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Big Italian Salad

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This Italian salad pairs nicely with Italian comfort food. You’ll love the homemade dressing!

This big Italian salad is my go-to for spaghetti and meatballs, fettucini bolognese, pasta e fagioli, baked ziti, focaccia or anything else in that Italian comfort food realm. The homemade dressing 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 takes just a few minutes to make — and, 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!

What You’ll Need To Make My Big Italian Salad

ingredients for big Italian saladI suggest buying pre-washed romaine hearts so you don’t have to bother rinsing the leaves. If you buy a full head of romaine, be sure to dry the leaves completely after rinsing, otherwise the wet leaves will turn the dressing watery. I’m a big fan of salad spinners for this task, but if you don’t have one, a clean kitchen towel or paper towels both work well.

As for the veggies and cheese, I love a colorful mix of bell peppers, grape tomatoes, carrot ribbons, olives, cucumbers and a salty, tangy cheese such as ricotta salata or, if I’m in a Greek mood, feta. But feel free to improvise with whatever vegetables and cheese that you like.

How To Make A Big Italian Salad

Step 1: Make the Homemade Italian Dressing

Italian dressing ingredients in food processorCombine the parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and honey in the bowl of a food processor; blitz to blend.

blended Italian dressingStep Two: Assemble and Toss the Salad

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 the leftover dressing for another use.

tossing Italian salad with Italian dressing

Pair this salad with a good bread and some Italian comfort food. Or, for a main course, top it with grilled chicken, shrimp or steak. Enjoy!

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Big Italian Salad

This Italian salad pairs nicely with Italian comfort food. You’ll love the homemade dressing!

Servings: 6


For the Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar, best quality such as Pompeian Gourmet
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, best quality such as Lucini or Colavita
  • Heaping ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons honey

For the Salad

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce (or 3 hearts), washed, dried and cut into large, bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped hothouse cucumbers
  • 1 to 2 carrots, peeled into ribbons
  • Handful grape tomatoes, halved
  • Handful pitted olives
  • Ricotta Salata or Feta, crumbled to taste


  1. Make the dressing: Combine all dressing ingredients in a food processor and blitz to blend.
  2. Place all of the salad ingredients except for the cheese 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. Toss in the cheese, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.
  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.
  4. Note: Nutritional information was calculated assuming ½ cup of ricotta salata and all of the dressing was used.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 338
  • Fat: 31 g
  • Saturated fat: 6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 12 g
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 393 mg
  • Cholesterol: 11 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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  • Could this dressing be used for a pasta salad?
    – Karen

    • — Karen on March 15, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on March 15, 2023
      • Reply
  • Really amazing salad!! I got rave reviews when I served this last night – usually the salad is rather boring but this one, although easy to make, was delicious – of course that fresh dressing was a game-changer from the usual and guests asked for the recipe. You (Jenn) were the topic of discussion and my good friend uses your site almost as much as I do. Which is a LOT. I shared your cookbooks with them. I will be making this salad again. The Romaine makes it extra crispy and I had only ever used that lettuce for Cesars in the past. Thank you!!

    • — Judi on March 9, 2023
    • Reply
  • Outstanding dressing! I made this salad for a group last weekend and everyone loved the dressing, it was talked about for days. Another fantastic recipe, Jenn! Thank you 🙂

    • — Alina on February 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’m SO glad I found your site and this recipe. I had company for dinner last night and I served your big Italian salad as a first course, along with the dressing.

    This dressing is so good, I’m crazy about it! I can’t believe I ever bought bottled dressing. Each time I make a salad that skews Greek or Italian, I’m going to use this dressing. In fact, I feel like buying more salad ingredients just to have an excuse to have more dressing! Thank you so much for the recipe.

    • — Kimberly on February 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    How long will the dressing last in the fridge? Thx!!

    • — Linda on February 8, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Linda, It’s at it’s best for 2 to 3 days. 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 8, 2023
      • Reply
  • My entire family is in love with this dressing! I am using it on salads and panini with cheddar, salami and tomatoes, yum!

    • — Giselle on February 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hey Jenn! I wanted to (after several years) let you know that I check in with you regularly whenever i’m looking for a recipe for something, before I reach out to the broader internet-iverse! Your recipes are beloved by me, and other members of my family, and we thank you for sharing! Thank you!! -Sue

    • — Sue on February 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • This dressing sounds and looks fabulous! My only question is…won’t the basil turn dark after just a day or so? I always have trouble when I make basil pesto of it soon turning brown/dark instead of that beautiful bright green.

    • — Alice on February 1, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Alice, the basil is processed with all the other ingredients in the dressing and doesn’t turn brown. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on February 1, 2023
      • Reply
  • Did not care for the dressing, dumped it and made your zesty Italian dressing instead. Since I was serving it with a baked pasta dish loaded with Havarti and Parmesan, I omitted the cheese and added homemade garlic croutons. Garnished each serving with oven roasted marinated artichoke hearts. Beautiful, but I could not make my carrot ribbons as nice as yours. How do you do that?

    • — Carol on January 29, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sorry to hear you didn’t like the dressing, but it sounds like it turned out to be a lovely meal! For the carrots, use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrots. Then, run the vegetable peeler away from you down the length of carrots, shaving off long ribbons, rotating a few times as you go.

      • — Jenn on February 2, 2023
      • Reply
  • Made it for book club with a baked ziti recipe. To die for!

    • — Denise H. on January 29, 2023
    • Reply

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