Our 20 Absolute Best Italian Side Dish Recipes

There's more to an Italian meal than pizza and pasta

An Italian-inspired meal is often centered around a big plate of pasta or a piece of meat. Pasta is arguably one of the world's best culinary inventions (uh hello, we wrote an entire issue on it), but if you're in the mood for something not-so-heavy, some of our best salads feature many of the same Italian ingredients. It doesn't get more refreshing than a classic caprese: a simple salad of high-quality tomatoes, burrata, basil, olive oil and balsamic. Or if you're looking to stick with hearty starches, one of our favorite side dishes is risotto, which is much easier to make than its reputation suggests. Whether you're looking for a vegetable to accompany your pasta or a starchy side for your main course, our best Italian side dish recipes have something for everyone.

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad
A dish as simple as caprese salad demands the best ingredients: Use firm, in-season tomatoes, the freshest burrata, and dress with pristine olive oil and top-quality balsamic vinegar. Get the recipe for Caprese Salad »Landon Nordeman

Zucchini Stuffed with Ricotta (Zucchine Ripiene con Ricotta)

Zucchini Stuffed with Ricotta (Zucchine Ripiene con Ricotta)
In this dish, zucchini are stuffed with the twin stars of Calabrian cheese making: pecorino and ricotta. Flecked with tomato and mint, they are equally good eaten hot or at room temperature. Get the recipe for Zucchini Stuffed with Ricotta (Zucchine Ripiene con Ricotta) »Landon Nordeman

Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto alla Milanese
Saffron gives this risotto its vibrant color and flavor. Get the recipe for Risotto alla Milanese »Todd Coleman

Green Beans with Lemons and Capers

Green Beans with Lemons and Capers
Inspired by the briny flavors of veal piccata, this elegant side dish is simplicity itself: blanched green beans tossed in a vinaigrette of capers, bright lemon, and a beautiful olive oil. Get the recipe for Green Beans with Lemons and Capers »Maxime Iattoni

Fried Dough with Arugula and Grape Tomatoes (Angioletti Fritti con Rucola e Pomodori)

Fried Dough with Arugula and Grape Tomatoes (Angioletti Fritti con Rucola e Pomodori)
A bright and simple salad adds fresh contrast to fried strips of pizza dough. Get the recipe for Fried Dough with Arugula and Grape Tomatoes (Angioletti Fritti con Rucola e Pomodori) »Todd Coleman

Pecorino Flans with Tomato Sauce (Pecorino Tortas con Salsa di Pomodoro)

Pecorino Flans with Tomato Sauce (Pecorino Tortas con Salsa di Pomodoro)
These fluffy pecorino flans are served with a simple tomato sauce. Get the recipe for Fried Dough with Arugula and Grape Tomatoes (Angioletti Fritti con Rucola e Pomodori) »David Hagerman

Arugula, Pecorino, Pine Nut, and Pear Salad (Rucola con Pecorino, Pignoli e Pere)

Arugula, Pecorino, Pine Nut, and Pear Salad (Rucola con Pecorino, Pignoli e Pere)
Raisins add a subtle sweetness to this salad from Enoteca l'Alchimista in Montefalco, Italy. Get the recipe for Arugula, Pecorino, Pine Nut, and Pear Salad (Rucola con Pecorino, Pignoli e Pere) »David Hagerman

Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes
Herbs, garlic, and bread crumbs add a savory topping to tomatoes in this simple Tuscan side dish. Get the recipe for Stuffed Tomatoes »Maxime Iattoni

Roasted Artichokes (Carciofi Arrostiti)

Roasted Artichokes (Carciofi Arrostiti)
Though traditionally cooked in embers, these artichokes are equally as succulent when oven-roasted. Get the recipe for Roasted Artichokes (Carciofi Arrostiti) »Farideh Sadeghin

Grilled Polenta

Grilled Polenta
Polenta is a popular dish in Venice and is often served grilled as a side, though you can also eat it without grilling it if you like. Get the recipe for Grilled Polenta »Maxime Iattoni

Risotto Cacio e Pepe

Risotto Cacio e Pepe
Chef Massimo Bottura developed this recipe to utilize the nearly 1,000 wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano damaged after earthquakes devastated the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy in 2012. Get the recipe for Risotto Cacio e Pepe »Farideh Sadeghin

Summer Panzanella

Summer Panzanella
Sweet, ripe, summer tomatoes dressed in olive oil, vinegar, and basil are tossed with garlicky, toasted bread cubes to soak up the delicious juices in this classic Italian salad. Get the recipe for Summer Panzanella »Helen Rosner

Lemon-Rosemary Risotto

Lemon-Rosemary Risotto
Fragrant rosemary and lemon are added to this risotto after it is cooked. Get the recipe for Lemon-Rosemary Risotto »Ingalls Photography

Tricolore Salad with Grapefruit Saba Vinaigrette

Tricolore Salad with Grapefruit Saba Vinaigrette
Grapefruit supremes and aged balsamic vinegar brighten this classic Italian salad. Get the recipe for Tricolore Salad with Grapefruit Saba Vinaigrette »Andre Baranowski

Pan-Fried Eggplant with Balsamic, Basil, and Capers

Pan-Fried Eggplant with Balsamic, Basil, and Capers
Creamy, mild eggplant pairs with briny capers, floral basil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction for a knockout appetizer or side dish. Get the recipe for Pan-Fried Eggplant with Balsamic, Basil, and Capers »Landon Nordeman

Mortadella and Fontina Slab Pie

Mortadella and Fontina Slab Pie
This flaky, comforting puff pastry hand pie is evil but genius—it tastes like the Italian version of a ham and cheese croissant, but without the labor of from-scratch pastry. Mortadella, a pork-based deli meat with pistachios and delicate morsels of pork fat, is available at many grocery stores, and Italian markets. Get the recipe for Mortadella and Fontina Slab Pie »Stacy Adimando

Cipolline in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Cipolline Onions)

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Cipolline onions are cooked in a thick syrup of balsamic vinegar and sugar in this classic Italian-American side dish. Get the recipe for Cipolline in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Cipolline Onions) »Ingalls Photography

Ricotta, Potato, and Scallion Fritters

Ricotta, Potato, and Scallion Fritters
Fried crisp and served hot, these cheesy fritters are ideal for dunking into warm soup. Get the recipe for Ricotta, Potato, and Scallion Fritters »Tom Parker

Sweet Peas with Prosciutto

Sweet Peas with Prosciutto
In this classic Roman pairing, sweet peas are richly flavored by salty prosciutto as well as the pork's rendered fat. Get the recipe for Sweet Peas with Prosciutto »Todd Coleman

Dry-Cured Olives with Rosemary and Orange

Dry-Cured Olives with Rosemary and Orange
These olives are incredibly simple—all you have to do is mix them with orange zest and juice, rosemary, and pepper, then let them sit for an hour. Get the recipe for Dry-Cured Olives »Farideh Sadeghin