A perfect salad requires perfect balance. Our easy Italian Salad goes with practically any meal, plus it’s 100% foolproof. Crisp leafy greens and fresh salad veggies, plus homemade croutons and creamy Italian dressing, are always in demand. And this side salad recipe is so fast and easy you can make it on demand.
Someone recently told me their favorite salad was the never-ending house salad at a certain legacy chain restaurant. While I’ll admit to swallowing a really snarky comment (in the spirit of “no judgement”), I’ll also admit their tableside tossed Italian salad is one of the least egregious things on the menu.
But of course, I immediately set out to prove that their Italian salad was not unique, merely ripped from every single Italian grandmother’s kitchen, by making mine from scratch the way I remember it, and comparing it with theirs. You know. As any normal person with no chip on their shoulder and clearly no free time on their hands would.
Key takeaways for a great side salad:
- Toasty on the outside, a li’l soft on the inside, homemade croutons are always, ALWAYS better than those tooth-chippin’ brick croutons that have either too much or not enough flavor.
- You can always tell a homemade dressing from the bottled stuff and it’s always worth the TINY bit of extra effort to whip up a batch.
- Yes, you can use bagged salad for a tossed green salad, but if you’re going for something a bit more authentic and flavorful, avoid the iceberg mix and go for a combination of textures. Reach for crisp romaine, tender butter lettuce, and radicchio for a kick.
No, It’s not Antipasto. Yes, You’ll Still Love It.
My grandma’s Sunday dinners always included a green salad after the main course (never before). It’s the “Italian” way – more room for pasta before, aids digestion after. If you prefer it function as an Italian side salad – or you take your leafy greens before dinner – it still works beautifully for adding flavor but not filling you up.
So what’s in an Italian salad? You won’t find heavy meats or cheeses, like you would in an antipasto.
This simple tossed salad relies on veggies, veggies, and more veggies. Leafy greens are a must for bulk, with a few additional players to add flavor, including black olives, red onion, and pepperoncini. But it’s not the veggies that make this simple tossed salad so addictive.
For a condensed post with “just the facts!” click to view the web story for this recipe.
Key Ingredient: Homemade Croutons
Simple and satisfying, Homemade Italian Croutons beat bagged ones every time. A loaf of crusty Italian bread and pantry staples are all you’ll need to “bake” this must have garnish for a tossed salad.
- SEASON. Slice or tear bread into 1″ cubes. Toss with olive oil, then season and toss again.
- ARRANGE. Arrange in an even layer on a baking sheet.
- BAKE. Bake at 400°F for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Toss occasionally for even browning.
Key Ingredient: Creamy Italian Dressing
Make your own Creamy Italian Dressing in minutes! No additives, emulsifiers, or “special” ingredients. Everything you need to make this zesty homemade dressing is probably already in your fridge or pantry – from the oil and vinegar to the seasonings.
If you don’t like mayo or don’t have it on hand, feel free to replace with sour cream or Greek yogurt. You only need a little. OR, skip it! A classic vinaigrette is a classic for a reason.
- WHISK. Whisk vinegar, garlic, mustard, mayo, and seasonings until very well combined.
- EMULSIFY. Slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking constantly and vigorously.
- TASTE & SEASON. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt or vinegar as needed.
How to Make an Italian Salad
Classic Italian Salad may just be the perfect meal companion. Whether you’re serving it up before, after, or during as a side salad, you can’t miss with this combination of fresh, crisp salad vegetables with a kick. Toasty Italian croutons and a homemade dressing make this one house salad that’ll bring down the house.
- PREP. Prep vegetables and salad greens.
- DRESS. Add dressing to the greens and lightly toss.
- STIR. Stir in the raw vegetables.
- CROUTONS. Add croutons JUST before serving (so they don’t get soggy).
Make It Your Way
Cheese, Please: serve with grated or thinly shaved parmesan, grana padano, or pecorino cheese.
Sub for Mayo: use an equivalent amount of Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Scale It: this makes a BIG salad. It’s ideal for holidays and dinner parties. But of course, you can scale it up or down as needed.
Chop It: if you prefer an Italian chopped salad, simply finely chop individual ingredients with a sharp knife to create uniform pieces of each. Dice leafy greens on the smaller side. Either way, dress veggies after chopping and toss again, then add croutons.
More Leafy Green Tossed/Side Salads
- Easy & Refreshing Citrus Salad
- Grilled Peach Salad
- BLT Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
- Autumn Crunch Salad
- Arugula Pear Salad
Did you make this Italian Salad recipe? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 head butter lettuce, chopped
- ½ small head radicchio, chopped
- 6 radishes, thinly sliced
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 english cucumber, thinly sliced
- ½ cup black olives
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup pepperoncini
- shaved parmesan cheese, to taste
- 1 loaf italian bread
- ¼ c olive oil
- 1 tsp italian seasoning
- ½ tsp kosher salt
Creamy Italian Dressing
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp italian seasoning
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Make croutons. Slice or tear the bread into 1” bite sized cubes; transfer to a bowl. Pour the olive oil over the bread, then season with italian seasoning and salt. Toss until the bread cubes are evenly coated with the oil and seasonings. Transfer to a baking sheet and arrange into an even layer.
- Bake at 400°F for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until golden brown.
- Make the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, garlic, mustard, italian seasoning salt, pepper, and mayo until very well combined. Slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking constantly. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt or vinegar as needed.
- In a large bowl, combine the romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, and radicchio. Add half the dressing and toss until the lettuce leaves are evenly coated. Stir in the vegetables and toss once more. Just before serving, stir in the croutons or garnish each serving with croutons to preserve their crunch. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese and serve with additional dressing on the side.