Big Italian Salad

5 stars based on 9 votes

Italian Salad 11

I’ve always believed that a good salad is the mark of a good cook. It makes sense: a well-made salad must have a pleasing combination of textures and a perfect balance of salty, sweet, bitter and sour — that’s cooking school 101. So with that in mind, it’s good to have a few standouts in your repertoire. This one is my go-to for Spaghetti and Meatballs, Fettucini Bolognese, Pasta e Fagioli, Rosemary Focaccia or anything else in that Italian comfort food realm.

Italian Salad 9

The homemade vinaigrette is what makes it so good — think of it as a much, much improved version of that bottled Italian dressing sitting in your fridge door. It only takes a few minutes to make, yet it’s ten times better and so much healthier for you.

Italian Salad 5

If you’re used to the beige bottled stuff, you’ll be surprised to see how fresh herbs make this vinaigrette a beautiful and vibrant green. That’s how it should be!

Italian Salad 4

Romaine is the lettuce to use here; its hearty leaves stand up to the zesty dressing and crunchy vegetables. If you buy your greens pre-washed, great, but if not, be  sure to dry your greens completely before making your salad, otherwise your dressing will be watery. I’m a big fan of salad spinners for this task, but if you don’t have one, just use a clean kitchen towel or paper towels.

Italian Salad 2

Use any veggies and cheese that you like. I always go for a colorful mix of red peppers, grape tomatoes, carrot ribbons, olives, chopped hothouse cucumbers and a salty, tangy cheese such as ricotta salata or — if I’m in a Greek mood — feta.

Italian Salad 1

Pair this salad with a good bread and some Italian comfort food. Or for a main course, top it with grilled chicken. Either way, sounds like dinner to me :)

Italian Salad 14

Big Italian Salad

Servings: 6


For the Dressing

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 10 big leaves fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, best quality such as Pompeian Gourmet
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, best quality such as Lucini or Colavita
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons honey

For the Salad

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into large, bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped hothouse cucumbers
  • 1 large carrot, peeled into ribbons
  • Handful grape tomatoes, halved
  • Handful pitted olives
  • Ricotta Salata (see note) or Feta, crumbled to taste


  1. Make the dressing: Combine all dressing ingredients in a food processor and blitz to blend.
  2. Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Right before serving, add about half of the dressing and toss well. Add more dressing little by little as necessary; be sure to dress greens very generously, otherwise salad will be bland. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Reserve leftover dressing for another use.
  3. Note: Ricotta salata is an Italian sheep's milk cheese that has a salty, slightly tangy flavor, almost like a dry Italian feta. It is not the same as the wet ricotta in the tub. You can find it at Whole Foods, gourmet grocers or specialty cheese shops.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Wow. This brought the house down. We were licking the plates. Thanks for another winner.

    - michelle morris on March 22, 2015 Reply
  • Should the dressing be refrigerated?

    - Sharon Reed on January 31, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Sharon, Yes, the dressing should be refrigerated.

      - Jenn on January 31, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Thank you for the recipe! I made it tonight for a dinner party. I served it with Bucatini all’ Amatricana and parmesan breadsticks. It was a big success. The dressing came together perfectly in my Vitamix. I will be using it again and linking it soon from my website. Katie

    - katie on January 27, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I wanted to tell you how much I love your recipes. Having grown up on lots of cassaroles and jello molds I’ve been experimenting with different recipes and find your recipes delicious but also fairly uncomplicated. I served Chicken Marbella for my family at Christmas and they were all impressed, even my sister-in-law who is from Spain and a wonderful cook herself. Thanks again!Anne Knudsen

    - Anne Knudsen on January 18, 2015 Reply
    • Thank you for the wonderful feedback, Anne. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes!

      - Jenn on January 18, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This salad is so delicious! It is the dressing. It is amazing and so fresh. I will never again make any other italian salad dressing.

    - Renee on December 27, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This salad is DELICIOUS! The combination of ingredients and dressing was perfect! Love it, especially for entertaining!

    - Princessa on December 14, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    All round excellent salad. Easy to make and a definite crowd pleaser.

    - Susan on December 11, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this salad a few times. The toppings are perfect: cucumber, olives, shaved carrots.. just yum. I really like the dressing in this recipe and have used it for other salads. Just make a big batch and use throughout the week.

    - Yana Mazur on December 10, 2014 Reply
  • This salad sounds perfect with lasagna.
    I’m having dinner for 20, so which ingredients should be multiplied (5 times?) and which not?

