Authentic Italian salad

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Insalata di Riso - Italian Rice Salad

  • 350 g (1 3/4 cup) of Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 120 g (4 oz) of tuna in oil
  • 150 g (5,3 0z) of peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 150 g (5,3 oz) of canned sweet corn
  • 2 to 3 medium carrots
  • about 20/25 pitted green and black olives
  • 150 g (5,3 oz) of cherry tomatoes
  • 150 g (5,3, oz) of cheese (such as Asiago, Caciocavallo or Fontina)
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) of diced ham
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  1. To prepare Italian rice salad, first put a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Finally boil the rice.
    Drain it when al dente, about two minutes less than the time indicated on the package (usually 14/15 minutes). The grain inside should still be slightly hard.
    As soon as it’s drained, put it in a cold bowl.
  2. Add two tablespoons of vinegar and three tablespoons of oil and stir. Set aside and allow to cool. You can also put it in the refrigerator a few hours to make it easier for the rice to cool. Stir occasionally.
  3. Now start preparing all the ingredients that go into your Italian rice salad:
    Boil the peas for 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
    Boil the eggs for about 10 minutes as well. Peel them and let them cool.
    Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half or 4 depending on size and set aside.
    Cut the pitted olives into rounds.
    Peel the carrots and cut them into cubes.
    Cut the cheese and ham into cubes as well.
    Drain the tuna from the oil and the corn from the water.
    Now you have all the ingredients ready to assemble and dress this amazing rice salad.
  4. Take a large bowl and start putting the ingredients in a little at a time, not all at once. Alternate with a few spoonfuls of cooled rice. This is to mix all the ingredients more smoothly and evenly.
    Put in the peas and carrots and some of the rice. Then the tomatoes, olives and other ingredients and some more rice. Until you run out of both rice and ingredients.
  5. Mix everything together and finally add another round of oil and more vinegar if to your liking. Add the hard-boiled eggs cut into wedges on top of the salad.
    Italian rice salad is ready! Tasty, fresh and nutritious for your summer lunches!
How to Cook Rice?
However, having the right combination of ingredients and optimal cooking, not letting the rice stick or draining it either too al dente or overcooked, are all challenges that can become difficult even for the most trained cook. So here are some tips and tricks on how to cook rice for Italian rice salad:
The most commonly used rice for rice salads is parboiled rice, also known as rice that doesn’t shake. “Parboiling” is a hydrothermal process that makes rice more resistant to cooking. Parboiled rice is easily recognized by the yellowish color it takes on during parboiling.
We recommend to choose a quality rice with a coarse grain that holds up well to cooking. Carnaroli rice or Arborio rice are perfect for this type of recipe. If you want to prepare a flavorful rice salad with an oriental style, Basmati rice is very good.
For example, you can use Venere black rice or Red rice. Obviously for each type of rice adapt the cooking time, but always al dente mind you!
A correct boiling of rice requires a lot of water. Calculate about 1/2 liter (2 1/2 cups) of water per 100 g (1/2 cup) of rice. For the rice to be al dente, remove the pot from the heat and drain two minutes before the cooking time indicated on the package. In the center, the grain should be a little hard.
After draining the rice when it’s al dente, you should let it cool, but also take care that the grains do not stick together. After draining the rice, put it in a very cold container. Then season it with a little vinegar and a little extra virgin olive oil. The vinegar (apple cider vinegar) helps lower the temperature faster and the oil keeps the grains separate. From time to time, stir and let it cool completely in a cool place while you prepare the other ingredients.
Using apple cider vinegar because it’s very light and does not cover up the other flavors. However, if you like the taste of vinegar, you can also use a stronger vinegar.

We recommend that you choose fresh raw vegetables that give freshness and crispness to the dish. Carrots, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Celery, Peppers are just examples.
Then you can also add to the fresh vegetables some pickled vegetables to give a little more flavor but without overdoing it (e.g. Olives, Capers, Mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes).

