The perfect hot weather lunch or dinner requiring very little preparation, Italian Rice Salad is light, refreshing and satisfying!
Without a doubt I enjoyed lots of amazing pasta dishes while I vacationed in Italy. However Italy can be stifling hot during the summer months and I welcomed lighter, refreshing meals such as this Italian Rice Salad.
This is one of the dishes Italians make when it’s simply too hot to do any major cooking or when they need to put a meal together in little time. It requires very little preparation and is often made with ingredients that are available in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer.
The only cooking you’ll have to do is prepare your rice ahead of time so it has time to cool before you add the remaining ingredients. That is unless you have leftover rice in your refrigerator right now, in which case you’ll have lunch ready in ten minutes!
How to make Italian Rice Salad:
Cook the rice (I used long grain white rice), place in a bowl and once it has cooled slightly, place it in the refrigerator to cool completely.
Here are the ingredients I added to my rice salad.
And here’s how I prepared each ingredient:
- If using hard boiled eggs to garnish, boil an egg (or more) for ten minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Blanche peas in boiling water for one minute, then plunge in an ice bath to cool down immediately. Do the same with the corn, unless you’re using canned corn. In that case, simply drain and rinse under cold water.
- One of the key ingredients in this salad, which gives it a tangy flavor, is the mixed vegetable giardiniera (shown below). This is an Italian mixture of pickled vegetables which typically includes cauliflower, peppers, carrots, celery and onions and is often served as antipasto. It is sold in jars on the same shelves as cucumber pickles in your grocery store. It is also available in a mild or spicy version. Roughly chop half a cup of these vegetables.
- Slice two or three slices of prosciutto cotto or cooked ham in ribbons, as shown above.
- Thinly slice pitted green olives (or olives of your choice) into rounds.
When the rice is completely cooled add all ingredients and toss with olive oil; a little of the oil from the pickled vegetables; apple cider vinegar; oregano; salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh chopped herbs such as parsley and chives for color and freshness. Top with halved hard boiled eggs and lunch is served!
So many possible variations!
This is my interpretation of the rice salad I enjoyed in Italy, however this recipe can be endlessly varied to suit your taste or whatever you have on hand. Here are a few suggestions:
Protein: cubed ham; chopped salami (or any other cured meats); leftover chicken; canned tuna; shrimp; cubed or crumbled cheese; hard boiled eggs.
Vegetables: pickled vegetables (giardiniera); sliced black or green olives; corn; peas; sun-dried tomatoes; artichoke hearts; or any other leftover vegetables lurking in your fridge!
Fresh herbs: fresh herbs give this salad a fresh bright flavor. I used parsley and chives, which are available in my garden. You can add whichever fresh herbs you have available.
On a hot summer day this salad makes a satisfying meal. It can also be a side dish at your next barbecue or part of a buffet table at any gathering. You can easily multiply the ingredients to feed a crowd. If you’re looking for other salad suggestions for your gatherings, this kale salad is also popular with my guests!
Hope you enjoy your Italian Rice Salad as much as I do. If you do, please tag me with your rice salad creations with #mangiabedda or @mangiabedda on Facebook or Instagram. Keep cool and buon appetito!
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 1/2 cup frozen or canned corn
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 cup cooked ham (prosciutto cotto) cut into ribbons
- 1/2 cup Italian giardiniera (pickled vegetables) cut into bite sized pieces
- 1/4 cup pitted green olives thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tbsp reserved oil from the pickled vegetables
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 hard boiled egg
Cook the rice:
- Prepare your rice several hours before assembling the rice salad. In a medium sized sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add salt and the rice and lower to a simmer. Cook with the lid on for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit with the lid on for about 5 more minutes, until the rice is cooked. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl or spread on a cookie sheet to cool. Place in refrigerator and cool completely.
- If using frozen peas and corn, blanch the vegetables (separately) in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and plunge in an ice bath to cool completely.
- Add all ingredients to the rice and toss well to combine.
- Cut hard boiled egg in half or quarters and place on the salad before serving.