Papaya Caprese

by Dr. Hennie Fisher – University of Pretoria

Caprese salad, more often just called Caprese, is a delightful tri-coloured red, white and green salad mimicking the Italian flag (like Pizza Margarita) consisting of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. It is most often only seasoned with salt and olive oil, even though a little pesto is not frowned upon. The Caprese is named after the smart and exclusive island Capri, off the coast of Naples.

This recipe is an adaptation of the original, incorporating papaya as one of the core ingredients along with cocktail tomatoes and bocconcini, instead of the more traditional style in which slices of tomatoes and mozzarella are layered. There is however a proviso here: use the best quality mozzarella (stored in water), and not the processed pizza cheese most often sold in South Africa. Mozzarella was traditionally made from water buffalo milk, and sometimes this version is also available in South Africa.

This recipe also incorporates a ‘green’ sauce, made with basil, but not in the style of pesto with nuts and cheese – this is just a simple sauce to add a deeper, more complex flavor to the salad. Should you wish to make the salad with pesto, it is deemed acceptable to do so in Italy, so go ahead.

The papaya for this recipe was made into large balls similar in size to the bocconcini, using an ice-cream scoop (not those with the little lever, but the simpler ones) or you could also use a large Parisian ball scoop to make bigger papaya balls.

Ingredients for one large salad, enough for 4 to 6 people

For the green sauce:

40 g fresh basil
1 clove garlic
2,5 ml (½ teaspoon) sugar
2,5 ml (½ teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
5 ml (1 teaspoon) whole cumin, dry toasted in a pan
40 ml lemon juice
80 ml olive oil

For the salad:

1 small punnet of multi-coloured cocktail tomatoes
About 8 bocconcini mozzarella balls
½ large firm papaya, made into large papaya balls
Small basil leaves for garnish
A little freshly ground black pepper


First make the green sauce – blend all the sauce ingredients together in a liquidizer or by using a stick blender until you have a smooth sauce.
Do not make it too long in advance as it oxidizes fairly quickly and the vibrant, green colour would be lost.
Arrange the salad ingredients attractively on a platter, spoon some of the sauce over, dot small basil leaves all over and finish with a grinding of fresh pepper.