Easy Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)

Jump to RecipeLeave a Comment

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Easy Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- is a refreshing and colorful dish made with tender short-grain rice mixed with various fresh vegetables, herbs, a light dressing, and optional meat or meat seafood. It’s delightful!

This simple make-ahead rice dish is ideal for picnics or lunch at the beach. A similar recipe is this Tuna Salad.

Want to save this recipe?
Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus you’ll get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Easy Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)

Growing up, my nonna made this simple insalata di riso on hot summer days. She would make it in the morning and set it in the fridge until lunchtime. It was perfect after a long morning at the beach. This simple recipe is inspired by my nonna’s. I took the liberty to make it a little less traditional than the Italian version.

It is a perfect make-ahead lunch or dinner to take to the beach, potluck, or picnic. Insalata di riso makes a great alternative to pasta salad and it is naturally gluten-free.

Rice salad is a dish of a thousand variations and is easy to customize based on preference. Serve it as a first or a single main course. It’s prepared in advance and can be kept for up to two or three days!

You will also love 35 BEST Italian Summer Recipes!

Simple Ingredients

This cold Italian rice salad is a traditional summer staple in Italy. It’s easy to make and requires very little preparation since the recipe relies on ingredients found in the pantry or refrigerator.

ingredient shot

Dressing

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh lemon juice (or white wine or red wine vinegar)
  • Lemon zest 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Clove garlic

Rice

  • Arborio rice (or long-grain white rice)
  • Water 
  • Pinch of salt

Italian Rice Salad Add-Ins

  • Red bell pepper 
  • Cucumber
  • Red onion
  • Cherry or plum tomatoes
  • Frozen corn thawed and cooked according to package instructions (or canned, drained corn)-OR- Frozen peas thawed and cooked according to package instructions (or canned drained peas)-OR- use 1/2 of each
  • Green, pimento-stuffed green olives, or black olives (or a combination)
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Hardboiled eggs cooked to your doneness preference

Optional Protein Extras

  • 1 cup cubed diced ham, prosciutto, or prosciutto cotto 
  • 1 can Italian-style tuna packed in oil, excess oil removed
  • 1 cup mozzarella balls 

See the recipe card for quantities. Also, see variations near the bottom of the post.

 Easy Italian rice salad (insalata di riso) in a large platter with the hard boiled eggs sliced on top. Serving spoon in the platter ready to serve.

What is Italian Rice Salad?

Insalata di riso, or Italian rice salad, is a refreshing and colorful dish perfect for warm weather. It typically consists of short-grain rice cooked until tender and mixed with various fresh vegetables, herbs, a homemade dressing, and sometimes meat or seafood. It makes a delicious meal and a healthy salad.

The flavors of the salad can vary depending on the ingredients used. Still, it often features tangy and slightly sweet notes from vinegar and olive oil dressing, salty and savory notes from cured meats or cheese, and fresh and crisp notes from vegetables.

Other options: basmati rice, brown rice, quinoa, farro, or cauliflower rice.

If you are looking for pasta salads, try these:  Easy Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe , Pasta Salad with ArugulaAntipasto Pasta Salad Recipe, and Greek Style Pasta Salad.

Easy Italian rice salad (insalata di riso) in a large platter with the hard boiled eggs sliced on top.

Best Rice for Italian Rice Salad Recipe

The best rice for Italian rice salad is a short-grain variety, such as Arborio or Carnaroli rice. These types of rice are high in starch and have a creamy texture when cooked, which helps to bind the ingredients together and create a cohesive salad.

Short-grain rice also absorbs flavors well, so it can easily take on the flavors of the other ingredients in the rice salad.

Overall, using the right type of rice is essential for making a delicious and authentic Italian rice salad. Short-grain rice varieties like Arborio or Carnaroli are readily available in most grocery stores and are a great choice for this dish.

How to Cook the Rice for Insalata di Riso

The rice should be cooked until tender but still slightly firm to retain its shape and texture. It is important to rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking to remove excess starch, which can make the salad sticky.

Once cooked, the rice is cooled and mixed with the other ingredients and a simple dressing.

How to Make Easy Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso) Step-by-Step Photos

Rice salad is easy to make and uses fresh ingredients to create a delicious all-in-one meal!

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- rinsing the rice before cooking.

Rice

Rinse rice under running water until the water comes out clear. Rinsing the rice for rice salad removes some of the starches, so the rice isn’t gluey or overly sticky.

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- cooking the rice in water.

Cook rice according to package directions until slightly al dente (about 15 minutes)- no mushy rice! For the rice to be al dente, remove the pot from the heat and drain it two minutes before the cooking time indicated on the package. The rice won’t absorb all the water like a normal pot of rice. In the center, the grain should be a little hard.

