If you’re from an Italian family, then it’s no secret that, when it comes to Italian cooking, there’s no such thing as too much!
As a result, if you’re looking to cook an authentic Italian meal, you need to make sure you have plenty of delicious sides to go around.
Luckily, we’ve done the hard part for you and gathered 28 delicious and authentic Italian side dishes that you need to try!
In this handy list, we’ll take you through 28 of the best Italian side dishes, so you know the best things to serve with your authentic Italian cuisine.
So let’s jump right in!
1. Garlic Bread
No Italian dish would be complete without some delicious, crispy garlic bread. Warm from the oven and slathered in herby garlic butter, this irresistible side is a must-have when serving authentic Italian cuisine.
Garlic bread is perfect for dipping in a saucy main, scooping up another dish, or simply eating on its own for that crunchy, garlicky goodness.
It’s also incredibly easy to make – all you have to do is melt some butter and mix it with parsley, crushed garlic, and parmesan cheese, before spreading it on slices of bread and baking until the edges are crispy.
Sprinkle on some cheddar or mozzarella cheese for a crispy and gooey cheese topping.
2. Creamy Polenta
Polenta is a common appetizer and side dish in Italian cooking. This creamy cornmeal porridge is light, sweet, and is the perfect vehicle for sauces or cheese.
Polenta is made of ground cornmeal, and is often used as a replacement for pasta or potatoes as a base for other toppings.
Polenta can be served with all sorts of things, including roasted vegetables, cheese, and even other sauces.
3. Burrata Salad
This tasty and fresh salad is quick to make and only requires a handful of ingredients.
The rich buffalo mozzarella is the real star of the show here, although the colorful tomatoes bring some sweetness and acidity to balance it all out.
Slice the tomatoes and arrange them on a platter or serving dish, add some fresh basil and chunks of mozzarella, and sprinkle on some salt and pepper with a splash of olive oil.
Add a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar to finish, and you’ve got the perfect side dish!
4. Mushroom Risotto
One of the most popular Italian dishes out there, risotto is a rich and creamy side dish that is a vital addition to any authentic Italian meal.
This delicious mushroom risotto uses nutty porcini mushrooms for an earthy flavor and meaty texture.
A dash of white wine adds some flavor and a slight acidity for balance, while a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some butter gives the risotto a creamy, rich texture.
5. Tuscan White Bean Salad
Originating from the central Italian region of Tuscany, this white bean salad is fresh, hearty, and packed with flavor.
White beans are mixed with tomato, mushroom, and onion before being seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs with a squeeze of lemon juice to tie it all together.
It’s densely packed with a ton of nutrients from the beans, and its fresh and vibrant flavors make it a perfect palette cleanser.
6. Pasta Salad
In authentic Italian cooking, pasta is typically served as an appetizer as opposed to a main or side dish. However, sometimes pasta is just what you need in a side – take this tasty pasta salad, for example!
Mixed with fresh veg, cheese, spicy salami, and a whole mix of herbs and dressing, this pasta salad is bursting with fresh flavors and makes a perfect side dish.
Bruschetta is a classic Italian side found in Italian restaurants and pantries alike. Bruschetta is bread that has been grilled until the edges are lightly charred and then topped with various toppings.
This delicious recipe uses fresh chopped tomatoes tossed in a vinaigrette and a pinch of fresh basil to give the bruschetta a refreshing, slightly sweet taste.
8. Parmesan Cookies
Despite their name, these savory cookies aren’t a sweet dessert. Instead, they’re a light and crumbly side dish that are perfect on their own or dipped in a soup or sauce.
Parmesan cookies are incredibly simple, and are made with a basic dough of flour, butter, and parmesan cheese.
Sprinkle in some salt and pepper to taste, along with some rosemary and thyme for added flavor, and bake until a soft golden brown.
These cookies are crumbly and have a delicate parmesan flavor to them.
9. Garlic And Herb Potatoes
It’s hard to go wrong with potatoes at any meal, and these fragrant and flavorful roast potatoes are no exception.
Cut some potatoes into cubes around 1 inch in size, and toss them with olive oil, garlic, and some fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley.
Roast them until their outside is crispy and golden and their inside is fluffy. This simple side tastes even better than it smells!
Focaccia is a type of Italian flatbread, fairly similar to a pizza base. This tasty loaf is made with more olive oil and yeast than pizza dough, however, which gives it a fluffy and moist interior with large air holes.
