red tomatoes, peaches or melon. Add some olive oil, flaky salt, and basil for a beautiful summer salad. I also love it over greens, roasted vegetables and homemade pizzas. You’ll find even more uses below, but the possibilities are up to your own creativity.

regular balsamic vinegar

Now, if you’re already buying true aged balsamic vinegar that’s thick and syrupy, there’s no need to make balsamic glaze. It’s already there. My favorite affordable, thick balsamic vinegar is this one by Napa Valley Naturals (affiliate link/look for the bottle with “25 stars” on it).

If you have a bottle of basic runny balsamic vinegar—the kind that I grew up with—you can turn it into balsamic glaze in under 20 minutes. It keeps well in the pantry nearly indefinitely, so it’s a worthwhile little project. You’ll be glad to have it!

Continue to the recipe...

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Mediterranean-Inspired Cucumber Chickpea Salad

A fresh and vibrant salad that takes just 10 minutes? That’s our style, friends! This Mediterranean-inspired cucumber tomato salad is so versatile and satisfying thanks to protein- and fiber-rich chickpeas. Plus, just 1 bowl and 9 ingredients required!…

Mediterranean-Inspired Cucumber Chickpea Salad

A fresh and vibrant salad that takes just 10 minutes? That’s our style, friends! This Mediterranean-inspired cucumber tomato salad is so versatile and satisfying thanks to protein- and fiber-rich chickpeas. Plus, just 1 bowl and 9 ingredients required!

It’s delicious alongside tofu, fish, or falafel wraps for an easy spring or summer meal. Let us show you how it’s done! 

This VIBRANT, throw-it-all-in-a-bowl salad features crunchy cucumbers, sweet ripe tomatoes, aromatic red onion, fresh mint, and chickpeas.

Mediterranean-Inspired Cucumber Chickpea Salad from Minimalist Baker →