How to Make Italian Salsa Verde ("Green Sauce")

Italian Salsa Verde with bread
Italian Salsa Verde with bread. The Picture Pantry/Getty Images
  • 20 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: About 1 cup (serves 1-2)

Salsa verde (which translates literally as: "green sauce") is a magical condiment that transforms any number of otherwise bland dishes. It adds a wonderful, piquant zest to grilled or stewed fish, boiled or grilled meats, vegetable dishes, and boiled or baked potatoes. It can also be served as a dipping sauce with raw vegetables or crusty bread, or spooned over hard-boiled egg halves as an appetizer or party finger food.

It is a cold, no-cook sauce made by finely chopping fresh flat-leaf parsley (and sometimes other fresh green herbs as well) together with garlic, capers, and anchovies. Sometimes it is thickened with breadcrumbs or cubed bread that has been soaked in fresh lemon juice or vinegar. Everything is then emulsified together with some extra-virgin olive oil. Other optional ingredients include hard-boiled eggs, mustard, and tuna. 

Note that the salsa verde of Italy has nothing to do with the Mexican salsa verde (made with tomatillos) or the salsa verde of Spain (made with fish stock and fried garlic and thickened with flour). They just all happen to have the same name. It is somewhat similar to Argentinian chimichurri, a green sauce often served with grilled meats, but again, the ingredients and origins are different.

It is the traditional accompaniment for a number of classic Italian dishes, including bollito misto alla piemontese (Piedmont-style boiled dinner) and caponata di pesce (fish salad).

[Edited by Danette St. Onge]

What You'll Need

  • 2 ounces (50 g) anchovy fillets, rinsed and boned
  • 1 ounce capers (25 g, or about 2 tablespoons; I prefer salted to vinegar-packed), rinsed, soaked briefly in warm water, and drained well
  • 1 ounce (25 g) canned olive oil-packed yellowfin tuna (optional, but some include it)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • Vinegar or fresh-squeezed lemon juice, to taste - about 1/4 to 1/3 cup, perhaps more
  • Fine sea salt, to taste 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh mint, basil, or thyme, minced (garnish optional)

How to Make It

Combine the solid ingredients and blend them with the vinegar, whirring the blender until the leaves are finely minced and the texture is fairly creamy. At this point blend in the olive oil as well, using short bursts lest it begin to emulsify the way it does when used to make home-made mayonnaise, and impart an unusual creamy yellow-green color to the sauce. Check seasoning, and it's ready.The consistency of the sauce should be fairly liquid, though not watery; add a little broth if need be. If you chose not to include the tuna, increase the capers and anchovies by a proportionate amount. You can also, if you want a firmer sauce, soak some Italian bread in vinegar, press it dry, and blend it into the sauce. Keep in mind that the primary ingredient should be in any case parsley, perhaps with a minor addition of other fresh herbs.