This simple recipe uses garlic and rosemary to add some extra flavor to the bread, although many recipes will also include things like roasted vegetables and seeds to add taste and give the loaf a pop of color; in fact, focaccia is often baked with these ingredients arranged into beautiful patterns!
11. Pesto Gnocchi
Two classics of Italian cooking collide in this creamy gnocchi recipe. Gnocchi are small pieces of dough made with potato, flour, and eggs and poached in boiling water.
This recipe mixes doughy and lightly salted gnocchi with herby green pesto in a creamy sauce. A generous sprinkle of parmesan thickens the sauce while a splash of white wine adds a vibrant burst of flavor.
12. Farro Salad
This hearty salad uses a base of farro, a grain that’s similar to wheat or barley. Its slightly nutty taste and chewy texture works perfectly with juicy tomatoes, fragrant herbs, crunchy veg, and a tangy lemon vinaigrette.
It’s filling, refreshing, and makes a great palette cleanser between dishes.
13. Italian Breadsticks
Bring Olive Garden’s iconic breadsticks to your dining table with this easy recipe that tastes just like the real thing!
These simple breadsticks use just 5 ingredients for the dough and bake in 15 minutes, making them ideal for feeding the whole family in a rush.
Brush them with melted butter and garlic salt when they’re fresh out of the oven for an irresistible taste that will make sure none go uneaten!
14. Spinach And Ricotta Ravioli
This tasty vegetarian ravioli packs a lot of flavor into small packages. A mix of spinach and ricotta are stuffed inside these pasta parcels, along with some lemon zest and a pinch of nutmeg for a more complex flavor.
Served in a buttery and nutty pine nut sauce, these ravioli are good enough to be a main course, let alone a side!
This recipe is also easy to make, and can be cooked in just 10 minutes for a quick and simple meat-free option.
15. Stuffed Tomatoes
Looking for an incredibly simple yet delicious side dish? Then these tasty stuffed tomatoes are just what you need! They’re quick to make, full of flavor, and are 100% meat-free to boot.
Scoop out the insides of a large tomato and fill it with bread crumbs, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and the leftover tomato flesh. Bake until the cheese is melted and crispy on top.
Just bear in mind that you’ll have to remove or substitute the parmesan if you want this tasty side to be vegetarian as well as meat-free!
16. Caprese Salad
This simple, fresh Italian salad is built around mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes – and that’s pretty much it!
Mix the ingredients together in some olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste before serving.
You might also want to add a tangy vinaigrette or balsamic vinegar for flavor, or simply let the fresh and delicious taste of the salad shine through.
17. Cheese And Tomato Pinwheels
These tasty Italian pinwheels are a favorite with kids, but also make a nice side for the adults too.
They’re also really easy to make, especially if you use a ready-made pizza dough. Spread the dough into a long rectangle and top it with a thin layer of tomato sauce and grated cheese.
Roll the whole thing up and cut into slices before baking, and you’ll have a delicious savory side with a neat swirl pattern!
18. Cheesy Zucchini Bites
Zucchini is a popular ingredient in a lot of Mediterranean cooking, and it’s right at home in this tasty Italian side dish.
Grated zucchini is mixed with cheese, eggs, and herbs before being baked until crispy. With their crunchy exterior and gooey, cheesy center, these bite-sized sides are as tasty as they are simple!
19. Parmesan Knots
These buttery garlic knots are the perfect accompaniment to pasta, soup, or just eaten on their own.
If you don’t want to make your own dough from scratch, you can use pizza dough or buttermilk biscuit dough instead.
Brush them with a melted garlic butter and sprinkle on parmesan cheese and dried herbs. These easy bread knots are quick, simple, and taste incredible!
20. Cacio e Pepe Brussels Sprouts
This traditional pasta dish swaps out spaghetti for shredded Brussels sprouts in this healthier version of Cacio e Pepe.
The sprouts don’t just make it a healthier option, however, and their nutty and slightly bitter taste works perfectly with grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese and some freshly cracked black pepper.
Simple but delicious, this healthy side is a great vegetarian option if you substitute the parmesan for a vegan equivalent.
21. Italian Green Beans
With how rich and filling Italian food can be, it’s nice to have something fresh as a palette cleanser.
These simple Italian green beans are a great option as a side dish; it uses only four ingredients – the beans, salt, garlic, and olive oil – and can be whipped together in no time!
Add a dash of balsamic vinegar for a tangy hit of acidity.
22. Stuffed Zucchini
Like stuffed tomatoes, this recipe for stuffed zucchini is simple, quick, and tastes incredible.