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- letting the rice cool on a baking sheet.

Once cooked, drain in a colander and lay flat on a baking sheet to cool while preparing the other salad ingredients. 

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- making the dressing. Adding ingredients to a small jar.

Dressing 

Place all dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake until combined.

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- dressing emulsified after shaking.

Alternatively, add them to a small bowl and whisk them together. Set aside. Take out the garlic clove, and shake again before adding it to the rice salad. 

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- adding the rice and al the fresh salad ingredients to a large bowl.

Assembly 

Make hard-boiled eggs cooked to your doneness preference- I like them cooked for 6-7 minutes in boiling water. Run under cold water, peel, and cut them in quarters. Set aside. 

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- adding the rice and al the fresh salad ingredients to a large bowl.

Place cooked rice in a large mixing bowl and add the Italian salad vegetable ingredients (except hard-boiled eggs).

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- tossing the rice and all the salad ingredients in the bowl.

Gently toss the ingredients together to combine.

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- adding the dressing to the bowl with the rice salad.

Pour the dressing over and gently toss with salad tongs until all the ingredients are together.

How to Make- Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- all the ingredients mixed in the bowl and salad ready to serve.

Transfer to a large serving platter or bowl and garnish with fresh parsley, basil, and hard-boiled eggs. Buon Appitito. 

Easy Italian rice salad (insalata di riso) in a large platter with the hard boiled eggs sliced on top.

Substitutions and Variations

This delicious light summer meal has various options based on seasonal ingredients and taste preferences.

Italian rice salad is a versatile dish that can be customized to suit your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand. This rice salad recipe’s beauty is that you can make it your own. Here are some ideas for variations and combinations of ingredients:

  1. Classic Italian rice salad: rice, good quality canned Italian tuna, green olives, cherry tomatoes, red onion, celery, hard-boiled eggs, and parsley with a simple vinaigrette.
  2. Caprese rice salad: rice, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette.
  3. Mediterranean rice salad: rice, pine nuts, chickpeas, red peppers, feta cheese, olives, fresh parsley, and lemon dressing.
  4. Roasted vegetable rice salad: rice, roasted vegetables (such as eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and onion), toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
  5. Summer rice salad: rice, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, and lime dressing.
  6. Greek-style rice salad: rice, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and a lemon-oregano vinaigrette.
  7. Antipasto rice salad: rice, salami, provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and a red wine vinaigrette.
  8. Asian-inspired rice salad: rice, edamame, shredded carrots, red cabbage, cilantro, and a soy-ginger dressing.

These are just a few ideas to get you started but feel free to experiment with different ingredients and flavor combinations to create your unique version of rice salad.

close up of Easy Italian rice salad (insalata di riso) on a spoon showing the ingredients.

How to Store Italian Rice Salad

Italian rice salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Here are some tips for storing Italian rice salad:

  1. Chill before storing: Let the rice salad cool to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator. This will prevent condensation from forming inside the container, which can make the salad watery.
  2. Use an airtight container: Store the rice salad in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out or absorbing other flavors from the fridge.
  3. Eat within 2-3 days: Italian rice salad can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. After that, the vegetables may wilt, and the flavors may not be as fresh.
  4. Mix before serving: Give the rice salad a good stir to redistribute the dressing and ensure that all the ingredients are evenly coated.
  5. Don’t freeze: Italian rice salad does not freeze well, as the texture of the rice and vegetables will become mushy when thawed.

Following these storage tips, you can enjoy leftover Italian rice salad for a few days and keep it fresh and flavorful until it’s time to serve again.

Italian rice salad on a plate with a platter of the rice salad in the background.

Top tips

  1. The proper rice: Use short-grain rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli rice to absorb the dressing and hold its shape well.
  2. Rinse the rice: Rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking to remove excess starch, which can make the rice sticky.
  3. Cook the rice properly: Cook the rice until it is tender but still slightly firm so that it retains its shape and texture.
  4. Cool the rice: Once the rice is cooked, spread it out on a baking sheet and let it cool to room temperature before mixing it with the other ingredients. This will prevent the vegetables from wilting and the dressing from being absorbed too quickly.
  5. Use fresh, seasonal ingredients: Use the freshest and most flavorful ingredients. Seasonal vegetables are best and add brightness and texture to the salad.
  6. Cut the ingredients evenly: Cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and try to keep them all about the same size to mix evenly with the rice.
  7. Don’t overdo the dressing: Start with a little dressing and add more as needed. You want the dressing to coat the ingredients but not overwhelm them.
  8. Chill before serving: Refrigerate the salad for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld together.

