Southern Italian seafood salad (Insalata di mare)

Seafood salad is served all over Italy: anywhere near the sea and with ready access to seafood, which is most of the country. This is also a traditional dish for Christmas Eve, but in the case of a hot day in Los Angeles, it’s the perfect light dinner. The “southern Italian” part is that seafood salads in the south of Italy are much simpler than elsewhere in Italy. They are often made of just marinated seafood on a simple salad with some bread to soak up the juices, with lots of lemon and a bit of the Mediterranean region—capers and olives.

This dish is about using seafood you can readily find. Don’t go from store to store trying to find mussels. Use what you can find.

This recipe serves about 4 people as a main course. Perhaps 6 people for an antipasto. This recipe needs to be started about 3 hours before serving.


  • About 2 pounds of good quality mollusks, for example:
    • Manila clams
    • Black or green lip mussels
  • About 2 pounds of uncooked non-mollusk seafood,for example (frozen is OK)
    • Small shelled shrimp
    • Squid bodies cut into ring
    • Squid tentacles cut in half (so each has four or so legs)
    • Bay scallops
    • Baby octopus
  • 2 lemons – 2 slices removed and the rest juiced into a bowl
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • Salt, pepper and chili flakes
  • 15 or so pitted Sicilian olives
  • 1 tablespoon of drained capers
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts or 1/2 a bag of frozen artichoke hearts (defrosted)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • Salad greens
  • Bread

Special equipment:

  • Lemon juicer
  • Colander
  • Slotted spoon
  • Flat-bottomed container with a locking lid for marinating
  • A small whisk


  1. Place the clams in a covered pot with cold water for about 1 hour and up to 2 hours. This will force the clams to expel their sand and grit.
  2. De-beard the mussels (not used in this recipe’s photo) by pulling off the black hairy outgrowth extending from between the top and bottom shell. Rub the exterior of the shells under cold water to remove as much growth on the shell as possible. Place in a bowl with ice to cover.
  3. Place all the non-mollusk seafood in a colander and rinse with cold water. If they are frozen, rinse every so often to defrost and let drain.
  4. Prepare both a pot with boiling salted water with a slice of lemon in a large pot and an ice-bath in a large bowl (stainless steel or ceramic).
  5. Plunge the non-mollusk seafood into the boiling water. Allow the water to come back to a boil and cook for 1 minute.
  6. With a slotted spoon, remove the seafood and lemon slice to the ice bath and let cool until it’s cold to the touch. Drain well and place in a container that will be used for marinating.
  7. Empty the pot used for boiling and rinse. Add the white wine to the pot with the second slice of lemon. Add the mollusks. Watching the pot carefully, bring to a boil until the shellfish begin to open. With the slotted spoon, remove the opened shellfish to a bowl. Let the rest of the shellfish to continue to cook and open. Remove the open shellfish and the lemon slice to the bowl as they open. Discard any clams and mussels that don’t open.
  8. When the shellfish is cool, add to the container for marinating – including the shells. Use the clam/mussel broth for another purpose or discard.
  9. With your hands, tear the olives apart and add to the container. Add the capers too. Slice the artichokes hearts into quarters and add.
  10. In a bowl, add the lemon juice, red-wine vinegar, olive olive and garlic. Season with a good pinch of salt, pepper and chili flakes. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  11. Whisk again and remove the garlic with the slotted spoon and discard.
  12. Add the marinade to the container with the seafood. Seal with the lid and flip over several times. Marinate at room temperature for about 1 hour.
  13. Arrange the salad greens on a platter and with a slotted spoon, serve the marinated seafood salad over the greens. Sprinkle the salad with the chopped parsley.
  14. Serve and let the diners spoon the salad to their own plates, and serve with a piece of bread.

Join the Conversation

  1. I love insalata di mare and I always prepare on Christmas Eve….yours looks delicious!

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