Simple Italian Salad

Simple Italian Salad

This simple Italian salad is the only side salad recipe you need. It fits perfectly with any pasta dish and finds good company alongside a whole roasted chicken or delicate fish dinner.

The Classic Italian Side Salad: A Love Story.
You will never make a more gorgeous side salad than this stunner right here. It’s so simple, but so absolutely delicious and completely craveable. If you’ve just discovered this Italian salad recipe for the first time, congratulations! You’ve finally found that perfect simple house salad to accompany all your Italian pasta, chicken or fish dinners!

Read on to discover for yourself how quickly this riff of the Olive Garden Italian salad recipe comes together and how to make our super simple homemade Italian salad dressing that you’re going to want to put on everything!

homemade Italian salad ingredients in bowls parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives, tomatoes and lettuce.

What Goes Into This Italian Side Salad?
We’re not gonna lie, we definitely grew up going to Olive Garden and have always had a special place in our hearts for that unlimited salad. So, when we were on the hunt for the perfect Italian salad recipe, naturally we looked to that copycat Olive Garden recipe for inspiration.

homemade Italian Salad dressing ingredients in a jar
Italian Salad dressing in a jar with a whisk

Bright, leafy, green romaine. We love its crunch.
Red onions and cherry tomatoes. Both optional, but highly recommended!
Pepperoncinis and olives (an absolute must in our honest opinion, for that authentic Italian salad taste).
Grated parmesan…as much as you want, of course! (Just like with the Olive Garden salad.)
Croutons for extra crunch. Keep it simple with store bought or go all the way with homemade if you have the time!

homemade Italian salad in a bowl with small bowls of parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives and tomatoes around it.

What is Italian Salad Dressing Made Of?
Have you ever looked up the ingredient list of one of your favorite products and immediately wished you hadn’t? Been there, done that. We hate to ruin it for you, but we thought you should see a comparison of what’s in Olive Garden’s Italian dressing verses our own version of the beloved Italian vinaigrette.

Our Cleaned-Up Italian Salad Dressing Ingredients:
Garlic powder
Dried oregano
Dried basil
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
…and that’s it!

Italian salad recipe with parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives, tomatoes and lettuce in a bowl with serving spoons.

What Kind of Salads Do Italians Eat?
We’re no expert when it comes to Italian cuisine, but with a little research we’ve put together a short list of popular “Italian” salad styles.

1. Chopped: This is our favorite version of Chopped Italian Salad. We love that it’s full of so many goodies!
2. Pasta: We first had this Summer Tortelloni Pasta Salad while vacationing in Italy and have loved it ever since.
3. Tossed: This is a classic for good reason and what the Italian salad recipe we’re sharing today is all about.

Simple Italian Salad

1 head leafy romaine lettuce or 2 romaine hearts, roughly chopped
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated, parmesan cheese
1 cup peperoncini, whole or sliced
1/2 cup black olives, sliced or whole
1 pint cherry tomatoes
freshly ground pepper, to taste
croutons, store bought or homemade
Italian Dressing
1 tsp garlic powder
1/1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

To make the dressing place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until all ingredients are combined. Store in refrigerator for a week. Shake before each use.
To make the salad, place all ingredients in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with Italian dressing and toss to combine.