Italian Rice Salad, a Great Summer Meal

italian rice salad

Does the perfect rice salad recipe exist? I don’t think so because everyone has their own favorite. It is all a matter of food habits and what you have in your fridge!

You can even close your eyes and make it with a combination of your favorite ingredients. I have my own recipe, so keep on reading to discover all of my culinary secrets. 

This typical spring or summer dish makes a perfect light picnic lunch to share with your family and friends. What do you need? A little rice, plenty of imagination, plus a bit of this and a bit of that. It is always different depending on what you put into it. You can choose among a wide range of possibilities; use just a few ingredients or a lot. It’s up to you. 

It is a nice easy dish because you can make a delicious rice salad and then swap your version with your friends. Anyway, I am sure you will never make a rice salad which is the same as the previous one. 

Italian rice salad

What is a rice salad like?

It is easy, fast, and comforting. Traditional rice salad is the summer dish par excellence: fresh, light, and dressed according to your taste. There’s only one rule: choose colorful, seasonal ingredients. Cut all the ingredients you like into tiny pieces; the tinier they are, the more flavorful your rice salad will be. The rice and the dressing will get mixed up in an even blend of tastes. It will be even more delicious if you prepare it the day before and keep it in the fridge overnight.

There are no rules

There are no rules in making a rice salad. Use the ingredients and quantities that you want. You will never get bored with it as the flavors will be different each time. 

How can you season rice salad?

Rice salad always turns out well as long as you use top-quality ingredients. The taste may vary according to the dressing you choose. I generally opt for extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few drops of lemon juice. You can also use real mayonnaise or a vinaigrette made of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and mustard. 

italian rice salad

The main ingredient is the rice

You may choose several types of rice, but I highly suggest using Carnaroli or Arborio because its grains are big and robust and hold up well in this salad. Basmati rice is also very aromatic and resistant to mushiness. If you don’t like rice, replace it with quinoa, couscous, or other grains.  

italian rice salad

Carefully choose high-quality ingredients

First of all, choose your favorite veggies, but make sure they are fresh and crisp. In Italy, we usually combine tomatoes, carrots, celery, and bell peppers together. Green peas play an important part along with sweet corn, as they make the salad more colorful. Do you like olives? If so, choose pitted olives so that you don’t have to eat around the pits. What about some pickled cucumbers, mushrooms, or pearl onions? Tuna and eggs are an integral part of the salad along with pieces of ham and cheese. But don’t forget some capers (the best ones are in salt). Finally, go the extra mile and sprinkle it with finely chopped fresh parsley or chives.

italian rice salad

Italian Rice Salad: easy recipe. The best dish for a summer meal

It is springtime here in Italy. Let’s spend some time outdoors and have a picnic. What about a relaxing day trip with family and friends? What food should we put into our picnic basket? Why not some delicious rice salad instead of the same ordinary sandwiches? Fresh and easy to prepare, you can bring this salad anywhere. Just throw it in the cooler and off you go.
Even if you are not taking a day trip, rice salad is a healthy main course for lunch at work or for when you don't have much time to cook. It will easily last a few days in the fridge. 
Rice salad is made mainly of rice, but I sometimes replace it with barley, quinoa, or a combination of grains, and then I add a few ingredients that I have in the fridge. It is easy to prepare because almost any leftovers can be turned into this tasty dish. 
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword insalata di riso, rice salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 2 cups of arborio rice (360g)
  • ¾ cup of frozen peas (the smaller ones are better) or ¾ cup (100g) of sweet corn  (100g)
  • cup of pickled pearl onions (80g)
  • cup  of pickled cucumbers (50g)
  • cup  of marinated mushrooms (50g)
  • 2 small carrots diced
  • 1 stalk of celery diced
  • 2 eggs
  • cup of pitted green or black olives
  • 2 medium tomatoes 
  • 1 yellow bell pepper 
  • 1 thin slice of ham chopped
  • cup of oil packed tuna
  • ¾ cup of swiss cheese diced
  • 1 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley
  • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil 
  • Juice from half a lemon 
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook the rice in plenty of salted boiling water according to the package instructions (about 12-15 minutes); 
  • Stir the rice once after pouring it into the water, but don’t touch it again; 
  • Taste it for doneness; It should be “al dente.” Don’t overcook it;
  • Rinse it in cold water , which helps keep the rice firm so the grains don’t stick together; 
  • Boil the frozen peas for about 6 minutes and let them cool down completely; 
  • Rinse the pickled cucumbers and mushrooms in a strainer under cold water; dice and put them, into a big salad bowl; 
  • Peel the carrots with a peeler and cut them into small pieces; add to the bowl; 
  • Wash and finely dice the celery and add to the bowl; 
  • Dice the ham, cheese, and tuna and add to the bowl; 
  • Add the rice and two tablespoons of oil; toss until well combined;
  • Season with salt, lemon and sprinkle with finely chopped parsley; 
  • Prepare the hard-boiled eggs; when cool, peel and cut them into 4 wedges; garnish the salad with them;
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight; 
  • Serve it the following day; make sure to toss it well before serving.
italian rice salad

Insalata di riso- Italian Rice Salad: easy recipe

This is my own variation- it is more rustic as it follows more typical northern Italian flavors.  Try my rice salad and tell me if you like it.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword italian rice salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 1 cup of Arborio rice (360g)
  • ¾ cup of diced ham  (100g)
  • ¾ cup of diced semi-hard cheese like swiss or cheddar  (100g)
  • cup of pickled pearl onions (50-80g)
  • cup of pickled gherkins (50-80g)
  • ¼ cup of salted capers
  • ¼ cup of pitted olives
  • 2 cups of marinated mushrooms (150g)
  • 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Bring the water to a rolling boil, add a handful of coarse salt, and then the rice; cook the rice according to the package instructions;
  • Once cooked, rinse the rice under cold water to prevent over-cooking;
  • In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, drain the mushrooms well, and wash the salt off the capers;
  • Season with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

How long does the rice salad last?

The rice salad keeps fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 or 3 days. You may freeze it but only if you use fresh ingredients. 

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4 thoughts on “Italian Rice Salad, a Great Summer Meal

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