Delicious and Versatile Classic Italian Rice Salad Recipe

I love Italian rice saladโ€”it’s such a versatile and delightful dish! Whether you serve it as a starter or a main course, it never fails to impress. Plus, it’s perfect for picnics, when you want a light and tasty snack. The best part? You can get creative and fill it with your favourite ingredients, whether it’s fish, cheese, or a variety of colourful vegetables. The options are endless!




Ready In:


30 min




Good For:


Summer Lunch

About this Recipe

By: Silvana Lanzetta

Let me take you back to a special memory of mineโ€”the first time I experienced the sheer delight of rice salad. It happened at my friend Titti’s 18th birthday party. I was just a 16-year-old, bubbling with excitement as it was my very first 18th birthday bash. We were all having a blast, mingling with our friends, and eagerly looking forward to meeting new faces.

Amidst all the joy and laughter, Titti’s mum, signora Maria, called us together. It was time to gather around the tables for dinner. Alongside the classic delights of pizza fritta and panzarotti, a generous serving of rice salad appeared before me. Curiosity piqued, I took a bite and, oh my, it was love at first taste.

From that moment on, I made it a tradition to request rice salad for every one of my birthdays. It became not just a must-have summer lunch but also my special birthday feast.

To this day, rice salad holds a special place in my heart. It brings back those cherished memories of friendship, celebration, and the joyous moments shared around the table. So, whenever I indulge in a bowl of rice salad, I not only savour its deliciousness but also celebrate the beautiful moments it represents.

italian rice salad in a glass bowl overhead shot
italian banquet

A classic Italian banquet

Trying to trace the origins of rice salad is like embarking on an adventurous quest! It’s a culinary masterpiece that blends influences from ancient Rome, Arabian flavours, and even a dash of Spanish flair. You can’t help but notice its resemblance to the famous Paella, a rice-based delight that became a festive favourite starting from the 1800s.

As the story goes, this grain made its way to Italy from sunny Spain, finding a new home in regions where it could thrive, from the northern lands to the western shores of Sicily. But here’s the fascinating part: the ingredients that make up this dish have a Mediterranean connection, uniting it with the likes of couscous in the Maghreb and tabbouleh in Lebanon.

It’s like a world tour for your taste buds, making rice salad a true international sensation!

oil preserved vegetables in 4 jars
tuna chunks in a small white bowl



Italian Rice Salad is a very delicious summer dish. However, remember that is quite high in fats, especially if you choose to add the mayo. Keep an eye on the sodium levels, as some ingredients might be high in sodium. Feel free to customize the recipe to suit your preferences and dietary needs. And lastly, remember to enjoy this recipe in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet.

  • Proteins 9% 9%
  • Carbs 34% 34%
  • Fats 57% 57%
italian rice salad with tuna, closeup shot

How to make a perfect rice salad


To elevate your rice salad from ordinary to gourmet, it all starts with choosing the right kind of rice. You’ve got options like Ribe, which holds its texture beautifully without getting mushy, or Carnaroli and Arborio rice, known for their hearty and resistant grains. Another great choice is Baldo rice, which is wonderfully firm.

When it comes to quantities, here’s a handy guide: for each person, aim for around 80 to 100 grams of rice. Cook it in generously salted boiling water, using roughly five times the amount of water compared to rice. About 8-10 grams of salt per liter of water should do the trick. Make sure the water is vigorously boiling before adding the rice, and follow the cooking time mentioned on the package, or slightly undercook it for a delicious al dente texture (my favourite way to go). Once cooked, drain the rice and rinse it under running cold water to stop the cooking and cooling it down.

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italian rice salad featured image

Now, let’s get creative with the fillings! Each family has their own special rice salad recipe, but there are some classic ingredients that always work well. These are vegetables, cheese, ham, eggs, and tuna. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can choose from mortadella, cooked ham, or even frankfurters (I like to add frankfurters to my rice salads). And when it comes to cheese, why not go for the mild creaminess of Edam or the bold flavour of Emmental? They both bring something unique to the dish.

Now, here’s where the fun really begins. Don’t forget to add boiled peas or sweetcorn (I personally prefer the latter), pickled gherkins, salad onions, peppers, and raw tomatoes. These vibrant ingredients add a burst of freshness that takes the rice salad to the next level. Make sure to chop everything into bite-sized pieces, toss them into a large bowl, and give it all a good mix.

