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Lemony Rice Salad

It seems Summer in Italy is still going to stay with us at least for now. Since these days temperatures in Rome are in the 90’s (about 32°C), Romans are still going away for the weekend for their last beach getaways.This past weekend we were off to Umbria’s countryside, where my parent’s in law have a lovely country home.

My mother in law – Layla – has a beautiful vegetable garden where she grows zucchini and cherry tomatoes. Since I wanted to help her out preparing one of the meals while I was there, I decided to profit from the produce already available.

During summertime, Italians prepare mostly room temperature dishes that need no heat. This is the case of the ubiquitous “insalata di riso ” or “rice salad”.

This classic summer salad is usually made with thinly diced ingredients such as green peas, Gruyère cheese, pickles, olives, hot dogs (or frankfurters),  tomatoes, red peppers and canned tuna packed in oil.

Due to the lack of some of the above mentioned ingredients, I decided to make my own “insalata di riso”. 

This recipe is meatless and has one main ingredient – lemon.

While lemon juice is used for marinating zucchini, lemon zest is employed to add fragrance to olive oil. As a result, this rice salad has a lemony taste – a touch of freshness and tanginess that I love in salads.

Lemony Rice Salad


  • 500 grams long grain rice parboiled (you can use whole grain instead)
  • 1 cup of diced carrots
  • 1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut into 4 pieces.
  • 1 cup of diced celery
  • 1 1/4 cups of kernel corn
  • 4 medium zucchini cut into round slices
  • 15 diced pitted green olives
  • 3/4 cup of crushed white almonds
  • 1/2 cup diced chives
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 basil sprig
  • juice of 2 large lemons
  • lemon zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


A day before, add the zest of 1 lemon to 3/4 cups of olive oil. Let it stand for about 24 hours to let the olive oil absorb the citrus flavor of lemon zest.

In a bowl combine sliced zucchini with the juice of 1 lemon, sliced garlic cloves, basil, and salt. Let it marinate for about 2 hours. Discard garlic.

Cook rice under package instructions. Let it cool.

Combine all ingredients together. Add olive oil (you can discard lemon zest if you want).  Add lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: This salad is best if consumed the next day, when all the flavors are well amalgamated.

Serves 8 – 10.

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh honey, that is just so gorgeous, and I adore rice salad, this is something I will make, and such a good idea to leave for a day so the flavours can exchange.. c

    September 13, 2011
    • Thank you. I think rice salad is a clever idea for summer meals. The advantage is that you can prepare it the day before!!

      September 14, 2011
  2. I took a tour of the Umbria’s countryside (clicked) what fun and so much to offer. Beautiful….do have fun and I know everyone will enjoy this dish. I love lemons! The little boat /pitcher is lovely….RaeDi

    September 13, 2011
  3. I love how this is literally bursting with flavor. Cold meals like this are so great in the summer. It was cool last week, but back in the 90s now. We’re supposed to have another cool down. We’ll see.

    September 13, 2011
    • They say it is going to cool down in the weekend in Rome. Let’s hope!!

      September 14, 2011
  4. Beautiful pics and delicious recipe… Here at Madrid the weather is starting to change, but it is still hot enough to enjoy dinners at the garden and this recipe is perfect for that. Thanks for sharing!

    September 13, 2011
    • You are welcome!! I love Madrid but during summer it really gets hot!!

      September 14, 2011
  5. The rice salad is so beautiful. I used to make one with artichokes, peas and cucumbers but this is so much prettier. And I will use your suggestion of making it a day in advance.

    September 13, 2011
    • Thank you Karen!! A rice salad with artichokes, cucumbers and peas sounds delicious to me!!!

      September 14, 2011
  6. Fabulous flavours and a wonderfully simple dish. The pictures do you credit and make me envious with their warm late summer light. Bravissimo.

    September 13, 2011
    • Merci Teacher!!! I never thought it would be so hard to take pictures like these. I am getting there….slooooowly!!

      September 14, 2011
  7. This looks and sounds wonderful and the photos are great – I especially like the one of the oil and lemon and the shadows on the wooden table.

    September 13, 2011
    • Thank you!!! I am trying with the photos but it is hard!!

      September 14, 2011
    • Found my way to your blog via two clicks from Promenade Plantings’. This side dish was a stlape in our second generation NJ Italian household on Friday nights when we observed no meat’. My late mother, Eleonora, served with our fish for the week. I now make it often on its own as it’s such a comfort food full of precious childhood memories for me as well. We used to fight over the softened cloves of garlic in the large bowl of pasta!I look forward to exploring more of your wonderful blog.

      April 16, 2014
  8. What a great salad, so perfect for Summer. And so well photographed! A wonderful post, an all counts.

    September 13, 2011
  9. This is absolutely lovely! In Florida we’ve been at a steady 90 degrees too and cool, room temp dishes have been on my menu daily! I love how you presented this, so colorful. I like to infuse my oils too, the little extras just improve the flavors of food so much. I really like your style of cooking and love stopping by to see what you’re making!!

    September 13, 2011
    • That is so nice of you!!! Thanks you for your lovely comment!

      September 14, 2011
  10. What a delicious sounding recipe and i love the lemon twist. The mention of olive oil being flavoured with lemon zest has inspired me. Your photos look great.

    September 13, 2011
    • I am so glad I inspired you!!! Thank you!

      September 14, 2011
  11. i luv all the different textures and flavors

    September 13, 2011
    • Thank you!! It does have different textures: the crunchiness of carrots, zucchini, and almonds; and the softeness of rice, olives, and tomatoes.

      September 14, 2011
  12. I love rice salads and I love lemons..I really can’t wait to try this amazing recipe
    Breath taking pictures as always

    September 13, 2011
    • Thank you for all your kind compliments!

      September 14, 2011
  13. Kim #

    Looks fantastic ❤

    September 14, 2011
  14. This presentation is absolutely beautiful. You always have wonderful looking food photos. I’ve never tried rice salad before, but you have me wanting to 🙂

    September 15, 2011
    • Thank you! You should try it since it is easy to make and you can prepare it a day ahead!

      September 15, 2011
  15. Che brava sei – gorgeous photos and wonderful recipe! I prefer my rice salad without meat or fish and this sounds so fresh and gorgeous. Delicious!

    September 18, 2011
    • Grazie mille!! I prefer the vegetarian version for fresh salads too!!

      September 18, 2011
  16. Ooo! Long time no visit. I must have forgotten to subscribe to your blog.
    Your pics are amazing and so are the recipes! Thanks for sharing.
    I’m subscribing! 🙂

    September 19, 2011
    • Thank you!!!! I am glad you came back!!!

      September 20, 2011
  17. this looks so delicious! must try soon!

    September 26, 2011
  18. this looks yummy! 🙂

    August 13, 2012

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