Some parts of the Bel Paese like rice as much as, if not more than, pasta, the signature dish of Italy, in all its variations, that the rest of the world has come to know, love and enjoy.
In the part of Italy where I hang my hat, the Veneto region of the northeast, rice rules. It’s been that way since the tiny grain was first offloaded in the middle of the 15th century by inbound Venetian merchant ships that traded with the east.
Grain imports aside, rice works its magic across all seasons, but clocks a lot of overtime during summertime as just about everybody around La Penisula loves and devours the incomparable, but simple, l‘insalata di riso (rice salad).
Like politics and religion, anyone who wields a wooden spoon has his/her own opinion on the proper ingredients that should go into a fork-worthy rice salad. Truth be told, there is no definitive version of the dish; l‘insalata di riso varies from town-to-town, city-to-city and region-to-region. It seems the only ingredient that all parties can agree on is that there is RICE in a rice salad.
For me, I prefer mine with fish — small sautéed shrimp and yellowfin tuna — along with crunchy red and yellow bell peppers, juicy cherry tomatoes, toasted black olives and a drizzle of vinaigrette on top. When mixed all together, summertime never tasted so good.
Now, if you’ll grab that bag of rice we can head into la cucina and I’ll demonstrate my take on this classic dish. Andiamo!
Step-1: Add the rice to a pot of salted boiling water. Let it cook, uncovered, for 10-min.
Step-2: When the rice is al dente, turn off the heat, drain and place in a large salad bowl.
Step-3: Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice to the rice, stir, cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for 30-min.
Step-4: In a skillet, sauté the shrimp in olive oil, crushed garlic and red pepper for 5 min. Remove from heat and let it relax.
Step-5: Open the can of tuna and use the lid to drain out the packing oil a/o spring water. Separate the tuna into small pieces.
Step-6: Cut into bite-size pieces the tomatoes, bell peppers and black olives.
Step-7: Finely chop the parsley.
Step-8: Remove the bowl of rice from the fridge. Combine the sautéed shrimp, with skillet drippings, tuna, peppers, tomatoes and black olives. Mix thoroughly and top with chopped parsley. Re-cover and return the bowl to the fridge for an additional 30-min.
Step-9: In a small jar, prepare a vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and spicy red pepper. Cover, shake, then set aside.
Step-10: Remove the bowl from the fridge, plate, drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad, add the remaining parsley, top with standing grissini sticks, and serve.
Recommended Wine Pairing: 2011 Trissino Chardonnay DOC – Tenuta Dalle Ore – Trissino (VI), Italy
A deep golden-yellow, this robust Chardonnay, 14% by volume, is harvested on terraced hills in the Valle dell’Agno around Trissino in the province of Vicenza.
The bouquet is complex with hints of yellow flowers, orange blossoms, citrus fruits, figs, walnuts, chestnuts and minerals. The taste is dry, full-bodied and persistent with strong mineral elements combined with pleasant hints of citrus.
The 2011 Trissino Chardonnay DOC pairs well with oily fish like salmon, tuna and swordfish, along with a variety of antipasti, first-course pasta and rice dishes, white meat-based second courses, and a variety of cheeses.
Best served chilled at 12°C.
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