Traditional Italian Salsa Verde is a fresh zesty parsley sauce that pairs beautifully with meats, poultry or seafood, as well as daubed on bruschetta or pizzas. There are regional variations throughout Italy. Similar to Sicilian Salmriglio sauce and not unlike the popular Chimichurri sauce, no doubt brought to South America with Italian immigrants in the 19th century, served with grilled meats in Argentine restaurants. Greek and Roman recipes for salsa Verde date back to the third century BC. This is a sauce that is firmly rooted in the bright flavors of the Mediterranean.
Using a mortar and pestle mirrors a more traditional salsa verde with a rich fresh green color and well worth the effort. However pulsing the salsa in a food processor will produce a perfectly respectable, if slightly smoother, salsa verde in minutes.
Traditional Italian Salsa Verde Makes about 1 cup
- 1 cup firmly packed Italian parsley leaves, very finely minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, very finely minced
- 4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped (or substitute 1 tablespoon fish sauce; see note)
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of red chile flakes (optional)
- 6 walnut halves or 2 tablespoons minced pine nuts (optional)
- 1 tablespoon capers, well rinsed
Place the parsley, garlic, anchovy fillets (or fish sauce), red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in mortar (or food processor) and grind (or pulse) together until the ingredients are well combined.
Add a couple tablespoons of the olive oil and grind (or pulse) until the mixture begins to come together.
Add the remaining olive oil in a slow steady stream as you continue to grind or blend with the processor running. Add the chile flakes (if using), and walnuts or pine nuts (if using) and grind (or pulse) until the sauce is emulsified. Lastly add the capers and briefly grind (or pulse) just to incorporate them into the salsa. Taste and add additional salt to your liking.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Serve chilled, giving the salsa a good stir just before serving.
Note: Substituting fish sauce (nam pla) for anchovies may be unconventional, but I kid you not, it is every bit as good and in some cases better than anchovies when used in small quantities for various applications. The slightly fermented taste discretely notches up flavor and delivers a heightened taste bite without fanfare!