    - Toni on December 3, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Toni, The salad easily serves 6 so I would multiply all of the ingredients by 3 or 4, depending on how many other dishes you are serving. Hope everyone enjoys it and please come back and let me know how it turns out.

      - Jenn on December 4, 2014 Reply
  • How many recipes of dressing should I make to serve 20 people? If I make 5,recipes do salad, do I need 5 recipes of dressing also?

    - Donna on September 14, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Donna, I just updated the servings on this; I think it’s actually closer to 6. I think you’d be safe with 3-1/2 (and 4 at the most) recipes of the dressing.

      - Jenn on September 16, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This dressing is so versatile! I use it on this basic salad, on zucchini, tomato and onion and on a caprese salad. Delicious!

    - Julia on July 18, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This dressing is awesome. Love it

    - Suzan on July 12, 2014 Reply
  • In your big Italian salad you say to use home made vinaigrette dressing but you don’t state ingredients or amounts. I would like to make this.

    - Peg on July 2, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Peg, Did you try clicking on the “Recipe” tab? All the ingredients are listed there, as well as the instructions. Hope you enjoy it!

      - Jenn on July 2, 2014 Reply
  • Attended a pot luck Italian feast last night and I was asked to bring a salad. So glad I found this recipe — it was perfect! Not to mention incredibly easy to make! Even found the Ricotta cheese at Whole Foods as suggested in the notes. Thanks!

    - Judy on May 18, 2014 Reply
  • This salad dressing is super simple and quick and absolutely delish!
    i’ve made your asparagus soup ( a few times now) and the chocolate meringues as well and they were amazing.
    I love love love your recipes and website and your pics are great… best way for no fail executions of your recipes.
    thank you!!

    - Lynne on May 12, 2014 Reply
    • Thank you, Lynne!

      - Jenn on May 12, 2014 Reply
  • Can you clarify the ingredients for the dressing please as the pic appears to show a cheese but this not listed. Can you alo give cup measures in fluid ounces . Thanks

    - Charles on April 10, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Charles, The cheese is Ricotta Salata or Feta; it’s the last ingredient listed.

      - Jenn on April 12, 2014 Reply
  • Wow,what a hit this was with my bookclub group.
    Family finished leftovers next day and still tasted great.
    Went well with Lasagne.
    Will be saving this recipe.
    Thanks for sharing it.

    - katharine on February 21, 2014 Reply
  • Can this dressing be made ahead of time? How long?

    - Victoria on February 19, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Victoria, Yes, it’s fine to make it a day or two ahead of time.

      - Jenn on February 19, 2014 Reply
  • This was a great dressing. I did use less red wine vinegar. It’s so overwhelming that the 1/4 cup seemed like a lot so I added it in slowly. Also, I used Queso Fresco as the cheese. It’s a Mexican cheese, very crumbly, salty and fresh. It’s a light, airy cheese and with such a fresh dressing it worked great. Thanks for a great dressing!

    - MG on February 8, 2014 Reply
  • I made this today and it was delicious! One question, can I leave the honey out next time? Thanks for the great, easy recipes and the useful tips!

    - Cleo on January 26, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Cleo, Yes it is fine to leave out the honey.

      - Jenn on January 27, 2014 Reply
  • I was looking for a dressing for a dinner party Sunday night. I came across your recipe. Wow it received rave reviews and is fantastic.

    I loved it so much that I woke up yesterday and ate a salad for breakfast. I will keep on making this.


    - Eva on September 10, 2013 Reply
  • I’m making a lasagna for some friends, and wanted to make something different than the basic dinner salad. I was able to follow everything step-by-step except for the cheese. I got feta, but it was moldy, so I opted to leave it out. The dressing turned out FANTASTIC, and will definitely be my go-to Italian from now on. Thanks for the recipe! Hope it’s a hit with these foodies.

    - Rhiannon on August 12, 2013 Reply
  • I made this tonight – it was tasty and super fresh! One of my favorite salads and I’ll be making this a lot in the future! Even my 4 year old loved it!

    I’m not much of an olive person though, so I don’t know much about them. When I went to my grocery store and was faced with the olive bar, I was totally confused! What kind of olives do you use?

    - Crystal on August 1, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Crystal, So glad you enjoyed! As for the olives, yes, it can be confusing! I love the black kalamata olives or the large green Greek olives but it’s really a matter of personal preference…taste a few to see which ones you like. I also try to buy my olives pitted so we don’t have to deal with the pits.

      - Jenn on August 2, 2013 Reply
  • Why use dried Oregano? Is fresh better?
    Can’t wait to try this dressing!