As for cheese, we recommend that you use one that is hard and quite tasty. Caciocavallo, Asiago or Fontina cheese will be fine for example. Not recommend the use of Mozzarella as it can release water into the salad .
Diced cooked ham is the most commonly used and best suited for this recipe. You can also use diced chicken breast or turkey breast. Or, if you like fish, you can use shrimp. Tuna in oil is a classic ingredient in rice salad. Of course use it according to your taste.
We recommend not mixing the hard-boiled eggs with the rest of the dressing but lay them on top of the salad in wedges or halves. This is because if someone does not like eggs they can easily avoid them. And also for decorative reasons.

In addition to rice, which is obviously the king of this dish, we have added corn, which gives color and flavor and makes the dish more balanced. You can of course replace it with Quinoa or Spelt or Barley or omit it completely.

Vegan Italian Rice Salad

If you wish to make a rice salad free of animal ingredients, you can add about 300 g (about 10 oz) of other legumes in addition to the peas already present. Such as, for example, chickpeas and cannellini beans.
Legumes, in fact, are rich in protein and are an excellent substitute, nutritionally speaking, for eggs, meat, fish and cheeses.


Pasta fredda in verde con fiori edibili - Pasta salad with edible flowers & herb pesto

Italians call pasta salad either ‘insalata di pasta’ or ‘pasta fredda’, meaning cold pasta.

  • 360 g fusilli pasta (12-13oz) or other short pasta
  • 100 g baby spinach leaves (3.5oz)
  • 2-3 spring onions
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 sprig fresh marjoram
  • 50 g pine nuts (2oz) toasted
  • 50 g Parmigiano cheese flakes (leave out for vegan version. Strict vegetarians should use a vegetarian cheese)
  • extra virgin olive oil as required
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • edible flowers as required
Prepare the pasta and spring onions
  1. Clean the spring onion and remove 2/3 of the green part.
  2. Bring plenty of water to a boil in a pot, add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.
  3. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. 5 minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the spring onion to the pot.
  4. Save a little of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta and spring onion. Cool them under cold running water. Put the pasta into a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well
Make the sauce
  1. While you are waiting for the pasta water to boil and the pasta to cook, wash and dry the parsley, marjoram and mint. Wash and dry the spinach leaves. Toast the pine nuts in a non-stick frying pan, for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Put the herbs and half the spinach leaves into a blender with some olive oil and pulse a few times. Add the blanched spring onion and a little more oil and pulse again. Add half the toasted pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse again. If the sauce seems dry add some more olive oil or a dash of the pasta cooking water.
Make the salad
  1. Add the sauce to the pasta and mix. Add the remaining pine nuts to the pasta with the remaining spinach leaves and the thinly sliced Parmesan cheese flakes.
  2. Mix the cold pasta and sauce with the pine nuts, spinach and cheese and serve decorated with edible flowers if you have them..

Spaghetti freddi con gamberi - Italian Cold Spaghetti Salad with Shrimp

from the Central Italian region of Marche

  • 400 g spaghetti (14oz) I used square cut spaghetti from La Molisana
  • 300 g pre-cooked and peeled shrimps or prawns (10.5 oz) I used tiger prawns called mazzancole in Italian
  • 100 g rocket (arugula) (3.5oz) washed
  • 300 g cherry or datterini tomatoes (10.5oz) washed and cut in halves or quarters
  • extra virgin olive oil. as required
  • 1 tsp vinegar (white wine or apple cider)
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper. to taste
Prepare the ingredients
  1. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half or in quarters. Wash the rocket. Blanch the shrimp or prawns in boiling water and allow to cool. (just a few seconds for shrimp, a minute for prawns).
Cook the pasta
  1. Put a pot of water on to boil for the spaghetti. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again. Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Drain the spaghetti and rinse it with cold water to stop it cooking further and to remove the starch.
Finish and serve your spaghetti salad
  1. Put the tomatoes, prawns, and rocket in a large bowl with some olive oil, a dash of vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooked spaghetti. Mix well. Add more olive oil if necessary and serve immediately. This spaghetti salad is best served at room temperature, not too fridge cold.
This recipe calls for spaghetti, but other pasta types would work too.
This spaghetti salad can be made a little in advance and kept covered with cling film in the fridge until ready to serve. But the rocket (arugula) will start to get soggy quite quickly because of the olive oil and liquid from the tomatoes. If you want to prepare in advance add the rocket when ready to serve.
Ideas for other ingredients: add other veggies such as fresh celery or bell peppers to give it some crunch or perhaps a little garlic or pine nuts.


