Summer Nostalgia: What Italians are eating to beat the summer heat
Summer Nostalgia: What Italians are eating to beat the summer heat
Posted on
May 17, 2024

When I think of Italian summer, I think of long hazy days at sea, lounging under our favorite striped umbrellas, island hopping from north to south, and taking a much-needed break from the chaotic rhymes and emotions of life. But in traditional Italian fashion, no season or holiday is complete without a few recipes that symbolize the occasion. From seasonal tomatoes and peaches to freshly caught clams and simple cocktails, we couldn’t live without some iconic and nostalgic summer recipes that make the heat just that more bearable. 

Discover six seasonal plates to add into your diet this summer to embrace la dolce vita.  

Le Pesche al Vino (Wine with peaches) 

This recipe isn’t more than two ingredients, but the taste is worth a thousand words. Forget making a peach pie and slice up nature’s candy for a twist on your favorite glass of cold wine. A recipe amongst our grandparents, select your wine of choice, my preference is white but some recipes call for red wine or even a sparkling wine, pour the bottle into a large pitcher and dump in slices of two to three yellow peaches (hint: the more the merrier). Let the flavors mend together for two to three hours in the refrigerator, and you’re left with an Italian summer alcoholic delicacy. 

Insalata di Riso 

One of my favorite simple summer recipes is insalata di riso AKA rice salad, which is a classic Italian summer dish you will find in almost any refrigerator or beach cooler. Fresh, light, and versatile, it is perfect for picnics, lunches at sea, and casual dinner gatherings. The best part is, there is no “right” way of making this dish! Starting with chilled rice, my favorite to use is Basmati. Mix in some of your favorite vegetables of choice like corn, sliced cherry tomatoes, string beans, red onions, or whatever you have leftover in your fridge. Some recipes call for hard-boiled eggs, while others call for mozzarella balls and olive oil-soaked tuna filets. Don’t forget to douse the concoction in fresh olive oil, salt, and lemon to taste! 

Spaghetti alle vongole (Spaghetti with clams) 

Is there anything more Italian than a pausa (break) and dipping into a hefty dish of spaghetti and clams? Even with the heat, Italians can’t entirely part ways with a pasta dish! Spaghetti alle vongole is a summertime classic that features spaghetti tossed with freshly caught clams, garlic, white wine, and parsley. Originating from coastal regions of Italy, particularly Naples and the surrounding areas like the Amalfi Coast, this dish beautifully honors the flavors of the sea and the essence of Italian coastal living. 


A step up from the classic bruschetta, Panzanella hails from Tuscany where this refreshing dish was born out of necessity when people sought to make use of stale bread and fresh ingredients during hot summer months. Made with stale bread soaked in water and vinegar, this salad-like dish is then tossed with ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and basil, of course, tossed in olive oil and a pinch of salt for taste. Traditionally seen as a peasant dish, it has gained popularity and is now enjoyed across Italy and beyond, appreciated for its simplicity in preparation, freshness, and vibrant flavors.


Not entirely gelato or cake, this classic Italian dessert is what I look forward to all year long. Translating to “half-cold” or “half-frozen,” semifreddo is the perfect happy medium between ice cream, tarts, and mousse. The base flavor of semifreddo ranges from vanilla and chocolate to flavors with fresh fruit or exclusive liqueurs, garnished with fresh fruits, chocolate sauces, or whipped creams. Its creamy texture and rich flavor make it a popular dessert choice, especially during warmer months, and it is my ultimate go-to for a late summer lunch or evening dinner party paired with fresh apricots, blueberries, and strawberries for a refreshing sweet punch. 

Melone & prosciutto crudo (Melon + raw ham) 

Summer is my favorite season for fruit: think citrus, juicy watermelon, cherries, peaches, and of course, melon. Although the origin story of this simple seasonal dish has ancient origins, melone & prosciutto (melon and raw ham) have popularity originating especially in Italy.  Typically served for summer appetizers, light dishes, and afternoon snacks. For the highest quality, opt for prosciutto from Parma which is aged at least 24 months. Pair it with slices of not-over-ripe white melon or orange cantaloupe for the perfect combination of sweet and salty. 

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Words by Gabriela R. Proietti

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