once upon a chef

Big Italian Salad


           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!


Make the Homemade Italian Dressing

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.


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.

For a main course, top the salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or steak. Enjoy!