Crudaiola Barese - Pasta Salad Crudaiola Barese

A Southern Italian summer pasta salad

  • 350 g Sedani rigati or Orecchiette (12oz) I used sedani rigati from Valle del Grano
  • 12-15 cherry tomatoes
  • 6-8 basil leaves
  • 250 g Marzotica ricotta or cacioricotta (9oz) hard ricotta from Southern Italy or ricotta salata
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • extra virgin olive oil as required
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper. to taste
2 hours before cooking
  1. Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them into small pieces.
  2. Peel the clove of garlic and chop it well. (some people omit the garlic and others keep it whole and remove it before serving the pasta)
  3. Put the tomatoes, garlic and some of the basil in a bowl, add a pinch of salt and a good amount of olive oil.
  4. Add a good amount of grated ricotta on top but don’t mix it with the tomatoes.
  5. Seal the bowl with cling film and leave it in the fridge for about 2 hours.
Finish the dish
  1. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again. Cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. Remove the tomato mixture from the fridge and take out the basil leaves which will have become soft and replace them with chopped fresh ones.
  3. Drain the pasta well, let it cool for a minute and add it to the tomato mixture.
  4. Add more grated ricotta, a dash of olive oil, ground pepper if required, mix well and serve.
If you serve this crudaiola barese dish immediately it will be slightly warm. If you prefer it colder put it in the fridge for a while before serving.
You can use other types of short tubular pasta in this recipe, such as penne.


Insalata di finocchi e arance - Fennel and Orange Salad

vegetarian recipe typical of Sicilian cuisine

  • 2 fennels
  • 3 oranges
  • 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fennel or anise seeds
  • 8-10 black olives
  • fine salt and ground black pepper to season

  1. Sicilian orange fennel salad is very simple to prepare. First clean the fennel, removing the stems and the toughest and most stringy outer leaves, then rinse well.
    Dry and slice it thinly. You can use a knife or a mandoline if you want to have very thin slices, depending on your taste. Arrange the fennel slices in a salad bowl or on a plate and set aside.
  2. Now squeeze half an orange and set the juice aside.
    Peel the other two oranges as follows. Using a very sharp knife, remove completely the peel, the bitter white part, the membrane and all the filaments covering the orange. This way of peeling citrus fruits is called “al vivo” (see paragraph below “How to Peel and Cut an Orange “al vivo”).
  3. Then, using a sharp knife, cut the oranges into wedges.
  4. Place the oranges and fennel in a large bowl. Season with salt and ground black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half an orange.
    Add the black olives and season with a little anise or fennel seeds. Mix everything well to blend all the flavors. Italian fennel and orange salad is ready!
How to peel and cut an orange “al vivo”
The expression “al vivo” refers, in the cutting of citrus fruits, to a technique that seeks maximum finesse and elegance in the piece of fruit.
The “supreme” cut consists in removing the segments of the orange completely without skin, white albedo, the thin membrane and filaments that cover the pulp of the orange.

What to serve with fennel orange salad
You can serve this easy Fennel and Orange Salad as a main dish, for a light, vegetarian and healthy meal, or as a side dish, especially if you pair it with fish dishes.
Perfect is, for example, the combination of this dish with our Sarde a Beccafico recipe.

Fennel orange salad with red onion

Often in Sicily they add some very thin slices of Tropea red onion.
To make sure the raw onion is not too indigestible, cut it into slices and let them soak in warm water and a little white vinegar for about 30 minutes.

Fennel orange salad with raisins

Instead of black olives, you can add pine nuts and raisins.

