once upon a chef
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 (see note) or Feta, crumbled to taste
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. The dressing 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!
Combine the parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and honey in the bowl of a food processor; blitz to blend.
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.
For a main course, top the salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or steak. Enjoy!