This Italian Salad features crisp lettuce, crunchy veggies, olives, pepperoncini and Parmesan, all tossed in a zesty Italian dressing. Serve this Italian green salad with your next pasta dinner.
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 one of my favorites when I want to liven up our salad routine. It packs a big punch of flavor, thanks to juicy tomatoes, briny Kalamata olives, spicy pepperoncini and salty Parmesan cheese. It’s all tossed together in a zippy Italian dressing, making this fresh and healthy salad downright irresistible.
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Easy salad recipe: This hearty salad is ready in just 20 minutes.
- Versatile: Serve it as a side salad at dinner, or make it a main dish salad by adding lean protein such as chicken.
- Delicious and healthy: This restaurant-quality salad is packed with flavor and good-for-you ingredients.
Italian Salad Ingredients
This salad is a delicious mix of lettuce, veggies and flavor-boosters like pepperoncini and Parmesan cheese. Adding chickpeas ups the protein factor in this Italian salad.
- 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 (garbanzo beans) 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: Pepperoncini 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.
How to Make Italian Salad
Making this salad is as easy as mixing up the dressing, combining the ingredients in a large salad bowl and then tossing everything together.
- Make the dressing. 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.
- Combine the salad ingredients, except for the Parmesan cheese, in 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 Recipe Variations
Try adding one or more of these to change up the flavors and textures of your salad.
- Homemade croutons are always a welcome salad addition. The crunch can’t be beat!
- Kidney beans or cannellini beans are great substitutes for the chickpeas.
- Salami, prosciutto or grilled chicken are easy ways to add protein and flavor.
- Cubes of mozzarella, fresh mozzarella or provolone cheese. The more cheese the better, right?
- Black olives are a great option if you don’t have Kalamata olives on hand.
- Add more veggies. Try bell peppers, carrots, artichoke hearts or roasted red peppers.
Love these Italian flavors? Try this Italian Pasta Salad next!
You can prepare the salad ahead of time (without dressing) and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Undressed, it will last for about 2-3 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, such as a mason jar, 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.
This Italian salad is the best side salad for pasta. Try it with Spaghetti, Meatballs, Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Cacciatore and Chicken Piccata. Add in some Garlic Bread and you’ll have an Italian meal worthy of praise.
This simple salad is also 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.
More Delicious Salad Recipes
Looking for more salad ideas? Try one of these tasty salad recipes next:
- Green Salad Recipe
- Kale Salad
- Spinach Salad
- Greek Salad
- Cucumber Tomato Salad
- Cobb Salad
- Arugula Salad
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 (without dressing) can be made up to 2-3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 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.