Fennel orange salad with ginger

You can choose to flavor the salad with other spices of your taste. Instead of anise or fennel seeds, you can add grated ginger.

Fennel orange salad with mint

Some mint leaves are also a good alternative, without overdoing it as mint has a rather strong and covering flavor.

Fennel orange salad with sardines

There are also many other variations that make this salad richer and more substantial. These variations turn the salad into a real one-dish meal.
Popular variations involve adding fish to this salad. Very often they add grilled sardines or sardines in oil.


Insalata Di Pasta Caprese - Caprese Pasta Salad

  • 350 g (12,4 oz) of farfalle durum wheat pasta (good also fusilli or penne)
  • about 300 g (10,6 oz) of ripe tomatoes (vine, grape or cherry tomatoes)
  • about 300 g (10,6 oz) of fresh high quality Buffalo Mozzarella or Fior di latte mozzarella
  • 6/8 fresh basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • a little ground black pepper (optional)
  • a few drops of balsamic vinegar (optional)

  1. Preparing the Caprese Pasta Salad is quick and easy. Let’s see. First wash the tomatoes. Cut them and remove the seeds. Then cut the pulp into pieces and collect them in a mesh colander. Salt them a little and let drain their water for about 10 minutes. This step is necessary so that the tomatoes do not release their water while you are seasoning the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the mozzarella into cubes and let lose its watery whey by placing the pieces of mozzarella in a colander for about 10 min.
  3. While you are waiting for those 10 minutes, in a large pot bring abundant salted water to a boil. Remenber you need 1 liter of water with 10 g (1 teaspoon) of coarse salt per 100 g of dry pasta. Pour the pasta and cook following the cooking times described on the package.
  4. Drain when al dente and place the pasta in a large salad bowl. Season first with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, mix well and let it cool. If you are in a hurry and you cannot wait to let it cool or you think it’s not al dente enough, after having drained the pasta, pass it under cold water to stop the cooking. For more information about this trick see the paragraph below “How to Drain and Cool the Pasta”.
  5. Now add the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves coarsely broken with your hands. Season with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and mix. Let it rest in a cool place for about 15 minutes, so that it takes on flavor.
    Complete with freshly ground black pepper and if you like a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Caprese pasta salad is ready! Mix well and serve!


Insalata Di Cavolfiore (Insalata Invernale) - Cauliflower Salad (Italian Winter Salad)

  • 500 g (1,1 lb) of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 1 cup of olives (we use a mix of green and black)
  • 4 or 5 fillets of anchovies in oil
  • 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon of fine salt
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

  1. To prepare the cauliflower salad, start by cleaning the cauliflower. Remove the outer leaves and cut it into florets, not too large. Rinse it well with cold water, then drain.
  2. Steam the cauliflower florets for about 10 minutes or so. Check that they are tender but still crisp.
  3. When cauliflower are ready, transfer them directly to a large bowl and let cool almost completely.
    Now you can move on to dressing yourItalian cauliflower salad. Cut the anchovies into small pieces. Add them to the cauliflower, along with the green and black olives.
  4. Add chopped fresh parsley, a pinch of salt, oil, and vinegar. Mix everything together well.
    Let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving the cauliflower salad.

It’s also a popular custom to add a handful of toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts to cauliflower salad.
If you don’t like fish or prefer to make a completely vegetarian salad, you may not add anchovies. Particularly if you serve cauliflower salad as a side dish to a meat course.

Insalata di Rinforzo

“Insalata di rinforzo” is a traditional Neapolitan dish. They prepare it during the festivities of the Christmas season in order to eat it on Christmas Eve.
The main ingredient is cauliflower to which they add “papaccelle” (a variety of bell pepper ideal for being marinated and preserved in oil), capers, various pickles, anchovies in oil and olives.
The presence of this salad on Neapolitan tables is a must. Almost a sign of devotion to tradition.
The recipe for this Neapolitan specialty originates from the “Christmas caponata,” described by the cook Ippolito Cavalcanti in his 19th-century cookbook, which accompanied the fish-based Christmas Eve dinner.