Cauliflower Salad (Italian Winter Salad)

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Cauliflower salad is a simple and light recipe suitable for the winter season. It’s full of beneficial effects due to the many virtues of cauliflower.

Cauliflower salad is one of the most popular Italian winter salad, especially when you want to eat with taste and lightness.

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It can be enjoyed as a main dish, side dish or appetizer.

Here we are going to show you the most classic and simple version: steamed cauliflower with the addition of olives, anchovies and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

You can use your favorite type of cauliflower or even a mixture of cauliflowers for a very nice color effect.

Consider that this recipe lends itself to a thousand facets of flavors and colors.

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Try adding and varying the ingredients according to your taste and each time you rediscover the goodness of this salad.

Prepare the cauliflower Italian salad an hour or so ahead of time so that the flavors blend. You will see how good it is!

Cauliflower salad is perfect for Christmas holiday, dinners and lunches. It’s particularly popular in Naples, where it’s traditional to serve it for Christmas Eve dinner.

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Cauliflower salad Italian recipe is really simple and quick to make. Just a few high-quality ingredients skillfully assembled together.

Give it a try! In just a few minutes you can create a terrific Cauliflower Salad!

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See also

How to Make Italian Cauliflower Salad: Ingredients

  • Prep Time: 10 Min
  • Cook Time: 15 Min
  • Servings: 6

  • 500 g (1,1 lb) of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 1 cup of olives (we use a mix of green and black)
  • 4 or 5 fillets of anchovies in oil
  • 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon of fine salt
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

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Kitchen Tools and Equipment

To prepare cauliflower salad Italian-style, steaming is recommended. This way the vegetable retains all its nutritional properties and all its flavor. We recommend a Stainless Steel 3 Piece Steamer Set (veggie steamer+cooking pot+lid). Or the special steel or silicone baskets to use with standard pots or even in a pressure cooker.

You need also a cutting board and knife for cleaning vegetables to cut cabbage florets.

Finally, it’s useful a large bowl for conveniently mixing and dressing the salad.

We also point out nice small and colorful bowls or plates to serve the salad to your guests and beautify your table.


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Step 1) – To prepare the cauliflower salad, start by cleaning the cauliflower. Remove the outer leaves and cut it into florets, not too large. Rinse it well with cold water, then drain.

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Step 2) – Steam the cauliflower florets for about 10 minutes or so. Check that they are tender but still crisp.

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Step 3) – When cauliflower are ready, transfer them directly to a large bowl and let cool almost completely.

Now you can move on to dressing yourItalian cauliflower salad. Cut the anchovies into small pieces. Add them to the cauliflower, along with the green and black olives.

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Step 4) – Add chopped fresh parsley, a pinch of salt, oil, and vinegar. Mix everything together well.

Let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving the cauliflower salad.

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How to Store Cauliflower Salad

You can store the cauliflower salad in the refrigerator for up to tree days, preferably sealed in an airtight container.

What Type of Cauliflower is Best to Use?

You can use the cauliflower you prefer: the classic white one, the green one we call “romanesco” in Italy, the purple one or the orange one.

It’s also very aesthetically pleasing to make a mixture of different types of cauliflower.

You will thus have a more cheerful and colorful salad!

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How to Have a More Crunchy Cauliflower Salad

To get a more crunchy cauliflower after cooking-and also to speed up cooling if you are in a hurry-soak the hot cauliflower in a bowl of ice water for a few seconds.

Then drain the water very well and proceed to the dressing.

Italian Culiflower Salad: Variants of seasoning

It’s also a popular custom to add a handful of toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts to cauliflower salad.

If you don’t like fish or prefer to make a completely vegetarian salad, you may not add anchovies. Particularly if you serve cauliflower salad as a side dish to a meat course.

Anchovies are part of the traditional Italian cauliflower salad recipe. It gives this dish a special flavor, as well as allows you to almost avoid adding salt.

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The Famous and Richest Neapolitan Version: “Insalata di Rinforzo”

“Insalata di rinforzo” is a traditional Neapolitan dish. They prepare it during the festivities of the Christmas season in order to eat it on Christmas Eve.

The main ingredient is cauliflower to which they add “papaccelle” (a variety of bell pepper ideal for being marinated and preserved in oil), capers, various pickles, anchovies in oil and olives.

The presence of this salad on Neapolitan tables is a must. Almost a sign of devotion to tradition. Reinforcement

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According to some, the term “rinforzo” (meaning “reinforcement”) is due to the fact that this salad is enriched and thus reinforced with various ingredients.

More simply, however, it seems that the name “rinforzo” indicates that this dish goes to reinforce the main courses on Christmas Eve. They in fact by tradition must be “light.” They are usually fish-based. Cauliflower salad makes it more substantial.

The recipe for this Neapolitan specialty originates from the “Christmas caponata,” described by the cook Ippolito Cavalcanti in his 19th-century cookbook, which accompanied the fish-based Christmas Eve dinner.

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