First Day in Rome Salad

First Day in Rome Salad, or “Primo Giorno Romano” is the name given this light and fresh salad by my family on the first day we arrived in Rome on our last trip to Europe. This is one of those recipes that starts out as a quick job to get something quick, yet light on the table for supper. It turns out being something that sticks in the memory and follows you home from your travels and becomes a summertime favourite.

Here’s the story behind this particular salad:

A couple years back my family and I took a trip to Italy beginning with 5 days in Rome. Once we landed and got settled in to the apartment we had time to get our bearings and seek out some supplies. It having been a day of heavy travel and jet lag was setting in; none of us wanted something heavy to eat, especially in the mid-June heat. We decided on a trip to one of the local open-air markets to collect a mash-up dinner of light ingredients. The remainder of the trip down the west coast of the Italian Boot saw several fond references to the “first day in Rome” salad that was born here on a hot, jet lagged evening in June….

What we do instead of eating in restaurants for every meal (costly and sometimes disappointing), we gather up a collection of whatever looks good from the local markets and end up with a light makeshift picnic. This salad is an incarnation of that traveling food strategy. In this case, we had an apartment in central Rome with a decently appointed kitchen at our disposal, so much of the basics were already there.

Once back at base with lettuce, a few fresh vegetables, prosciutto and some pistachios, it was time to explore the pantry and see what was on hand to use for a quick salad. I’ll state for the record, I love Italy as a country; the food and the Italians’ approach to life in general make me wish I could live there. I’ve stayed in rental suites in several countries, including my own, and the quality of basic kitchen staples in Italy is by far the most rewarding.

a quick turn through the pantry resulted in the salad you see described below.

first day in Rome salad

First Day in Rome Salad

"Primo Giorno Romano" is the name given this light and fresh salad by my family on the first day we arrived in Rome on our last trip to Europe.
Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Italian


  • Salad bowl, frying pan


Building the salad – in the bowl

  • 1 head butter crunch lettuce
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 whole cucumber
  • 10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes Roma tomatoes would work as well; about 4-6
  • 1/2 cup parsley chopped

The dressing

  • 2/3 cup oilve oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt or to taste
  • 1 pinch pepper or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp thyme fresh or dry, whichever you have on hand.
  • 1/2 tsp oregano fresh or dry, whichever you have on hand

The toppers

  • 125 grams prosciutto diced into 1/4"
  • 1 cup roasted pistachios salted roasted is best here


Fill the bowl…

  • Chop the lettuces, tomatoes, parsley and cucumber however you like; (I'm partial to a rough chop, or "rustico" myself…) place them all together in a large salad bowl.

Whip up the dressing

  • Add the oil, vinegar, herbs and S&P into a sealable container and seal it
  • Shake it well until the dressing is well emulsified
  • Drizzle it over the contents of the bowl and mix thoroughly.

Crisp up the prosciutto

  • Heat up a medium sized skillet to medium-high heat
  • Dice the prosciutto into 1/4" squares and fry in the skillet for about 5-6 minutes (or until desired crispness is reached)
  • Once sufficiently fried, place the fried prosciutto on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil

It all comes together….

  • Plate the salad and sprinkle the pistachios over the top
  • Sprinkle the fried prosciutto over the top as a crisp, warm finisher.



The simplicity of this salad is purely up to the maker;  you can add whatever you like or have on hand, but sometimes less is more.
In the accompanying video that goes with this recipe, I decided to cut the olive oil with a drizzle of roasted garlic oil; I highly recommend it.
Keyword dairy free, gluten free

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