In Britain and America, a salad can be any combination of ingredients. Sometimes the sheer variety can be overwhelming. An Italian salad is different. It aims for simplicity. Whilst it may only use a few ingredients, they will be as fresh and high-quality as possible. This makes them a refreshing side to a heavier main course.
The most common ingredient in an Italian salad is extra virgin olive oil. Vinegar is also important, whether red, white or balsamic. Other ingredients depend on the season and what they are designed to accompany. Tomatoes, olives, various types of cheese and different types of salad leaves (such as radicchio) are just some possible additions. One good combination of ingredients is gorgonzola and walnuts. Tomato and basil also go well together. Different salads suit pasta, meat or fish. However, almost anything can be included in an Italian salad with a little creativity.
Gino D’Acampo is an advocate for Italian cooking. He offers advice on how to make Italian salads both authentic and healthy. His recipes include smoked mackerel, orange and fennel salad (insalata di sgombro affumicato con arance e finocchi). Orange and fennel are both popular ingredients on the isle of Sicily. Sardinia is famous for its beef, so that is a common ingredient in Sardinian salads. A Sardinian pasta called fregola, made with semolina, is a good accompaniment to fish or shellfish. D’Acampo mixes it with olives, orange zest and herbs (insalata di fregola con olive, scorza d’arancia ed erbette). Another regional specialty comes from the town of Trapani in Sicily. This town is famous for its couscous, so D’Acampo’s Trapani style salad includes couscous, fish, tomatoes and almonds (couscous alla trapanese con pesce, pomodori e mandorle).
The principles of freshness and high-quality ingredients can be seen in many Italian restaurants, such as a Restaurant Dublin like http://www.toscanarestaurant.ie/. In hot weather, salads become a popular alternative to heavier cooked meals. They’re also a good way to use up ingredients from the fridge or store cupboard. Combinations of bread, tomatoes, olive oil and basil (most commonly known as bruschetta) can be found in almost every region of Italy.
Italian salads can provide a healthy, colourful, refreshing side or main course. With the choice of a wide range of ingredients, there is a salad to suit every occasion.