Are you a fan of Italian cuisine? If so, then you know that every delicious dish is incomplete without the perfect contorni.
Contorni may not be the most glamorous part of any meal – or even get much recognition – but they really do add something special to complete your plate and bring each ingredient into harmony.
From roasted vegetables to creamy sauces, learn all about these tasty sides in our article on contorni:
- What they are.
- How to make them.
- Why they’re important for achieving balanced flavor profiles with traditional Italian dishes and recipes.
Whether you’re new to cooking Italian food or an experienced home chef looking for some fresh ideas, this article has something for everyone!
What Is Contorni?
The term “contorni” is an Italian word that translates to “side dishes” in English. It is a plural noun derived from the singular term “contorno.” In Italian cuisine, contorni refers to the variety of side dishes or accompaniments served alongside the main course.
The single term “contorno” specifically means “side dish” in Italian. It is used to describe the individual serving of a side dish that complements and enhances the flavors of the main dish.
These contorni can consist of a range of preparations, including cooked vegetables, salads, grains, or other flavorful accompaniments.
14 Contorni Recipes to Try
Here are 14 contorni (Italian side dishes) recipes that you might want to try:
1. Grilled Vegetables
A classic side dish that is a popular choice at Italian restaurants, grilled vegetables add flavor and nutrition to any meal. They are usually served with meat or fish as part of the main course or as a stand-alone side dish.
Commonly used in this contorni recipe are regular broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and onions. All these vegetables are marinated in olive oil and Parmesan cheese for a delicious, smoky flavor.
2. Pan-Fried Eggplant With Tomato Sauce
This Italian classic is a perfect side dish that will complement any meal. The eggplants are lightly fried until tender and coated in a tangy tomato sauce. Pair this dish with your favorite vegetable or chicken broth for an authentic experience.
3. Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
A great way to introduce a fresh twist into any meal is with shaved brussels sprouts salad. This contorno recipe calls for thinly slicing the brussels sprouts and combining them with roasted nuts, cranberries, and citrus fruits, all tossed in a light olive oil vinaigrette.
It’s a great way to bring out the sweetness of these bitter vegetables and make them an enjoyable part of any meal.
4. Sautéed Broccoli Rabe
A staple at Italian restaurants, sautéed broccoli rabe is a quick and easy contorno recipe that packs a lot of flavor.
Regular broccoli rabe is cooked with olive oil and garlic and topped with Parmesan cheese for an extra burst of flavor. This dish pairs well with any main course or can be enjoyed on its own as a light side dish.
5. Cannellini Beans Garlic
Cannellini beans are a fantastic source of protein and fiber, making this contorno dish a nutritious accompaniment to any meal.
In this recipe, the beans are cooked in garlic and olive oil until they become creamy and delicious. The flavor is elevated with Parmesan cheese for an additional layer of flavor.
6. Potato Croquettes
Potato croquettes are a favorite at Italian restaurants, especially when served as part of a main course or as a side.
7. Roasted Italian Cauliflower
Roasted cauliflower enhances its natural sweetness and nuttiness, making it perfect with any meal.
This contorno dish calls for roasting Italian cauliflower with garlic and olive oil before topping it off with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. The result is a flavorful, crunchy side that goes well with virtually any main course.
Artichoke hearts can be used in many dishes, but this contorno recipe brings out their rich flavor in a unique way.
The artichoke hearts are boiled before they’re tossed with garlic, vinegar, and a zesty lemon dressing. This dish is a great accompaniment to any main course, or it can be served as its own flavorful side dish.
9. Zucchini Salad
Zucchini salad, a beloved contorno in Italian restaurants, boasts a medley of fresh zucchini drizzled with luscious olive oil and delicately seasoned with oregano or parsley.
This delightful accompaniment perfectly complements a variety of dishes, from succulent meats and fish to delectable pasta creations. Its exquisite flavors are sure to tantalize your taste buds.
10. Oven-Roasted Onions
Oven-roasted onions are a fantastic side dish served as a contorno at Italian restaurants. Made with onions, olive oil, and herbs like oregano or thyme, they bring an abundance of flavor to complement any main course. Whether enjoyed as an appetizer, snack, or part of the meal, they are guaranteed to satisfy.
11. Sweet Corn on the Cob
A classic Italian restaurant side, sweet corn on the cob is a delicious accompaniment to any main course. The sweetness of the corn contrasts beautifully with savory dishes, providing an excellent balance of flavors.
This recipe uses fresh ingredients to enhance the natural sweetness of corn and create a side that’s both healthy and satisfying. If you’re curious about how to prepare this delightful side, be sure to check out the recipe here.
12. Gourmet Carrots
Carrots might not be the first ingredient you think of when imagining an Italian feast, but this gourmet carrot recipe might just change your mind.
Prepared with herbs and spices, this dish enhances the natural sweetness of carrots with a gourmet twist. Explore more about this vibrant and flavorful side dish here.
13. Hibachi Fried Rice
While not traditionally Italian, hibachi fried rice can add an exciting twist to your meal. this recipe transforms simple ingredients into a flavorful and satisfying side dish.
This dish’s unique flavors will leave you craving more. Discover the full recipe and preparation details here.
14. Feta Cheese Pasta Salad
A perfect complement to any Italian meal, this feta cheese pasta salad is refreshing, tangy, and packed with flavor.
Combining the creaminess of feta cheese with the freshness of vegetables, this pasta salad is a real crowd-pleaser. Find out how to bring this delightful dish to your table here.
So, What Does Contorni Mean?
Contorni, also known as side dishes, is an awesome way to spice up any meal with delicious flavors and exciting variety. From yummy roasted Italian cauliflower to delicious hibachi fried rice, there are so many contorno recipes to choose from. They can totally complement a variety of main courses!
Whether you’re looking for something healthy and nutritious or indulgent and flavorful, these contorni recipes have something for everyone to enjoy.
So, go ahead and play around with various flavors and ingredients to whip up your very own contorni recipes that will elevate your meals to a whole new level!