Following these tips, you can make a delicious and authentic Italian rice salad that will be a hit at any gathering or as a refreshing summer meal.

Italian rice salad on a plate with a platter of the rice salad in the background.

FAQs

How do I prevent the rice from sticking together?

Make sure to rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking to remove excess starch, and avoid overcooking the rice so it doesn’t become mushy. Also, make sure to let the rice cool to room temperature before mixing it with the other ingredients.

Can I use leftover rice for an Italian rice salad?

Yes, you can use leftover rice for Italian rice salad. Just make sure to cool it to room temperature before mixing it with the other ingredients. If it has been sitting in the fridge, make sure to fluff it well with a fork to break it up before mixing in the vegetables. You will need 3 cups of cooked rice.

Can I add protein to Italian rice salad?

Yes, you can add protein to Italian rice salad, such as tuna, chicken, shrimp, or hard-boiled eggs.

What to Serve with Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)

Delicious dishes to serve with Italian Insalata di Riso:

💙 MADE THIS RECIPE AND LOVED IT? 💙 Please leave a ⭐️STAR rating and COMMENT below- I love connecting with you! Tag me with your creations on Instagram and find me on Pinterest.

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
cover photo.

Easy Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 2 reviews

Easy Italian Rice Salad Recipe (Insalata Di Riso)- is a refreshing and colorful dish made with tender short-grain rice mixed with various fresh vegetables, herbs, a light dressing, and optional meat or meat seafood. It’s delightful!

  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 68 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

Dressing

  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or white wine or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and left whole

Rice

  • 1 cup arborio rice (or short-grain white rice)
  • 4 cups water
  • Pinch of salt

Italian Rice Salad Add-Ins

  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 3/4 cups cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup frozen corn thawed and cooked according to package instructions (or canned drained corn)-OR- 1 cup frozen peas thawed and cooked according to package instructions (or canned drained peas)-OR- use 1/2 cup of each
  • 1/2 cup green, pimento-stuffed green olives, or black olives (or combination), sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 hardboiled eggs cooked to your doneness preference, peeled and quartered

Optional Protein Extras

  • 1 cup cubed diced ham, prosciutto, or prosciutto cotto
  • 1 can Italian-style tuna packed in oil, excess oil removed
  • 1 cup mozzarella balls
  • 1 16oz. jar of giardiniera salad, drained, chopped into smaller pieces

Instructions

Dressing 

  1. Place all dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake until combined. Alternatively, add them to a small bowl and whisk them together. Set aside. Take out the garlic clove, and shake again before adding it to the rice salad. 

Rice

  1. Rinse rice under running water until the water comes out clear. Rinsing the rice for rice salad removes some of the starches, so the rice isn’t gluey or overly sticky.
  2. Cook rice according to package directions until slightly al dente (about 15 minutes)- no mushy rice! For the rice to be al dente, remove the pot from the heat and drain it two minutes before the cooking time indicated on the package. The rice won’t absorb all the water like a normal pot of rice. In the center, the grain should be a little hard.
  3. Once cooked, drain in a colander and lay flat on a baking sheet to cool while preparing the other salad ingredients. 

Assembly 

  1. Make hard-boiled eggs cooked to your doneness preference- I like them cooked for 6-7 minutes in boiling water. Run under cold water, peel, and cut them in quarters. Set aside. 
  2. Place cooked rice in a large mixing bowl and add the Italian salad vegetable ingredients (except hard-boiled eggs). Pour the dressing over and gently toss with salad tongs until all the ingredients are together. Transfer to a large serving platter or bowl and garnish with fresh parsley, basil, and hard-boiled eggs. Buon Appitito. 

Notes

Top tips

    • The right rice: Use short-grain rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli rice to absorb the dressing and hold its shape well.

    • Rinse the rice: Rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking to remove excess starch, which can make the rice sticky.

    • Cook the rice properly: Cook the rice until it is tender but still slightly firm, so that it retains its shape and texture.

    • Cool the rice: Once the rice is cooked, spread it out on a baking sheet and let it cool to room temperature before mixing it with the other ingredients. This will prevent the vegetables from wilting and the dressing from being absorbed too quickly.

    • Use fresh, seasonal ingredients: Use the freshest and most flavorful ingredients. Seasonal vegetables are best and add brightness and texture to the salad.

    • Cut the ingredients evenly: Cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and try to keep them all about the same size to mix evenly with the rice.

    • Don’t overdo the dressing: Start with a little dressing and add more as needed. You want the dressing to coat the ingredients but not overwhelm them.

    • Chill before serving: Refrigerate the salad for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld together.

 

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

You May Also Like

About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

3 Comments