icon Giardiniera

Giardiniera are Italo-American pickled vegetables in vinegar or oil. This type of pickled vegetables originated in Italy, where they are called sottaceti ( = below, aceto = vinegar) or sottoli (olio = vegetable oil). Pickling is a method of food preservation by anaerobic

Various types of pickled Italian vegetables, sottaceti.
Credit to Leonardo Romanelli's food blog.
fermentation that produces lactic acid. The aim is to lower the pH of the envioronment to less that 4.6, which is sufficient to eliminate most of harmful bacteria. Pickled vegetables can stay this way for years without losing their nutritional qualities. To increase the antibacterial capacity of the solution, herbs and spice are sometimes added, including mustard seeds, garlic, cinnamon or cloves. The natural fermentation at room temperature then produces the typical acidity. The most common method, however, remains the preservation by adding vinegar to instantly lower the pH of the environment, hence the name.

Czech-style pickled cucumbers.
Pickling by lactic fermentation is by no means limited to Italy. Across the Alps, the Czech Kvašáky is an example of Czech-style Giardiniera made from cucumbers, horseradish, dill, peppercorns, and the leaves of the sour-cherry tree. They are covered with salted water is poured over them, a lactic fermentation starts. They are ready in several weeks.

Italian antipasto dish of cheese and pickled sottaceti.
In Italy, sottaceti are usually vegetables that have been pickled individually, or as a combination of onions, celery, zucchini, carrots, and cauliflower. In either case, they are served as part of antipasto dishes. When Italian immigration introduced sottaceti to the United States, the character of the dish changed. In the United States, Giardiniera is commonly available in traditional or spicy varieties. It is found where Italo-Americans are found: New York, Chicago and New Orleans.

Italian-style beef sandwich from Chicago
with Giardiniera.
Chicago Giardiniera is used as a condiment, typically as a topping on Italian-style beef sandwiches. This sandwich originated in in the Italian enclaves of Chicago during the Great Depression. It is a delicious, drippy, messy affair sold today in hundreds of holes-in-the-wall around Chicago, and rarely found outside of the city. The recipe most likely did not originate in Italy, as Italian panini with roasted beef are not very common, although they do exist. Panino arrosto di manzo

Panino arrosto di manzo con salsa basilico,
Roastbeef Sandwich With Basil Sauce in Milan.
con salsa basilico
can be found in Milan, for instance. But it is far more likely, that the Chicago sandwich topped with Giardiniera originated in America as a fusion of two dishes. The first dish is obviously the sottoli, which the immigrants knew from the old country. The second one may have been an American sandwich called the "French Dip", a hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef on French bread, usually served au jus with a side bowl of the gravy from the cooking process, or beef broth or beef consommé, into which the sandwich is dipped as it is eaten. Two Los Angeles restaurants claim to have invented the French Dip sandwich around 1918. Food critic Pat Bruno from the Chicago Sun-Times believes that that the Chicago sandwich is a direct descendent

A "french Dip" sandwich in Los Angeles.
of the French Dip. Another theory attributes the Chicago Italian-Style Beef Sandwich to Pasquale Scala, a south Chicago butcher who founded the Scala Packing Company. According to the company history, when the Great Depression hitin the late 1920s, food was scarce and Scala helped introduce consumers to ways to stretch their budget. His thinly sliced roast beef on a bun with gravy and peppers took off. That, the company claims was the birth of the Chicago Italian-Style Beef Sandwich was born. Be it as it may, there is no denying the impact Scala has had on this recipe and on Chicago by popularizing it during the Great Depression.

A Sport Pepper on a Chicago-style hot dog.
In Chicago, sottoli developed into the Chicago Giardiniera, which is a combination of bell peppers, olives, celery, pimentos, carrots, cauliflower, serano peppers and gherkins, and sometimes crushed red pepper flakes, marinated in vegetable oil. It is commonly made "hot" with a chile pepper called the "Sport Pepper", a small pepper superficially

Chicago-style hot dog.

Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Giardiniera.
resembling Tabasco and Serrano peppers, but much milder (only 300-500 on the Scoville Scale, compared to 10,000+ for the Serrano). The sport pepper is a distinct cultivar of the species Capsicum annuum. This is the Giardiniera that is used as a topping for hot dogs and Italian-style beef sandwiches. Around chicago, Giardiniera is also served on Hot Dogs and hot Ham And Cheese Sandwiches.

New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich.
A milder variety of Giardiniera is used for the olive salad in the New Orleans Muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta is an Italian-style sandwich from New Orleans, made with ham, mortadella, salami, cheeses and olive relish. It has its roots in similar sandwiches (bot not as fancy) found in Sicily. The New Orleans Muffuletta was most likely invented in 1906 by Lupo Salvadore at Central Grocery on Decatur Street

Central Grocery in New Orleans.

Olive Salad from Central Grocery.
in the French Quarter. It is one of the New Orleans classic foods and a pivotal part of the Italian-Creole heritage of the city. The Giardiniera from Central Grocery is heavy on green olives with a pleasant bitter flavor. Some homegrown New Orleans family recipes include Okra, giving it an unmistakable Créole touch.


New Orleans Giardiniera With Okra
by Liz Williams

For the Giardiniera

  • 10 3-inch long (or smaller) very-fresh okra
  • 2 sweet red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 small hot chile peppers, whole
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in 1-inch sticks
  • 3 carrots, cut in 1-inch sticks
  • 1 medium cauliflower, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup salt

For the marinade

  • 2 garlic clovered, thinly sliced
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil


  1. In a large glass bowl, toss the vegetables and salt until well-mixed.
  2. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, and allow to marinade in the brine for 10 to 12 hours. Drain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly.
  3. Sterilize 2 quart-size glass jars with lids. In one sterilized jar, combine the vinaigrette ingredients and spices. Shake well to emulsify. Pour half of the dressing into the other jar, distributing the spices evenly between the two jars. Pack the vegetables into jars, making sure the various ingredients are distributed evenly. Make sure the vegeetables are completely covered with the marinade.
  4. Attach lids onto the jars and refrigerate. Let marinade for several days before serving.


Central Grocery Olive Salad
from The Gumbopages


  • 1 gallon of large pimento-stuffed green olives, slightly crushed and well drained
  • 1 quart jar pickled cauliflower, drained and sliced
  • 2 small jars capers, drained
  • 1 whole stalk celery, sliced diagonally
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1 small jar celery seeds
  • 1 small jar oregano
  • 1 large head fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 jar pepperoncini, drained and left whole
  • 1 pound large Greek black olives
  • 1 jar cocktail onions, drained


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pot and mix well.
  2. Place in a large jar and cover with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 Crisco vegetable oil. Store tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.


Chicago Giardiniera
from The Chicago Tribune


  • 6 jalapeños, thinly sliced
  • 2 green and 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Combine the jalapeño peppers, bell peppers, celery, carrot, onion and cauliflower florets in a large bowl. Add the salt and stir. Add cold water to cover the vegetables, and refrigerate 12 hours.
  2. Drain salt water. Combine the garlic, olives, oregano, red pepper flakes, celery seeds and black pepper to taste.
  3. Pour the vinegar into a medium bowl, whisk in the seasonings and the olive oil. Pour over the vegetable mixture; and toss lightly. Cover; refrigerate at least 48 hours before serving. The giardiniera will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.


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Last updated: September 9, 2014

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