This Italian Salad is the one you’ll turn to when your side salad is in need of a refresh. It’s a flavor-packed side dish for a weeknight dinner, and the perfect way to complete a hearty Italian meal.
Most nights, I make a green salad to go with our dinner. A big salad is an easy way to include more vegetables in your meal, but let’s be honest, if you don’t play around with the ingredients, salads can get boring.
This Italian salad is anything but boring! It will engage your tastebuds with ingredients that pack a big punch of flavor, including kalamata olives, pepperoncini and Parmesan cheese. It’s all tossed together in a zesty Italian dressing, making this fresh and healthy salad downright irresistible.
Have you tried my Italian Pasta Salad yet? It is an all-time favorite of mine. There’s just something about those zippy Italian flavors that keep you coming back for more!
Those same delicious flavors play a starring role in this crunchy Italian green salad. If your everyday salad is in need of a little refresh, I urge you to give this Italian salad a try. You can make extra (don’t toss it with the dressing yet) and enjoy it with lunch or dinner for a few days.
This simple salad is hearty enough to serve as a light lunch. I’ve added chickpeas to this salad recipe because (1) they’re delicious in salads (see also this Greek chickpea salad) and (2) they add protein to keep you full for a while after your meal.
This tossed Italian salad is also the best salad to serve with spaghetti or lasagna. Add in some garlic bread and you’ll have an Italian meal worthy of praise.
How to make Italian Salad
Here are the ingredients that I like best in this Italian salad. You can adapt the recipe based on what you have in your kitchen. I’ll also give you more ideas for what to add to your Italian salad below.
- Salad Greens: I like to use romaine lettuce in this salad because crunchy, hearty romaine holds up well to the other salad ingredients. You can use your favorite lettuce, or mixed greens if you prefer.
- Cucumber, Red Onion & Tomatoes: Thinly slice the onion so that it doesn’t overpower the other flavors. You can use cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes or chopped whole tomatoes in the salad.
- Chickpeas: The chickpeas add satiating protein and help to bulk up the salad. Kidney beans are another good option because, like chickpeas, their firm texture can hold up to being tossed in a salad. You can leave out the beans if you prefer.
- Kalamata Olives: These have a meaty texture and add a delicious briny flavor to the salad. If you prefer a more subtle flavor, black olives are a great substitute.
- Pepperoncini: These peppers are mildly spicy and slightly sweet. They’re a big flavor-booster in this salad, but you can leave them out if you’re not a fan of heat.
- Parmesan Cheese: I recommend using shredded Parmesan cheese, rather than grated, for maximum flavor.
- Italian Dressing: If you have a few extra minutes, the recipe below includes a homemade Italian dressing that is easy to make with pantry ingredients. You can also use store-bought Italian dressing to dress the salad.
- If you are making homemade dressing, prepare it first and then set it aside while you prepare the salad. To make the dressing, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients according to the recipe below.
- Add all of the salad ingredients, except for the Parmesan cheese, to a large bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the salad, a little bit at a time, and toss to combine. Continue adding dressing until the salad is dressed to your liking.
- Add the Parmesan cheese to the salad and serve.
Italian Salad Ideas
Try adding one or more of these to change up the flavors and textures of your salad.
- Homemade croutons
- Kidney beans or cannellini beans
- Salami, prosciutto or grilled chicken
- Cubes of mozzarella or provolone cheese
- Black olives
- Bell peppers, carrots, artichoke hearts or roasted red peppers
Make Ahead Instructions
You can prepare the salad (without dressing) and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Toss the salad with the dressing and Parmesan cheese right before serving.
The dressing can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If the olive oil separates and solidifies, let the dressing come to room temperature and then shake or whisk to recombine.
More Delicious Salad Recipes
For the Salad:
- 6 cups (loosely packed) chopped romaine lettuce or mixed greens, or lettuce of choice
- 1 small cucumber chopped
- ¼ small red onion thinly sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 cup canned chickpeas rinsed and drained
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives
- ½ cup sliced pepperoncini
- ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
For the Salad Dressing:
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon honey or more, to taste
To Make the Dressing:
- Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until everything is mixed together well. (You can also make the dressing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake the jar to combine.)
- Taste dressing and adjust seasonings as needed.
To Make the Salad:
- Place lettuce in a large bowl. Add the cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, chickpeas, kalamata olives and pepperoncini.
- Pour dressing over the salad, a little at a time, tossing to combine, until salad is dressed to your liking.
- Sprinkle on the shredded Parmesan cheese and toss to mix in the cheese. Serve immediately.
- You can use homemade or store-bought Italian salad dressing.
- Salad and dressing can be made a day ahead. Toss the salad with the dressing right before serving. Extra dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
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