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Insalata Russa - Russian Salad

My Italian mother-in-law prepares this Italian dish as it was handed down to her, originally from her grandfather's Florentine aunt. Why is it called Russian Salas? My mother-in-law believes the recipe is based on a dish that the Russian emigres in Florence prepared over a hundred years ago and which passed into Italian cooking to become a favorite. It is really good, especially in the summer as it is served cold. You can leave out the tuna if you want or add in sliced black olives. Finally, this should be prepared ahead so that the flavors get a chance to blend overnight or a few hours in the fridge.

Makes:6-8 servings


  • 1/4 lb. string beans, cleaned
  • 2 carrots, whole
  • 2 medium potatoes, whole
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1 can of tuna, well drained (optional)
  • about 1 cup mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced (optional)
  1. Trim and wash string beans. Fill a large saucepan two-thirds with water. Bring water to a boil, add salt and the string beans, carrots and potatoes.
  2. Cook 5-8 mins over high heat, test string beans and carrots and remove when tender but still firm. Set them to drain and cool in a colander. Cook potatoes an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from water and let all vegetables cool a bit.
  3. Meanwhile in a separate saucepan, heat water and cook peas until tender. Drain and also let cool.
  4. Once all vegetables are cool, peel the potatoes, and finely dice along with carrots and string beans. Place diced vegetables, including peas, in a large bowl. Add half of the capers and all of the drained tuna.
  5. Gently mix in 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Keep adding more mayonnaise until all of the vegetables are well covered in mayonnaise without them seeming to be swimming in it. (I say this because I am estimating the quantity; I usually add a 1-2 tbsp at a time until the consistency seems right... if you think it is not enough, keep adding until it seems right to you). Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Using the back of your spoon, flatten out the top and compress ingredients into the bowl. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  7. To serve you can turn the salad over onto a platter, it should keep the shape of the bowl or you can leave it in the bowl. Garnish the top with the remaining capers and arrange the slices of hard-cooked eggs in a circle on top or if on a platter, around the base of the salad. Serve slightly chilled.

Buon appetito!

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