Rice and Seafood Salad (Insalata di Riso e Frutti di Mare)

The idea for this rice salad with seafood came from Biba Caggiano, my favorite Italian cookery book author. This salad is brimming with tender morsels of tasty seafood, crunchy vegetables, a nice zing from the dressing, gherkins and capers, and a nice bite from the rice. It is a perfect summer substitute for a seafood risotto (which reminds me that I should do a post on risotto ai frutti di mare) as it is refreshing and unlike risotto it requires minimal cooking. It is also ideal to bring to a picnic.

The recipe below is just a suggestion, change it according to what is available and your personal preference. As with most Italian recipes, it is not the cooking but acquiring the best ingredients that is most important. It is not a good idea to cut down the amount of cooking even more by purchasing seafood that is already cooked, as using fresh seafood is key to making this  a great salad. Using frozen raw shrimp and frozen raw squid is acceptable, but does impact the flavor. Taggiasca olives are small black olives from Liguria that have much more flavor than regular black olives. Try to find them, you may even like them if you are usually not that fond of olives.

I never like to discard flavor when I cook, and when I made this rice salad I went all out and used the juices from cooking the seafood as a cooking liquid for the rice. This does flavor the rice, but not as much as I had hoped, so feel free to omit those steps. Biba didn’t do that, either. Anyway, here’s my version.


This time around I only prepared half the recipe and had it for both lunch and dinner

For 4-6 servings

400 grams (2 cups) rice

1 kg (2.2 lbs) vongole or other small clams, soaked for an hour in salt water

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 small squid (calamari or seppioline), cleaned and cut into rings

1 red bell pepper

4 small pickled gherkins

2 Tbsp capers, rinsed

80 grams (1/2 cup) pitted black olives, preferably taggiasca

1 clove garlic, minced

extra virgin olive oil

For the dressing

juice of 1 lemon

extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley


Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the garlic.

Immediately add the clams before the garlic burns.

Cover the pan.

Cook until the clams have opened. Do not cook longer than necessary to keep them tender.

Optional: reserve the clam juices for cooking the rice.

Optional: make shrimp stock for cooking the rice. Sauté the heads and shells until they are orange, add 500 ml (2 cups) water, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Cook the shrimp in the shrimp stock (or in salted water if not making shrimp stock) just until they change color.  Do not cook them longer than necessary to keep them tender.

Cook the squid in water until they change color, which is about 30 seconds. Plunge into (ice) cold water to stop the cooking.

Optional: reserve the squid cooking juices for cooking the rice.

Use about 1.5 litres (6 cups) of liquid to cook the rice. For this you can use water, or the reserved clam juices, reserved squid juices, and shrimp stock. If needed, add more water to get to 1.5 litres (6 cups) as the rice should be cooked in ample water to avoid sticking. Add a bit of salt and bring to a boil.

I’ve picked up from Conor to increase the ISO and it worked like a charm. Thanks, Conor!

When the seafood stock or water boils, add the rice.

Cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice until it is cooked but still al dente, about 15 minutes (but not for ‘fast cooking’ rice).

Rinse the rice with cold water to wash away the starch and cool it down quickly — unfortunately this also washes away a lot of the seafood flavor imparted by cooking in the seafood stock.

Pat the rice dry with paper towels.

Stir a bit of olive oil into the rice to prevent it from sticking together.

Cut the olives into quarters, dice the red bell pepper, and slice the gherkins.

Put the rice in a bowl together with the olives, bell pepper, capers, and gherkins. Take the clams out of their shells (reserve a few in their shells for plating) and add them to the rice, together with the shrimp and squid.

Toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate.

Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl.

Whisk to mix. Add the dressing just before serving. Do not add it before, as that would make the rice soggy. As usual with salads, do not add all the dressing at once but start with a little, mix, taste, and add more only if needed.

This rice and seafood salad is nice when served slightly chilled.

Wine pairing

A refreshing Italian white such as Gavi di Gavi, Orvieto or Vermentino would be a perfect accompaniment to this salad. A good Prosecco would be nice, too.


Smoked celeriac pairs nicely with seared bay scallops, and two years ago I combined them in this wonderful risotto. Perhaps you would like celeriac when prepared this way, Mimi 😉


9 thoughts on “Rice and Seafood Salad (Insalata di Riso e Frutti di Mare)

  1. A gorgeous salad that I wish I could have for lunch today! I don’t understand rinsing and then drying the rice? Was it to avoid any stickiness? I guess brown rice was solve that problem…


    1. Yes it is to avoid the rice from sticking together. The grains of rice should all be ‘loose’. You are right that brown rice would solve that problem, but it would have a different flavor and texture as well.


  2. Very good method Stefan. I love the idea of the adding all the various waters to the rice making. Happy to help on the ISO. Now, if only I could remember to do that myself!


  3. Actually I prefer the salad form to the risotto whatever the season . . . a beautiful dish! As you say there are variations galore . . . mine variers every time but I have never used gherkins [have to try] . . . . black olives: we can only get Kalamata here and I am careful with the amount I use there!!


  4. This reminds me of our visit to Tenerife a few years back (well it might have been lat year but the memory isn’t so good) I do remember that everything was good on the plate but the tiny baby octopi were a bit weird looking…


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