If you stop at pizza, pasta, salumi and cheese when you think of Italian food, you might be missing out on some of Italy’s best contributions to the table. Italian-inspired methods of cooking truly celebrate ingredients and coax out the best flavors from them, from the peppery bite of fresh arugula to the bitter-to-sweet transformation of broccoli rabe. We’ve rounded up our favorite types of Italian vegetables here, plus some recipe suggestions to use them in sides, salads, mains and more.
Explore a wide selection of fresh vegetables in your store.
If you’re not up trimming fresh artichokes, don’t let that stop you from cooking with them. Artichoke hearts are available frozen, jarred or canned. If you are working with fresh artichokes, the best way to keep them from browning is to drop cut, cleaned artichokes in a bowl of water with juice from half a lemon while you’re prepping the rest.
Punchy and peppery in flavor and yet delicate in texture, arugula is a palate-awakening addition to pair with rich flavors such as aged cheeses or prosciutto, or fruity, slightly acidic flavors like tart apples, citrus or pomegranate. The bright green color and bold flavor also makes it a strong replacement for basil in your next batch of pesto.
Also called baby broccoli, this tender green with long, thin stems is perfect for a last-minute weekday meal because it can be cooked in minutes. Like asparagus, it’s great steamed, sautéed, quickly roasted or served in salads raw — you can’t go wrong, just don’t get it confused with broccoli rabe (a similar-looking vegetable that requires an extra step).
Also known as rapini or broccoli raab, this robust green has tender edible leaves and florets. While naturally a little bitter, a culinary technique called blanching helps turn this vegetable tender and sweet. All it takes is submersing the broccoli rabe in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, then draining and “shocking” the greens in an ice water bath to retain its bright green color.
You may know celery as a necessary part of ants on a log, any crudités plate or as an aromatic starter for many soup and stew recipes, but celery can be the main star of your table, too, especially when it provides a welcome element of fresh crunch to a salad. (Try substituting ricotta salata, an aged ricotta, in place of feta in this recipe.)
It looks a little like celery with a bulb, but with a flavorful difference. Fennel has a slight flavor of anise with a juicy crunch. Most intense when eaten raw (thinly slice for salads), fennel turns meltingly tender when braised in stews. The bulb is the most edible part — while the stalks can be crunchy and just as delicious, they can be a little tough to eat. Fennel leaves, or fronds, make a beautiful and effortlessly fancy garnish to a finished dish.
Also known as Tuscan kale, dino kale or cavolo nero, this variety of kale can be more tender than other varieties of kale (though it can still benefit from a quick massage in Italian extra-virgin olive oil or lemon juice for easy-to-eat salads). Its sturdy nature holds up well in soups and is also great for make-ahead salads that won’t wilt as quickly as lettuce.
Much loved as hearty substitutes for burgers and other meaty mains, portobello mushrooms are especially wonderful to cook with due to their hearty texture and ability to adapt to many different flavor profiles. When buying portobellos, look for mushrooms that are firm and solid, and keep them dry in the refrigerator when you get home. (Don’t toss the stems — they’re perfectly edible and turn tender when cooked.)
When it comes to radicchio, it’s all about playing with its inherently bitter flavor and gorgeous purple color. Radicchio really shines when paired with sweet, fruity flavors like pears and grapes, or a fruit-forward balsamic vinegar.