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Reinforcement salad: a traditional Neapolitan Christmas dish

Reinforcement salad

The reinforcement salad is a side dish based on papacelle, cauliflower, olives and spring onions: one of the most popular Christmas recipes of the Neapolitan tradition.

The reinforcement salad is a course of the Christmas tradition of Naples and its surroundings. It is a rich side dish prepared with boiled cauliflower, gherkins, green olives, onions, peppers and salted anchovies, and then seasoned with good extra virgin olive oil, fine salt and vinegar.

This salad owes its name to the fact that it was once served during Christmas Eve dinner, when meat was traditionally not eaten, and therefore it was necessary to reinforce lighter courses with something richer. According to others, however, the reinforcement salad is so called because it was enriched with ingredients as the festivities continued and the leftovers increased.

Try to include it in your Christmas lunch, this delicious salad will please all your guests: here is the recipe for the Neapolitan reinforcement salad!

Reinforcement salad
Reinforcement salad

Preparation of the Neapolitan salad

  1. To prepare your salad, clean the cauliflower thoroughly, removing the outer leaves and stem. Cut the florets into pieces and then boil them in salted water for about ten minutes; the cauliflower should be tender but still firm, so it shouldn't fall apart under the fork.
  2. Let the vegetables cool down, then add them in a large bowl to the papacelle – or pickled sweet peppers – cut into strips and all the other ingredients (olives, gherkins, spring onions, anchovies and capers).
  3. Dress the salad with good extra virgin olive oil, a little fine salt but do not overdo it (there are already capers and anchovies) and some white or red wine vinegar, as you like.
  4. Serve your side salad during Christmas dinner or lunch. Bon appetit !

And here is a video recipe to follow all the steps and prepare the best reinforced salad:

We recommend keeping it in the fridge , in a special container, for a couple of days. Unlike traditional leafy green salads, the day after preparation this salad will reach its maximum flavor (and sapidity ).

And if you liked this traditional Campania Christmas salad, try all our recipes for Christmas !


We recommend consuming the salad at the moment, given the presence of many pickled ingredients. However, you can also keep it for 1-2 days in the fridge , inside a container with a special lid. We do not recommend freezing in the freezer.

History and variants of the reinforcement salad

According to some sources, the first versions of this dish date back to the 1800s: in the book Cucina theoretical-practical (1839) , by the Neapolitan cook and scholar Ippolito Cavalcanti , mention is made of the progenitor of all Christmas salads, the caponata marinara. Typical of aristocratic canteens, it was then reworked by popular cuisine

As already mentioned, the origin of the name is uncertain, or rather, twofold. On the one hand, for each day of the Christmas period, it was enriched with new leftovers that went precisely to reinforce the side dish. In fact, according to tradition, this salad accompanies the entire Christmas period, until New Year's Eve: it therefore starts with cauliflower, papacelle, olives, capers and anchovies and is added gradually.

Another thesis would argue that vinegar, capers and anchovies reinforce the taste of this cauliflower-based side dish.

But that's not all: there are also those who see the origin of the name in the fact that this dish reinforces – and therefore stimulates – the appetite and the lean dinner that tradition requires for Christmas Eve dinner.

The most popular variant includes the addition of fried cod : if added the day before eating it, or in any case in advance, it will be much tastier.

READ ALSO: Side dishes for Christmas: 10 ideas that will save your dinner

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