Our 20 Best Italian Side Dishes

In Italy, they eat a lot more than just pasta. And meals centered around a piece of meat or seafood demand accompaniment. These Italian vegetable recipes—from artichokes to zucchini—fit the bill. Most also work as side dishes for pasta, too.

Yes, pasta is one of the world’s most beloved culinary inventions (uh hello, we devoted an entire issue to it). But in Italy, as elsewhere, meals often spotlight a piece of meat or seafood, and that braciole, cacciatore, or baccala needs to be plated with something.

Our best Italian vegetable dishes tend to showcase fresh and seasonal Mediteranean ingredients that play nicely with hearty proteins. Think sweet and sour cipollini onions, simple roasted artichokes, and zesty fried eggplant with basil and capers. Of course, no roundup of Italian sides would be complete without a caprese salad—that popular combination of tomatoes, burrata, basil, and olive oil, made no less delectable by its ubiquity.

Most of these options would make a lovely side dish for lasagna, timpana, or pasta bolognese (though pasta is typically its own separate course in Italy). One obvious exception, unless you’re in the mood for some serious carb-loading: risotto, a rich and creamy side best served alongside more modest portions of meat. The silky rice dish is much easier to make than its reputation suggests, and positively sings when paired with classic Italian mains (the extravagant risotto alla Milanese traditionally accompanies hearty, braised osso bucco.)

So whether you’re after an easy vegetable side to round out your pasta dinner, or a simple risotto to go with your Sunday roast, one of these recipes will yield just the thing to serve, alongside a nice bottle of Chianti.

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

Risotto alla Milanese

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

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

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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

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

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

Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin

Juicy cherry or grape tomatoes are coated in a light caramel to make the "topping" for this tart, but the whole thing is baked upside down in a skillet. Do most of the steps to prepare it in advance—make the zucchini paste and defrost the puff pastry a few hours or up to two days ahead—but be sure to serve the tart just after baking, turning it out from the pan in front of guests. It tastes best while the caramel is still runny and the warm, topmost layer of dough has a custardy consistency. Get the recipe for Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin »Michelle Heimerman

Artichoke Risotto with Capocollo and Pecorino

Artichoke Risotto with Capocollo and Pecorino
"I come from Milano, which is actually the patria, or land, of risotto," Goggi says. At Masseria Moroseta in Puglia, she cooks with artichokes from her garden, and is sure to include plenty of their edible stems. She braises the artichokes, then purées them into a cream for cooking the rice, and reserves a few pieces of the hearts for serving. "I love the pairing of capocollo and Pecorino with this dish because they are traditional of this place." Get the recipe for Artichoke Risotto with Capocollo and Pecorino »Eva Kolenko

Radicchio and Polignano Carrot Salad with Burrata and Pomegranate

Radicchio and Polignano Carrot Salad with Burrata and Pomegranate
The dark-purple, orange, and yellow carrots of Polignano—a town north of Ostuni on Italy's Adriatic coast—have a startlingly bright color and punchy flavor. But any colorful, tender carrot will do. Goggi tops this salad with a tart, preserved-lemon vinaigrette, some cumin, mounds of burrata, and pomegranate seeds. "Pomegranates grow wild all over Italy, but Italians typically don't use them," she says. Get the recipe for Radicchio and Polignano Carrot Salad with Burrata and Pomegranate »Eva Kolenko

Sardinian Flatbreads with Parmigiano, Coppa, and Chiles (Carta di Musica)

Sardinian Flatbreads with Parmigiano, Coppa, and Chiles (Carta di Musica)
Even when topped with melted cheeses, salumi, or chiles, carta di musica stay crispy served warm or at room temperature. Get the recipe for Sardinian Flatbreads with Parmigiano, Coppa, and Chiles (Carta di Musica) »Zachary Zavislak

Roasted Garlic Polenta “Mash” with Herbs and Mascarpone

Using a medium-coarsely ground cornmeal for this dish leaves some texture in the polenta while getting it as close to the consistency of soft, fluffy mashed potatoes as possible. (If using a more coarsely ground meal, increase both the cooking time and quantity of stock accordingly.) Get the recipe for Roasted Garlic Polenta "Mash" with Herbs and Mascarpone »Matt Taylor-Gross
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