Italian Language Blog

Insalata Russa Posted by on Aug 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Despite its name, l’insalata russa (Russian salad) is originally from Piemonte (Piedmont), a region in the north west of Italy, and, in fact, in France it’s known as "salade piemontaise". According to the Vocabolario della Lingua Italiana Treccani  “Insalata russa è chiamata anche insalata italiana” (Russian salad is also called Italian salad). It seems that the name comes from the fact that one of the original ingredients was oven baked beetroot, which gave the salad a characteristic colore rosso (red colour), hence the name insalata rossa (red salad) was transformed into insalata russa. In Russia there are similar dishes, of course, but they normally include meat.

L’insalata russa is traditionally considered un antipasto (a starter) for important meals, such as Christmas dinner, but being a cold, rich dish, my mother used to make it in the summer for our main meal, and this is the way I still like to have it, accompanied by some focaccia or bruschetta.

Here is the basic, traditional recipe:

Ingredienti Ingredients
Maionese, 1 tazza, fatta in casa se possibile
3 patate medie
2 carote
150 gr di fagiolini
150 gr di piselli
1 piccolo cavolfiore
Mayonnaise, 1 cup, if possible homemade
3 medium potatoes
2 carrots
150 grams of green beans
150 grams of peas
1 small cauliflower


Peel the potatoes and chop them into small 1 centimetre cubes; peel and slice the carrots; top and tail the green beans and cut them into short lengths; divide the cauliflower into small florets. Cook all the vegetables, except for the peas, in boiling water until just tender; boil the peas separately. Drain all the vegetables and leave them to cool down.

Put the cooked vegetables in a mixing bowl, keeping a few aside for decoration, add two thirds of the mayonnaise, a pinch of salt and mix thoroughly, cover with the leftover mayonnaise and decorate with the vegetables kept aside. Refrigerate for a few hours then serve cold.

I remember that one Christmas a friend of mine made l’insalata russa in the following way: she prepared it in a ring shaped mould lined with colla di pesce (gelatine), so that she was able turn it upside-down when she served it. How she managed I don’t know, but it looked beautiful!


A common variation on l’insalata russa includes finally chopped gherkins, olives and capers, which add a little zest to the flavour.

Many people add sliced hard boiled eggs and/or a tin of tuna to it. My mother, on the other hand, used to add a tin of cannellini beans (rinsed and drained), and this is the way I still make it.

Mmm … I haven’t made l’insalata russa for quite a while, I think I’ll make it tonight, “va bene Geoff?”… “sì, a me va benissimo”, risponde Geoff, perché anche a lui piace tanto!

Buon Appetito!

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  1. Ambra Sancin:

    In my recent blogpost about Italian egg recipes, I mentioned Insalata Russa and I’ve put a link to your recipe. Hope that’s OK. Here’s the post:

    • Serena:

      @Ambra Sancin Salve Ambra, non c’è di che! You’re welcome. Grazie per il link.

      Saluti da Serena

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