This Mediterranean rice salad is a wonderful side dish recipe for summer. Made with hardy arborio rice, spring vegetables, Pecorino cheese and a bright lemon vinaigrette to tie it all together, this rice salad is perfect for backyard barbecues and alfresco dinner parties.
I developed this recipe for a summer dinner party in the backyard. I wanted a beautiful healthy satisfying summer side dish to serve alongside smoked chicken and Korean BBQ Burgers. It’s risky to try out a new recipe for a dinner party but I had a vision and no time to spare - sometimes you just have to live dangerously.
The stars were aligned and my Mediterranean rice salad was a hit. Truthfully, it's hard to miss with such great ingredients: arborio rice, fresh spring asparagus and peas, sautéed leeks and radicchio, a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, pecorino Romano cheese and fresh basil. Many of my guests asked for the recipe. So here it is.
How To Make Mediterranean Rice Salad:
This recipe is not difficult and much of the prep can be done ahead of time. The rice is boiled in salted water for fifteen minutes. While the rice is cooking, you can make the vinaigrette, blanch the peas and asparagus, and sauté the leeks and radicchio. To assemble the salad, toss all of the ingredients together in a big bowl. For the best texture and flavor, serve this salad at room temperature.
Why use Arborio Rice for Rice Salad?
Most of us associate Arborio rice with risotto but it's also a great choice for rice salad. Arborio rice can be cooked just like regular rice, boiled and drained. The texture of Arborio rice depends on how fast you cook it. When cooked slowly, stirring constantly, as for risotto, it absorbs lots of liquid and releases a good amount of starch, resulting in a thick creamy dish with chewy grains. When cooked fast, without stirring, as in this recipe, the grains are plump and have a nice al dente bite to them. Any excess starch is rinsed away when the rice is drained, resulting in rice that is the ideal texture for salad. The rice grains maintain their nice firm texture even when mixed with dressing.
On the theme of Summer Side Dishes, You might also enjoy:
- Three Bean Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing
- Grilled Green Beans with Lemony Dipping Sauce
- Corn Tomato Avocado Salad
I'm finding that more and more of my friends and family are embracing the Mediterranean way of eating. Less meat, more fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil and nut oils. I love to eat that way too. But whether or not you follow the Mediterranean diet, this rice salad is the perfect summer side dish. It complements almost any main dish and is especially great with anything grilled. Plus it’s vegetarian, gluten-free and, most importantly, delicious!
Here's the Mediterranean rice salad recipe. If you make this, please come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!Print
Mediterranean Rice Salad
- Total Time: 50 mins
- Yield: 6-8 1x
A rice salad with fresh spring vegetables, Pecorino cheese and lemony dressing. A great spring and summer side dish.
Adapted from Michael Chiarello's Insalata di Riso recipe
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice, rinsed in several changes of cold water. Rinse in a fine mesh colander immersed in a large bowl of water. Swish rice to release excess starches. Lift colander. Pour out water. Repeat until water is mostly clear.
- Kosher salt
For the Vinaigrette:
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
For The Veggies:
- 1 large bunch thick asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut into 1-inch pieces.
- 1 ½ cups of peas (5-6 ounces), fresh shelled peas or frozen peas
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into ¼-inch rounds, washed well and drained
- 1 small head of radicchio, halved, cored and roughly chopped
- ½ cup of loosely packed basil leaves, sliced thinly
- ⅓ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese or good quality parmesan cheese such as Parmigiana Reggiano.
- Put the rice in a saucepan with 6 cups of cold water and one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 8-15 minutes (Different brands of rice need or less time). Check the rice for doneness starting at 8 minutes. The rice should be tender but not mushy. Drain the rice in a colander and run cool water over it immediately, to stop the cooking and to rinse away excess starch. Let the rice drain well. (Can be done up to a day ahead. Store cooled rice in an airtight bag or container in the fridge. Bring to room temp before using)
- To make the vinaigrette, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking, until emulsified. (Vinaigrette Can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temp before using)
- Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a medium pot of water, with 1 teaspoon of salt, to a boil. Add asparagus and peas. Cook for 2 minutes or so, until the vegetables are bright green and crisp-tender. Immediately drain and plunge the veggies into the ice water. When cool, drain well.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the leeks and radicchio, stirring frequently, until tender, 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and cool for 10 minutes or so.
- In a large bowl combine the rice, asparagus, peas, leeks and radicchio, basil, cheese and lemon vinaigrette. Correct the seasoning with additional salt and pepper, to taste.
- This recipe has been updated from its original. It had only one cup of raw rice and it called for a half a cup of olive oil for the vinaigrette. In the updated recipe, the rice is rinsed after cooking instead of being spread out on a tray and cooled. This updated recipe makes a more substantial dish with less oil and the same great flavor. Nutritional information has been added as well.
- Prep Time: 25 mins
- Cook Time: 25 mins
- Category: Side Dish, Rice Salad
- Method: Boil
- Cuisine: Mediterranean, Italian
Keywords: rice salad with vegetables and pecorino cheese
This recipe first appeared on Panning The Globe in June 2017. The recipe has been slightly modified to be even more delicious, and the post updated with more pertinent information and new photos. See recipe notes for original recipe ingredients.
This is a fantastic recipe and was so good for lunch the next day. Did not have Arborio so used Cal Rose rice and it was really good. Love your recipes - thank you!
Just made this, delicious! Thank you 🙂
My rice turned out horrible. Mushy! I did cover the rice for the 15 minutes and maybe I shouldn’t have? I really want to use the Arborio rice. Should this have cooked uncovered?
I'm so sorry your rice turned out mushy Sue. Did you use Arborio rice? Did you cool it under cold water as soon as it was done? Thank you for your note. I just updated the post suggesting that people test the rice for doneness starting at 12 minutes, to be sure it doesn't get mushy. I wonder if different brands of rice have slightly different cooking times? I really appreciate your constructive feedback. It helps me and also helps others who stop by to make the recipe.
Yum!! Can't wait to make!!!!
Personally, I'm not a salad eater, buuut my sister loves salad and she's all about gluten-free stuff, so I'm trying this recipe to surprise her next time she comes to town and I gotta say it's really delicious. Think she'll love it, thank you!
You are so welcome! Glad you like it. I hope your sister enjoys the surprise!!