food. family. life.

insalata tritata: {chopped salad}

The cooler weather has finally descended upon us even here in the south. The cooler breezes and brisk evening temperatures are a most welcome respite from this past summer’s heat and humidity.

This is a very busy season in southwest Florida, a time of year when our seasonal friends and guests fly back to their southern second homes and settle in for another balmy and beautiful Florida winter.

As I prepare my thoughts on what to make for this year’s Thanksgiving holiday celebrations with great friends of ours, I find myself searching for a fresh, light dish that will offer a fresh balance to the richer classic options this holiday brings us.

cucinadimammina_insalata tritata_12I am currently addicted to a classic chopped salad offered at a local Italian spot that Dan and I frequent.

It is simple, flavorful and very, very satisfying as a light meal or as a side option to a meat or fish dish.

The small pieces each ingredient in this salad soak up every bit of the dressing, one of the reasons this will always be my favorite restaurant salad choice.

This recipe is my own crafted version of a chopped salad, one that is filled with some of the same flavors and textures I love so much in the original dish, but with some added items that I think raise this salad concept to yet another flavor level.

insalata tritata: {chopped salad}


1 small head of romaine lettuce, leaves washed and dried

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, washed and dried

3 to 4 handfuls of fresh baby arugula, washed and dried

1 small head of radicchio

1 small head of boston bibb lettuce, washed and dried

1 large english cucumber, washed and trimmed of some of the peel

1 small or 1/2  medium spanish red onion (sliced thinly on a mandoline), to taste

4 to 5 inner stalks of celery and celery leaves

1 small head of fresh fennel (sliced thinly on a mandoline)

1 small can or jar of whole heart of palm (4 to 5 stalk to taste), drained

1 can of pitted black and/or green olives, drained

1 large ripe beefsteak tomato or 3-4 small ripe plum tomatoes

extra virgin olive oil, to taste

sea salt to taste, black pepper to taste

homemade or good quality store-bought red wine vinegar, to taste

dash of good quality anchovy paste (to taste, if desired)

feta cheese, crumbled (or healthy dose of shaved slices of parmigiano cheese or caciocavallo cheese)

additional salad item options (if desired):

hard-boiled egg (chopped)

crispy bacon (chopped)

marinated artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)

oven-roasted mushroom variety (chopped)

baby red & white creamier potatoes (boiled & chopped)

homemade rustic bread herb croutons (seasoned and toasted)

Using a cutting board, take each of the lettuce varieties and once the leaves are dried well, chop them into small bite size pieces. Place the chopped leaves into a very large deep bowl.

Once all the varieties of lettuce are chopped and in the bowl, begin to chop the cucumber, celery and tomatoes in the same fashion. Keep your chop size as uniform as possible.

Add these next three ingredients to the bowl. Take some of the thinly sliced fennel (set some aside for placing on top of the salad) and as much of the thinly sliced red onion slices (to your taste) and chop into smaller pieces and add to the bowl.

Lastly, take the heart of palm stalks and slice into thin rounds (add as much as you wish here), chop your pitted olives into small pieces and then add both of these ingredients to the bowl.

Carefully using your hands gently mix the ingredients in the bowl until well blended. At this point you can add any more items you wish (see list above or be creative and add your own favorite salad items.) Very gently using your hands blend well.

Set aside in the refrigerator until about 15 minutes before serving. To dress this beautiful insalata, start with a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good amount of red wine vinegar (stronger the vinegar, the less you need here so taste the vinegar and adjust accordingly.)

Season with sea salt and using large mixing spoons, gently mix the insalata until the dressing has coated every bit and piece. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed adding more of what is missing.

If using anchovy paste which we love in our insalata, take a small squeeze of the anchovy paste and blend it with some olive oil (beat with a fork until creamy), this allows the paste to spread it’s flavor evenly throughout the insalata when added to the mix. Blend well after the addition and adjust for final taste.

Place the dressed insalata on a large flat serving platter or large deep bowl and lay the remaining fresh fennel slices across the top. top with the crumbled feta cheese or shaved slices of parmigiano cheese or caciocavallo cheese.

Serve immediately with some homemade herb-seasoned croutons on the side and enjoy!cucinadimammina_insalata tritata_06


Note: Photography by Annette Venditti & Daniel Venditti

Buon Appetito!







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