    - Max on April 23, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Max, Fresh oregano can actually be a little bitter, so dried is better here. Hope you enjoy it!

      - Jenn on April 23, 2013 Reply
  • Love this salad so much! I add cannellini or kidney beans, as well as thinly sliced grilled chicken. Salmon would also be a nice addition. The dressing is so amazing! I like to make a meal of just the salad with some French bread.

    - Kelly on March 10, 2013 Reply
  • Spectacular salad. Worked perfectly with Marcella Hazan Lasagne Bolognese (with a few roasted artichokes thrown in).

    - jessica lipnack on December 11, 2012 Reply
  • Fabulous salad and home-made dressing!! I added artichokes to the salad, too!!

    - Terry Grosvenor on November 8, 2012 Reply
  • Jenn another great recipe. This is a wonderful salad. The dressing is delicious with the fresh herbs. I took it to a pizza party and it was enjoyed by all.

    - Ann Grandin on October 9, 2012 Reply
  • I’ve been making this Salad non-stop and everyone that has eaten it has asked me for the recipe.

    Thank you <3

    - Hebah on September 15, 2012 Reply
  • This has become my go-to dressing. I usually double the recipe and make two bottles, to utilize more of the fresh spices (they make all the difference).
    Thanks, Jenn!

    - Liz on June 20, 2012 Reply
  • I will be making this Sunday with lasagana. Looks like it can be made so many ways. It looks so good. Thanks. I needs this.

    - jujus dru on June 9, 2012 Reply
  • I made the dressing and loved it. I am now keeping a jar of this in the ‘fridge. I highly recommend making this often, especially if you’ve got a little herb garden!

    - Julie on May 17, 2012 Reply
  • This is by far the best homemade dressing I have ever made. I don’t think I can ever buy store bought again.

    - Jennifer on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • Like Debbie, I also made it for a progressive dinner in my neighborhood and it was a big hit. Everyone loved the dressing. i made it again this past weekend for a mother’s day BBQ and my super foodie parents loved it as well. I used feta for the cheese sprinkles. The dressing has such a great spring, fresh flavor. Two thumbs up.

    - Erin on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • I made this for an Italian progressive dinner last weekend and everyone loved it. This weekend I’m bringing it a family party. I couldn’t find the sheep ricotta so I used crumbled goat cheese instead. Very yummy!!! Thank you!

    - Debbie on April 28, 2012 Reply
  • This salad is so refreshing and full of multiple tastes.
    Super fresh, too. There was enough dressing to last for two salads for two dinners – which is always nice to have left-overs that taste fresh and new the second time around. Also, added about 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans and used a sprinkling of kalamata olives which added a whole new complex taste. Oh ya, I chose fat free feta – yummy – and used 1/2 the container for night one and the other 1/2 for night two. Thank you – I will continue to make your fantastic recipes. Like… the potato leek soup.

    - Heidi on April 5, 2012 Reply
  • Made this salad for something different for a friend’s birthday dinner. Everyone absolutely LOVED it! Everyone was asking for the recipe, especially the dressing. I did add red onion, and had feta, mozzarella, croutons, artichoke hearts on the side for people to add if they desired. But the dressing was definitely a huge hit! Will definitely be adding this to our favorites list!

    - Pam on March 30, 2012 Reply
  • I made this for supper tonight, and we ate it with spaghetti and meatballs. So perfect! I loved every aspect of this salad.

    I used blue cheese, and my husband accidentally bought zucchini instead of cucumber, but it was still great!

    - Jennifer Smith on March 7, 2012 Reply
  • I can’t get enough of this dressing, it is so fresh and delicious. Makes eating salad fun!

    - Mary on March 6, 2012 Reply
  • A staple in our house, the dressing is just fresh and fabulous. Always as a favorite…I’ve made it for holidays, brought it to dinner parties. The perfect addition to my repertoire. Keep ‘em coming, Jen!

    - Alison on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • My daughterinlaw hopes that there are leftovers so she can take this salad home. It’s a big hit here.

    - Gayle Snyder on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I took this to a dinner party, and everyone raved about it! The dressing is so delicious and so healthy too! Thanks for all they healthy recipes!

    - Melissa Norton on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I made this salad to bring to an Academy Awards watching party with some girlfriends last Sunday. I made a double batch. There ended up only being 4 of us left by the time we finally got around to eating dinner. Still, we polished off the bowl and one the girls asked for the dressing recipe. This was truly delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

    - Heather on February 29, 2012 Reply
  • Made this salad last night. It is absolutely delicious. Followed recipe exactly but also added red onion.

