Insalata di mare (“seafood salad” in English) typically features a variety of cooked seafood, such as octopus, squid, shrimp, mussels, and sometimes even small fish, mixed together with vegetables, herbs, and a dressing.
The seafood is usually boiled or poached until tender and then cut into bite-sized pieces. It’s then combined with ingredients like celery, onion, tomatoes (omitted here to prevent the salad from getting too “wet”), bell peppers, mild chiles, olives, and fresh herbs such as parsley and basil. The dressing can vary but often includes a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, and sometimes a touch of chili flakes for a bit of heat. The flavors are light, fresh, and often tangy, making it a popular choice during warmer months.
Insalata di mare is served cold and can be enjoyed as an appetizer, a light main course, or even as part of antipasti (appetizer) platters in Italian cuisine. It’s a dish that showcases the freshness of the seafood and the Mediterranean flavors that are characteristic of Italian cooking.
This dish, which is often enjoyed by Italoian Americans at at Christmas, can be a time-consuming affair, with each tyupe of seafood being cooked separately. Since I like to keep things quick and simple, I buy ready peeled and prepped frozen seafood and poach it briefly in water flavored with white wine, lemon and herbs before draining it and rinsing it under cold water.
To bulk it up a little and add carbs & fiber, I’ve added cannellini beans; if you prefer to keep it low-carb/keto, feel free to leave these out.
Insalata di Mare (Italian Seafood Salad)
- 2 lbs frozen seafood blend, defrosted scallops, squid and calamari, or some other frozen seafood you enjoy
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ lemon untreated (sliced)
- ½ tbsp Old Bay seasoning
- 3 cloves garlic finely minced or grated on a Microplane grater
- 3 tbsp lemon juice fresh pressed
- 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper freshly grated
- 1 small shallot finely diced
- ½ cup olive oil extra virgin
- ½ cup green olives pitted; fienly chopped
- 1 medium jalapeno seeded and finely diced
- ½ cup Italian (flat-leaf) parsley chopped
- 2 stalks celery finely chopped
- 1 small fennel (a.k.a. anise) cored and finely diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper seeded and diced; sometimes I use ½ yellow and ½ red pepper for an extra splash or color
- 1¾ cups cannellini beans cooked & drained; equivalent to 1 can; any white beans work here
- Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce to taste; my favorite brand is Red Boat
- In a medium pot, combine water, white wine, garlic, bay leaves, lemon slices and Old Bay seasoning and bring to a boil. Let cook for 5 minutes.
- Tip the defrosted seafood mix into the boiling poaching water. Set timer to 2 minutes. As soon as the shrimp are cooked through (pink & opaque), drain the seefood into a strainer and rinse immediuately with cold water for about 1 minute. Leave to drain for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the grated garlic and chopped onion with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a large salad bowl. Let marinate for 5-10 minutes to mellow the sharpness of the garlic and onion.
- Add the other vegetables, the drained seafood and the drained beans (if using) and toss to combine. Fold in the parsley and toss again.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to let the flavors meld and deepen. Before serving, season to taste with salt, fish sauce, pedpper, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.