A Guide to Classic Italian Salads

A Guide to Classic Italian Salads

While most people think of Italian cuisine as pasta, lasagna and cannolis, salads also have a big place in traditional Italian fare. Nothing pairs with hearty Italian pastas quite like a crisp, fresh Italian salad. The Italians have been perfecting the art of creating delicious, healthy insalata, or salad, for hundreds of years and are now a staple in any Italian meal.

Whether you want something sweet, fresh, hearty or savory, there are Italian salads to satisfy any taste or preference. We have even detailed some of the most popular classic Italian salads that you can not only find in the heart of Italy but in modern American cuisine as well.


Perhaps the most famous Italian salad of them all, caprese salads are wonderfully simple and a classic side dish or the perfect lunchtime salad. This salad is made with large slices of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil and is typically drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Caprese Salad

Insalata Rustica

If you are a fan of traditional, chopped salads, then Insalata Rustica is the Italian dish for you. This type of salad can vary from chef to chef and contains a number of different ingredients, including mixed greens such as arugla. Other typically ingredients include Romano cheese, prosciutto and pine nuts and is often tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. This salad can be made with virtually any chopped vegetable and is often referred to as “leftover” salad, because home cooks would chop and serve all of their leftover raw vegetables in a single bowl.

Antipasto Salad

In traditional Italian meals, the salad will come after the main course, and one of the most popular after dinner salads is known as an antipasto salad. This salad includes chunks of meat like salume or sausage, hard cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, artichoke hearts and a light vinaigrette salad. This is a hearty salad that can come in a variety of forms, made with everything from spicy Italian sausage to pepperoni and any meat in between to create a completely different flavor.


A slightly more hearty and filling Italian salad, Panzanella is a salad made with leftover bread to create a more filling salad that is typically eaten as an entire meal. Slightly stale, or crusty bread is paired with two parts lettuce, tomatoes, juices, basil, red onions, shallots and salty ricotta cheese. This popular salad is also sometimes called “bread salad.”


Caponata is a warm Italian salad made primarily with eggplant, but also includes a number of other vegetables such as celery, carrots, capers, tomatoes, olives, capers and squash among others. As with other types of Italian salads, caponata is covered with an assortment of cheeses. It is a hearty salad often eaten on its own as a meal, or it can be served in small portions after the main course.

Cappon Magro

This classic Italian seafood salad is made with seafood and vegetables that is served in a rich dressing. Typically, this salad will includes cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, eggs and lettuce. You may also find this salad served with a light or citrus dressing. This is a popular lunchtime salad and is also popular in the warmer summer months.

Italian Tossed Salad

This is one recipe that you will find in more American establishments rather than Italian restaurants in today’s culinary market. However, it still does have deep Italian roots. Typically, these salads include romaine, red onions, artichokes, vegetables and a light vinaigrette, often topped with parmesan cheese. Enjoy this salad as a light meal after a hearty Italian main dish or served with grilled chicken, eggplant or fish as a lunchtime treat.

Italians have spent decades perfecting the art of the salad. Whether you enjoy them America-style before your meal, as a side dish, as a main course for your lunch, or Italian-style after your entre, these are some of the most popular salads in all of Italian culture, and some of the most delectable ways to enjoy vegetables Italian-style.