“This is the most amazing salad I’ve ever had,” I recall saying as my sister and I dined at a tiny “hole in the wall” restaurant in Florence, Italy back in 2003. To this day, I still adore and make my own from the pear walnut salad recipe that she and I cobbled together after coming home.
No matter whether I’ve had it with dinner or served it at a dinner party (or barbecue), I hear the same ooo’s and aah’s that erupted delightfully from us.
Inevitably, I’ll then hear, “This is so good… would you share the recipe with me?”
But over the past few days, I’ve been dreaming of Italy. It’s probably because Facebook reminded me of the trip the hubby and I took last year.
We spent 10 days road tripping across the Northern half of Italy eating our way through towns (and easily stayed 100% gluten free the whole time).
Here’s a quick screenshot from my Instagram feed…
I documented my meals (and treats) along the way.
Everything I ate was to-die-for delicious (and they do gluten free food waaaay better than us!). Fresh, full of flavor, and never once got sick.
One thing I’ve come to appreciate about more traditional Italian cooking as that they tend to focus on simplicity. The fewer the ingredients, the better.
And somehow it all tastes like heaven.
While I can certainly hold on to memories and pictures of our trips, I like to use food as a way to bring me back.
Even though this Italian Pear Walnut Salad was from my first adult trip to Italy, it has stayed with me all these years.
I hope that you will enjoy it just as much as I do!
Italian Pear Walnut Salad Recipe
My Italian Pear Walnut Salad recipe can be made in advance with one exception. You cannot cut the pear until you’re pretty much ready to mix and serve the salad.
Otherwise, the pear will brown.
Sure, you could squeeze lemon juice over it to help slow that process, but at the end of the day, you’re messing with the flavors of the salad.
The whole point of a salad like this is to be super fresh.
Feel free to assemble your greens and mix up your dressing.
But hold off on cutting the pear and fully dressing the salad until you’re ready to serve it.
The key to nailing this salad is to choose a pear that is not hard like a rock. That can be a challenge when much of the time, they’re sold like that.
So planning ahead would be key here. Allow the pear sit outside of the fridge for a couple of days on your countertop to ripen (not baking in the sun).
When you gently squeeze the pear, the flesh beneath the skin should have some give.
The softer the pear, the sweeter it ultimately is.
There’s no need to skin it… just dice it into bite-sized chunks.
Another point about the pear… ideally it should be organic. According to the Environmental Working Group’s updated Dirty Dozen list, pears are pretty loaded with pesticides. Unless you’re picking them fresh from a tree in your yard (like I do), then this extra splurge is worth it for your health.
As for the walnuts, I’ve made Pear Walnut Salad with both toasted and raw walnuts. I’ve even used pine nuts when I’ve somehow run out of walnuts.
If you’re looking for a good spot to buy gluten free nuts, Nuts.com is probably one of the best spots. And yes… it is important that loose items like nuts (seeds and legumes) all be marked gluten free since there’s a high risk for contamination.
The only piece of this salad that we “lost” was what cheese was used with the dish. My sister and I recall that it was a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese. Not too bold or tangy. But to this day, we’ve been unable to recall its name or even find anything similar here.
Nick and I even tried to eat at the same restaurant last year with the hopes that *maybe* the same dish was still on the menu 16 years later. No dice.
So if you want to add some cheese, you could add some parmesan or pecorino romano. I’ve tried both and they’re equally as good (and add a nice saltiness) if you’re able to tolerate dairy. You could also have it as an optional topping for those who want cheese.
Delicious Dishes to Pair With Italian Pear Walnut Salad
To make a complete meal, you can easily pair this pear walnut salad recipe with any of the following “main course” dishes:
Freshly made Basil Pesto served over gluten free pasta