This Mediterranean eggplant salad is the perfect side dish for summer. With the nice addition of heirloom tomatoes, ricotta, fresh herbs, and a touch of crunchiness from the toasted pine nuts.
Why We Love This Recipe
We love summer. Here in Italy, summer means lots of grilled vegetables. There’s no barbecue, gathering, or cookout without a good dose of grilled eggplants, bell peppers, onions, zucchini, and other summer veggies.
I made this grilled eggplant salad tossing all my favorites. From the fresh basil and mint from my garden to the ricotta salata a friend brought for us from Sicily.
Adding the toasted pine nuts was just a last-minute idea and a very Sicilian touch!
Even though this grilled eggplant salad is presented as a side dish, we often enjoy it as a main meal with homemade bread.
Believe me, you won’t need anything more for a light and fulfilling dinner. Well…maybe a glass or two of prosecco.
The ingredients are simple, fresh, and bright vegetables. They are also customizable so you can adjust the recipe easily. Let’s see what you need to make this delicious Mediterranean eggplant salad…
The Ingredients Needed
- EGGPLANT – I used Sicilian eggplant but any similar type is also fine. Grill them and then let them cool before making the recipe.
- TOMATOES – For this recipe, I used a bunch of heirloom cherry and beefsteak tomatoes from our garden, but feel free to use any type available where you live.
- RICOTTA SALATA – If you find ricotta salata at the grocery store, try it and let me know if you like it. Otherwise use Feta or goat cheese or any other fresh cheese you have available.
- PINE NUTS – Those are the star of this salad, really, it adds a nice touch and also make this salad oh-so-Sicilian!
- OLIVE OIL – Extra virgin olive oil is what I use always for my salads because the flavor is a lot better.
- BALSAMIC VINEGAR – Love the sweet and sour touch of this vinegar. If you don’t have it, mix a little bit of sugar with the regular vinegar, just to balance the flavors a little bit.
Related: Is balsamic vinegar gluten-free?
- GARLIC – You can leave it and enjoy it with your salad or just discard it right after mixing the eggplants with the other ingredients.
- HERBS – Use the mix you prefer or have in hand. I used chopped basil, oregano, parsley, and some mint for a fresh touch.
- SALT – Depending on the cheese you’ll use, just keep in mind to not add so much before adding the cheese. You can adjust the taste at the end.
How To Make Mediterranean Eggplant Salad
Slice eggplant into 3/16″ (0,5cm) thick slices. Place them into a pasta colander in layers adding salt in between. Let them purge for at least 2 hours.
Give a good rinse to the eggplant with cold water, then pat them dry with a paper towel or a clean kitchen cloth.
Brush the slices with a little bit of olive oil and grill them on both sides until nicely charred and tender (about 8 minutes per side). Place them on a plate and let them cool completely.
Marinate the eggplant:
- Place grilled eggplant in a bowl.
- Add some extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic.
- Chop the fresh herbs and add them to the bowl.
- Mix to coat and let everything marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- On a large serving plate add the eggplant in a layer (discard the garlic slices if you don’t want them in your salad).
- Place tomatoes, and season with salt to taste, add more chopped herbs if you want to.
- Generously drizzle more extra virgin olive oil, then pour a bit more balsamic vinegar.
- Sprinkle with the ricotta salata and the pine nuts and serve.
What To Serve With
This insalata is a wonderful side for many main dishes but interesting and flavorful enough to stand on its own and be served as a light meal with some crusty bread. Here are some suggestions of Italian mains that are terrific to pair with this recipe:
- Italian Meatballs. Juicy pork meatballs made with the traditional and authentic recipe.
- Leftovers Fried Spaghetti. If you want to stay on the vegetarian side, try this amazing recipe.
- Beef Braciole. Simmered in a luscious tomato sauce, this traditional recipe from Puglia is a keeper.
- Chicken Puttanesca. A spin on the traditional pasta dish, this juicy chicken recipe is the best prep meal for busy days.
How To Store
If you want to really enjoy the juicy, ripe fresh tomatoes, best serve this Mediterranean eggplant salad freshly made.
But honestly, there’s also something about marinated fresh vegetables that is just beyond delicious, so I won’t judge if you decide to make this salad ahead…after all, I do that all the time!
To store this salad, place it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge where it can last up to 3 days.
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- Cucumber tomato salad. A creamy and simple salad you can make in just 10 minutes!
- Panzanella. The authentic recipe for one of the most famous Italian salads.
- Insalata di Riso. Traditional rice salad with tuna and pickled vegetables.
Mediterranean Eggplant Salad
- 3 medium sicilian eggplants (about 1.8lb/800g)
- 1 ½ lb tomatoes (cut into slices, halves, or chunks.)
- ⅔ cup ricotta salata (read notes)
- ⅓ cup pine nuts (toasted)
- Extra virgin olive oil (as needed)
- Modena balsamic vinegar (as needed)
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled and finely sliced)
- 1 bunch parsley, basil, oregano, and mint leaves ( finely chopped)
- salt (to taste)
- Cut eggplant into 3/16" (0,5 cm) thick slices.
- Place them into a pasta colander in layers adding salt in between. Let them purge for at least 2 hours.
- Give a good rinse with cold water, then pat dry each slice with a paper towel or a clean kitchen cloth.
- Brush the eggplant slices with a little bit of olive oil and grill them on both sides until charred and tender (about 10 minutes).
- Place in a bowl and allow to cool down completely.
- Add some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and fresh herbs.
- Toss for 1 minute and let it sit for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- In a large serving plate add the eggplant first.
- Distribute the tomatoes and season with salt.
- Generously drizzle more extra virgin olive oil, then add a bit more or balsamic vinegar.
- Sprinkle the ricotta salata on top, then the pine nuts, and serve.
- You can use other types of cheese to make this salad. Fresh mozzarella, feta, or goat cheese are all good substitutes.
- If you don’t like the taste of fresh garlic, discard it once the eggplants have marinated.
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