Easy Italian Rice Salad

This Italian Rice Salad takes a simple summer salad and makes it more robust with the addition of Arborio rice. It’s a great addition to a picnic or al fresco meal and easy to put your own spin on by swapping out types of olives, cheeses, or a different protein. Salads and bowls encourage that sort of experimentation—once you make this once, you’ll have it down.

Italian Rice Salad Recipe

Italian Rice Salad Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn, cut off the cob
  • 3 medium eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup pitted green and black olives
  • 1 cup fontina cheese, diced
  • 1/2 cup ham, diced
  • 4 oz of tuna in oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Rice Salad Preparation Instructions

  1. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Boil the rice according to package instructions.
  2. At about 2 minutes less than the time indicated on the package (usually 14-15 minutes), drain the rice in a colander. The grain inside should still be slightly hard. As soon as it’s drained, put the rice in a bowl and allow it to cool.
  3. In a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of oil. Stir to combine.
  4. Boil the peas gently for 2-3 minutes. Drain into a colander. Run very cold water over them until cool. Set aside to drain.
  5. Cut the corn off the cob and leave it raw.
  6. Boil the eggs for about 10 minutes. Peel them and let them cool.
  7. Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them in halves or quarters, depending on size. Set aside.
  8. Cut the pitted olives into rounds.
  9. Cut the cheese and ham into cubes.
  10. Drain the tuna from the oil.
  11. Add all of the prepared salad ingredients into the bowl of rice and gently toss everything together, making sure to get everything incorporated evenly and breaking up any large clumps of rice.
  12. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Tips for Salad Tossing

Since there are so many types of vegetables in the rice, it’s important to get the proportions right and ace the tossing. Use your hands, not a fork, because it allows air to get into your mix and the ingredients to distribute more evenly. Also, for certain heavier ingredients like peas, add them in first, since they’ll naturally end up near the bottom of the bowl and stick to the rice. Adding them in early and doing a couple rounds of toss makes sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle. It’s easier to get a spoonful that samples everything if you’ve tossed it effectively.

Wrap Up

This is an easy, fast way to feel a little bit of Mediterranean summertime decadence with a balanced, nutritious meal. Another way you could put a variation on it is swapping out the grain for couscous or wild rice, but the Arborio is part of what gives it that Italian character — and you don’t even have to travel to Italy for it.

Recipe by Anna Franklin / Story by Emma Riva / Photography by Dave Bryce

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