*’8*talian food has crossed the ocean to make a big splash on the shores of America. From the East to the West coasts, Italian food comes in the form of fine dining as well as scrumptious street food.
If you are planning to treat your family to a homecooked meal tonight, this is a reminder that Italian food is so much more than spaghetti and meatballs.
Italian food is synonymous with comfort, family, and home. And the best way to cook it is while enjoying a glass of wine and sharing it with your favorite people.
17 Authentic Italian Side Dishes
Don’t skimp on fresh ingredients and opt out of jarred sauces when making these mouth-watering side dishes. You won’t regret spending a little more time making these dishes, we guarantee it!
1. Rice Balls in Tomato Sauce
Rice balls are a delicious breaded treat that can be prepared in a large meal-sized portion, or as a smaller side dish creation.
Also known as Arancini, risotto rice is combined with ham, peas, and cheese to give this “ball” filling an ooey-gooey center. Try it smothered with a homemade marina.
2. Garlic Bread
This classic side and appetizer are served at nearly every Italian restaurant. If you ever thought the idea of making it was daunting, think again!
Grab your favorite Italian loaf and slather it with butter, parsley, and of course, tons of garlic. Bake this in the oven for the recommended amount of time and magic!… a disappearing side dish.
3. Italian Zucchini Bake
Top your zucchini medallion layers with a combination of pecorino and parmesan cheeses (fresh ones if you can get your hands on them) and bake with eggs, garlic, and onion.
This Italian treat will delight your diners and get the kids eating their root veggies. Cheesy and good for you, a zucchini bake such as the one featured here is also easy to make.
4. Broccolini with Garlic
Broccolini is the slim and tender cousin of broccoli. A hybrid of broccoli and the Chinese vegetable gai lan, broccolini is an Italian favorite that makes for an amazing vegetable side dish.
There are a few ways to cook this green veggie but if you’re looking for something simple and delicious, simply toss them in olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and bake.
5. Caprese Salad
Grab some tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. If you are a purist it’s as simple as that. But here’s the secret to making an amazing Caprese salad… fresh ingredients!
Think tomatoes from the farmer’s market and a mozzarella ball from your local Italian supermarket. Cut these into rounds and top with Italian basil right off the stem. If you have a source, choose your olive oil wisely because this will enhance the flavor combinations in your Caprese salad.
6. Italian Antipasto Salad
Antipasto is a traditional Italian starter that gets everyone’s appetites ready for a great meal ahead. So what is it exactly?
Antipasto is a collection of pickles, olives, hard cheese, vegetables, cured meats, and virtually anything you fancy from Italy that is served on a charcuterie platter. Serve this casually or start your night entertaining with this classic Italian dish.
7. Tuscan Beans and Spinach
Hearty and heartwarming, cannellini, Tuscan, or white beans (whatever you choose to call them) make a fantastic side dish that will fill you up and keep you satisfied.
Add a handful of spinach to your slow-cooked, garlicky cannellini beans and you have a nutritious Italian side dish you’ll be repeating week after week at mealtime.
8. Pesto, Pasta, and Potatoes
Easy and healthy, what could be better than a pasta and potato salad mixed with your favorite veggies and a nutty pesto sauce.
If you’re not familiar with pesto, it’s time to give it a try. Blending basil, olive oil, and a handful of pine nuts in your food processor will create this wonderful dressing. Combine your cold salad ingredients with this sauce instead of mayonnaise and you have something you’ll want to bring to parties, picnics, BBQ, and just about anywhere.
9. Octopus Salad
If these eight-legged sea creatures scare you a little, don’t be alarmed, these smaller octopi are actually delicious and nutritious and can be found in many Italian side dishes.
An Insalata di polpo (octopus salad) is truly simple to make and a treat for your tastebuds. The tanginess of capers and lemon will pair well with the octopus and vegetable combination of cherry tomatoes, celery, and carrot.
10. Italian Stuffed Artichokes
If you’ve ever examined an artichoke, you might be thinking, how the heck do I stuff one? That being said, it’s easier than it looks.
After you prepare your stuffing and raw artichokes, you will stuff the breadcrumb and cheese mixture between the large leaves of the artichoke. Bake as directed and you’ll have something truly surprising to bring to the dinner table.
11. Calamari Fritti
The word calamari is Italian for squid, and yes, this fried fish dish is made of battered squid. You’ve probably had it at restaurants and loved the idea of it then, so why not try making some yourself.
Impress your guests with this simple-to-follow recipe. Serve your calamari fritti with your favorite tomato sauce and sprinkle with parmesan and red pepper flakes to your liking.
12. Stuffed Mushrooms
Fans of mushrooms will appreciate this easy-to-make stuffed mushroom recipe. Chock full of goodness, this cheese, and Italian herb seasoned side dish is a favorite at mealtime or as a party appetizer.
Stick with the basics and make this using white mushrooms and shredded mozzarella cheese. If you want to get a little fancy, try baby Bellas or big portabella mushrooms and specialty Italian cheeses as your stuffing.
13. Italian Wedding Soup
This is one of my favorite soups because of the combination of meatballs and spinach. In addition to protein and iron, this chicken-based soup also covers your vegetables! A heavy handful of parmesan cheese makes this soup irresistible on a fall evening.
If you are a fan of orzo, I recommend putting some into your wedding soup to make it a noodle soup that is hearty and nutritious.
14. Burrata Salad
Burrata is a special cheese made from Italian milk, mozzarella, and cream. The outer portion of the cheese is solid while the inner portion is a creamy cheese that melts in your mouth.
Burrata can be served simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper, or it can be added to other vegetables to create a salad. Whatever you desire, don’t miss out on this culinary delight.
15. Radicchio Salad
Let’s really make it Italian and call this side dish what it is, an Insalata tri-color. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a three-color salad made from radicchio, endives, and arugula, the colors of the Italian flag!
Top this with a lemony vinaigrette and you have a crunchy, refreshing salad that has a little bit of a kick to it. A truly great side or starter to any authentic Italian meal.
16. Italian giardiniera
Pickled vegetables have never packed a punch the way they do in this jarred specialty. Italians have been preparing this easy-to-serve side dish for centuries.
Traditionally made with pearl onions, hot peppers, and cauliflower, this Italian side dish made it into the hearts of Chicagoans who use it as a condiment on pizza.
17. Italian green beans
Greens beans can be used in a variety of ways. Having them flash boiled, fried, or raw are just some of the ways you can enjoy this vegetable.
Keep your meal Italian from head to toe and make this stewed tomato and green bean side dish for your family tonight. You’ll leave a lasting memory of comfort food for years to come.
Make sure your dishes are inspired by the authentic tastes and ingredients that go into creating this beloved cuisine and you can’t go wrong.
You really don’t need an occasion to have great Italian food. That being said, Italian food is great for sharing and is known for its family-style portions.
And if you never thought of Italian food as being healthy, go back to the recipes above and take note of all the delicious fresh vegetables, herbs, and proteins used to make authentic Italian side dishes. It’s worth the trouble. Mangia, mangia!