Stuff them with spiced salami, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and the scooped-out zucchini flesh. Bake until the cheese is golden and crispy on top, and your tasty stuffed zucchini is ready to go!
Another classic Italian dish, cannelloni is as great a side dish as it is a starter.
This recipe stuffs cannelloni tubes with a meaty ragu sauce, and tops it with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. Hearty and filling, these cannelloni are bursting with rich flavors.
If you want a vegetarian version, why not go for a creamy ricotta and spinach recipe?
24. Italian Chickpea Salad
Light, vibrant, and refreshing, this zesty chickpea salad is packed with flavor as well as tons of protein.
Chickpeas, tomatoes, onion, olives, and cucumber are mixed with herbs and a tangy vinaigrette before being served.
The zesty dressing and fresh veg make this a great palette cleanser, and the chickpeas pack a lot of healthy protein.
Friselle is a type of hard Italian bread, which has been baked twice. It’s similar to bruschetta and is used in the same way.
This simple recipe uses just a handful of ingredients to make the dough, and can easily be scaled up to make sure there’s enough for everyone.
Serve topped with finely diced tomatoes and some fresh basil.
Giardiniera is a spicy relish made of mixed vegetables that have been pickled, typically using veg like carrots, cauliflower, celery, peppers, and cucumber.
This tangy recipe carries some heat and the smell of fragrant bay leaves and vinegar.
Use them as a side dish to balance out a hearty main or as a zesty palette cleanser between courses.
27. Stuffed Artichokes
These creamy artichokes are stuffed with fragrant herbs, garlic, breadcrumbs, and loaded with parmesan cheese.
Add a splash of lemon juice and a generous drizzle of olive oil, and simmer the artichokes in a pot until the leaves are tender. The leaves will hold the filling in place, cooking the delicious flavors into the vegetable.
28. Eggplant Parmesan
Eggplant parmesan is a timeless recipe and a great option if you’re looking for something meat-free (you’ll have to use a parmesan substitute if you want a veggie option, however).
Thick slices of eggplant are breaded and fried until crispy and golden, before being layered in a casserole dish with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Sprinkle some parmesan on top to finish, and bake it until the top is crispy and bubbling.
This delicious recipe is just as good as chicken parm, and is a great healthy alternative if you’re looking for a meatless option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Pasta A Side Dish?
While pasta is commonly eaten as a main course, it’s traditionally served as a starter in Italy.
While some heavier pasta dishes can still be a main course, you’re more likely to find small dishes of pasta served as a side dish or appetizer (known as the ‘primo’).
Portions are generally pretty small, and are intended to be light and not too filling so they don’t spoil the rest of the meal.
You can also eat pasta later on as a side dish to the main course; this side dish (or ‘contorno’) is typically some form of vegetable, but pasta can fit in here just as well.
Are Any Of These Dishes Vegetarian?
Don’t worry if you have a meat-free diet, as there are plenty of vegetarian side dishes available on this list.
Sides like garlic bread, stuffed tomatoes, Tuscan white bean salad, and many others are completely meat-free, while many others can easily become vegetarian-friendly simply by swapping the meat out for an alternative such as fake meat, tofu, or just plain old veg.
Vegan recipes are harder to find, as a lot of Italian cuisines contain egg and even more use cheese and/or another form of dairy.
You can alter most of these recipes with vegan substitutes if need be – just be aware that this may influence the taste and texture of the dish.
What Course Is Side Dishes In Traditional Italian Cooking?
The Italian meal structure can be confusing to those who aren’t familiar with it, mostly due to the number of dishes served.
A traditional Italian meal will consist of 4-5 dishes: the ‘primo’, or appetizer (which normally consists of soup, pasta, or risotto); the ‘secondo’, or main (typically a meat course with chicken, fish, or eggs); the ‘contorno’, a side dish (usually a salad or mix of vegetables, but can also include various other sides); the ‘dolce’, or dessert (literally ‘sweet’, this can be anything from cakes to pastries to gelato).
Most traditional Italian meals also finish with ‘caffe’, which is after-dinner coffee.
And there you have it – 28 of the most delicious authentic Italian sides out there! Serve these dishes alongside some amazing Italian main dishes, and you’re sure to find something for everyone to enjoy.
So whether you’re looking for a light salad, loading up on garlic bread, or looking for the best pasta dishes to serve on the side, now you know the best authentic Italian side dishes that are sure to be a hit!
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