Yesterday morning while enjoying my morning coffee, I opened Instagram to start scrolling through my feed. One of my favorite Instagram feeds belongs to Elizabeth Minchilli who lives in Rome. She frequently records Instagram stories about her daily life, always making sure to tag the establishments where she dines and shops. This, of course, makes sense since Elizabeth makes a living conducting tours, writing travel apps, and authoring books about where to eat and what to see in Italy. In short, she is an excellent resource if you are planning a trip to Italy, particularly Rome. Yesterday, in Elizabeth’s Instagram stories, she recorded a clip of food she was buying at Bar La Licata and I took note because it’s a dish I had completely forgotten about, but absolutely adore: arugula salad with roast beef and Parmigiano. After a quick trip to the grocery store, lunch was sorted.
In Italian, this dish is called carpaccio di manzo con rughetta e grana. It’s a simple and flavorful salad that can be eaten year-round, but it’s especially perfect for the hot days of summer and these still-warm days of early fall, when we want to eat light but still feel satisfied. I’m not the biggest fan of eating raw meat, but I do like my beef with a good amount of pink in the center, so to make this, I used roast beef. My local grocery store cooks their roast beef in-house and it’s always prepared medium-rare and perfectly seasoned. It’s one of my favorite grocery store shortcuts that I turn to often for my lunches. Traditionally, this salad only has arugula as the greens base, but I personalized my salad by adding radicchio, thinly sliced fresh finocchio (fennel), and my favorite Kumato cherry tomatoes, all of which complement the flavors and textures of arugula, roast beef, and Parmigiano. If you don’t like arugula or radicchio, you could substitute green leaf, bibb, or romaine lettuces and still have a tasty salad. I can also see this salad working beautifully with frisée and Belgian endive. The next time I make this, I may take advantage of winter squash season and add in a few cubes of roasted butternut squash for even more color and flavor.
All the components of this salad have delicate textures but bold flavors that pair beautifully together. Arugula leaves are tender and have a pepper-like bite; the striated red and white leaves of radicchio add pleasant bitterness; thinly sliced fennel is crisp with a hint of licorice, and the cherry tomatoes add a pop of sweetness. Since the roast beef is served thinly sliced and eaten chilled, the texture and flavor is close to that of carpaccio. A light and simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt seasons the salad with fresh, bright flavor that doesn’t overpower any of the ingredients. Be sure to spritz some lemon juice on top of the roast beef: the bright acidity of lemon juice cuts the roast beef’s richness. A final flourish of thinly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano on top of the salad adds an intense savoriness that only Parmigiano can do. This is a salad that can easily feed one person or a large group and it looks best served on a platter, as it is a salad that needs to spread out for the most attractive visual impact. It is now a salad I consider unforgettable.
Arugula Salad with Roast Beef + Parmigiano
To ensure the best flavors and textures, make sure all the ingredients are at their freshest. There isn’t a set recipe for this salad, so instead, I am giving you the list of ingredients followed by guidelines on assembly. This salad can be made to serve one person or a large group. The important thing to remember is to make sure you do not drown the salad in olive oil and lemon juice, or over-season it with salt. You want just enough of those ingredients to allow the flavors of the salad components to taste like themselves without being overpowered.
- Arugula, washed and dried thoroughly
- Radicchio, washed and dried thoroughly, and torn into large pieces, optional
- Fennel bulb, sliced paper-thin (a mandoline works well for this task), optional
- Cherry tomatoes (any variety you like), washed, dried, and halved, optional
- Roast beef, thinly sliced (not shaved), torn into medium pieces if slices are large
- Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grana Padano), thinly shaved from a wedge (a vegetable peeler works for this task)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Choose a platter or shallow serving bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients without crowding. This is a salad that needs to spread out for the best visual impact.
- Place the arugula, radicchio, sliced fennel, and cherry tomatoes on the platter first. Season lightly with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Gently toss the salad greens and re-arrange them in an even layer.
- I generally like to use twice the amount of salad greens as beef.
- Drape the roast beef slices lightly and randomly over the salad greens in one layer, making sure not to cover the salad greens completely. Spritz a small amount of lemon juice over the roast beef slices.
- Scatter shavings of the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top of the salad.
- Drizzle a light amount of olive oil over the salad and serve immediately.