    - Carol on February 29, 2012 Reply
  • This salad and dressing is fabulous! I first made it in December. All of the ingredients complement each other so well (I used feta as the cheese and also added some croutons). I’m making it again today to go along with the buttermilk fried chicken tenders :-) How long will the leftover dressing last in the fridge?

    - Jennifer on February 12, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, It would probably keep well for 3-4 days.

      - Jenn on February 12, 2012 Reply
  • I made this yesterday since I had almost everything in the fridge and added garbanzo beans to turn it into a whole meal. It was very good even though I didn’t have fresh basil or parsley for the dressing, which was probably the whole point of this salad.

    - tami on January 14, 2012 Reply
  • I cannot express how much I loooove this salad! I’ve made it for so many guests and family, and it gets only rave reviews every single time. I enjoy adding cannellini beans, chopped walnuts and almonds to ours. I think next time I make it I’ll add sliced grilled chicken and homemade croutons. The dressing is hands-down my favorite homemade vinaigrette. I just can’t say enough good things about this salad! Thanks for an awesome recipe, Jennifer! Can’t wait to try more recipes from your site.

    - Kelly D. on November 30, 2011 Reply
  • Delicious!! I’ve been meaning to make this recipe for a while. Finally made it tonight for guests, and got rave reviews. This salad is very pretty and very tasty! Excellent combination. Thank you!

    - Rachel Schreiber on October 31, 2011 Reply
  • This salad dressing was AMAZING – I brought it to a dinner party on Saturday and I’m still getting requests today for the recipe! Excited that I stumbled upon your blog – thanks for sharing!

    - J. Lefebvre on July 11, 2011 Reply
  • WoW….this was an AMAZING Salad. We usually eat my version of Greek Salad w/ homemade dressing (to die for), but thought that I’d change it up this time w/ this salad. My entire family LOVED it! It did take some time, but it paid off. I made this with Grilled Mediterranean Open-Faced Sandwiches….Yummm! is all you could hear at the dinner table. Thanks so much for the recipes and I love looking at the recipe step by step (I don’t need it, but it’s nice to see it) along with wonderful photography.

    - Joy on June 13, 2011 Reply
  • Dressing turned out great! I used it at a dinner party with Chicken Parmesan, and the salad bowl was picked clean. Thanks!

    - Jenn V on March 22, 2011 Reply
  • Came upon this in a Google search for an Italian salad and it was amazing! It was a great success at my fiance’s birthday dinner party! I look forward to following your site more in depth!

    - Claudia Gelabert on January 2, 2011 Reply
  • Thanks for a wonderful looking recipe! I am always looking for new combinations and homemade dressings. My favorite “go to” salad is a BLAT salad – Turkey Bacon, romaine lettuce, avocado, tomato (and usually some cucumber and maybe a tiny bit of red onion) with a dijon mustard homemade vinigrette. I will have to try your italian dressing. It looks like my next “Go To” dressing.

    - Karen D. on August 30, 2010 Reply
  • Love love love this salad. The dressing is amazing!

    - Eleen on May 13, 2010 Reply
  • Great salad. I too tried the red onion. It took away from the other ingredients. Your way of combinations are on the mark.Thanks

    - Richard on April 29, 2010 Reply
  • Just made this salad to go along with lasagna for my daughter’s 13th birthday family dinner party — it was FANTASTIC and I can’t wait to make it again!!

    - Karen on April 12, 2010 Reply
  • Made this for Easter Sunday. The dressing is fresh and delicious. All the colors and taste–I will definitely be making this over the summer. Thanks!

    - Tashu on April 5, 2010 Reply
  • Just tried your salad. That dressing is delicious – so fresh and springy! Thanks!

    - Maria on March 13, 2010 Reply
  • Wow..That looks so yummy and delicious..

    - Anonymous on March 10, 2010 Reply
  • I love that you made your own dressing… the bottled stuff is gross after realizing the color change….ewwww! :) As always, wonderful pics!

    - the domestic mama on March 8, 2010 Reply
  • Oh super yum! This looks great!

    - Nancy Bea on March 7, 2010 Reply
  • This looks great…so colorful! Love all the fresh herbs!

    - E.C. on March 6, 2010 Reply
  • This looks great, although I’m surprised you haven’t included red onion (or scallions) in the salad…??

    Thanks for the site, and the great recipes!

    - Robin S. on March 6, 2010 Reply

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