If you’re a fan of vegetables in oil, or giardiniera, like I am, you can use them to take your rice salad to a whole new level. The oil in which the vegetables are preserved adds a delicious infusion of flavours that enhances the dish’s overall taste. If you decide to use vegetables in oil, you may want to skip adding additional olive oil to avoid overwhelming the flavours.

Now, let’s talk about indulgence. If you’re feeling a bit naughty, why not stir in a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise? It adds a creamy and luxurious touch to the Italian rice salad, making it even more irresistible.

Remember, the beauty of rice salad is that you can customize it to your liking. Feel free to play around with different ingredients, experiment with flavours, and make it your own. So, let your imagination run wild and enjoy the delightful journey of creating your perfect rice salad.

italian cold rice salad recipe

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italian rice salad with sliced boiled eggs, green olives, wurstels, and mixed vegetables

Italian Rice Salad

  • Author: Silvana Lanzetta
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 portions 1x


Units Scale
  • 300 grams of Carnaroli rice
  • 160 grams of canned tuna in oil (2 cans of tuna)
  • 12 piccadilly or cherry tomatoes
  • 300 grams of mixed vegetables in oil (artichokes, sweetcorns, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, small onions) or 1 jar of condiriso
  • 100 grams of pitted green olives, sliced
  • 50 grams of pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 100 grams of diced cooked ham or diced frankfurter (optional)
  • 150 grams of Edam, Mild Cheddar, or Gouda cheese, diced (optional)
  • 3 boiled eggs
  • 34 tablespoons of mayonnaise (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Salt and white pepper to taste


  1. In a large pot, fill water and add coarse sea salt. Bring it to a vigorous boil. Add the rice and cook it until it reaches an al dente texture, perfectly timed according to the instructions on the packaging.
  2. Once the rice is al dente, drain it in a colander. Rinse the rice under cold running water, gently mixing it as you go. Ensure thorough drainage. Transfer the rice to a container and place it in the fridge to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes by cutting them into small pieces. Season them with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Slice the pitted olives or cut them into small pieces, removing the pits. Place the tomatoes and olives in the fridge.
  4. Drain the tuna and add it to the cooled rice, mixing well to combine. Return the rice salad to the fridge.
  5. In a saucepan, place the eggs and cover them with water. Bring it to a boil and cook the eggs for approximately 5 minutes until hard-boiled. Drain the eggs and cool them under cold running water. Remove the shells and let the eggs cool further before slicing them into either slices or wedges. Keep the eggs in the fridge for at least 10-15 minutes.
  6. Once the eggs are well chilled and the rice has absorbed the flavours, add the mixed vegetables in oil to the rice salad. Mix well. Add the diced black olives and finally incorporate the seasoned tomatoes. Give it a thorough mix.
  7. If desired, now is the time to add the diced cooked ham (or frankfurters) and cheese to the salad. Mix it all together.
  8. For a richer salad, you can also stir in a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise if desired.
  9. Transfer the rice salad to a serving dish, arranging it neatly. Place the sliced or wedged eggs on the surface and around the edge. Garnish the dish with black and green olives.
  10. Now, your delicious rice salad is ready to be enjoyed!
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Refrigeration Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Salads
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: summer food, easy recipe, summer recipe, salad, vegetables, tuna, cheese,

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Can I make rice salad in advance?

Absolutely! Rice Salad tastes even better when prepared in advance as it allows the flavours to meld together. Just make sure to refrigerate it before serving.

Can I use other types of rice for this salad?

While Carnaroli rice and Ribe rice are the traditional choice for rice salad, you can experiment with other short-grain rice varieties like Arborio rice or Vialone Nano rice.

Is rice salad gluten-free?

Yes, rice salad is gluten-free as long as you use gluten-free ingredients and check for any hidden sources of gluten in processed foods.

Can I substitute the dressing with a different sauce?

Certainly! If you prefer a different dressing, feel free to experiment with options like balsamic vinaigrette, Italian dressing, or a citrus-based sauce.

How long does rice salad last in the refrigerator?

When stored in an airtight container, this salad can be refrigerated for up to three days. Just give it a quick toss before serving.

Can I serve Italian rice salad warm?

While the traditional method is to serve it chilled, there’s no harm in enjoying it at room temperature or slightly warmed if you prefer.

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

โ€œCiao, Iโ€™m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, Iโ€™ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. Iโ€™ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and letโ€™s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!โ€


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