Crisp, flavourful, satisfying and light this Italian Salad recipe is simple to make but shockingly superb. Leftovers should be part of the plan as the salad holds up well for days.
I credit this old school restaurant Italian-style salad for my kids learning to like salad at a very young age. Sure they always picked out the olives, but that just meant more for me. The pepperoncini peppers, however, we all fought over because the server would only bring us two extra, at most. It didn’t take long before I started making versions of it at home and it remains a family favourite to this day.
Lately I’ve been craving big, hearty salads that are filling enough on their own for lunch, and can also act as a side dish for dinner. This one, loaded with crunchy romaine lettuce, celery, provolone cheese, ribbons of salami, olives, red onions, roasted peppers, pepperoncini, shavings of Parmesan, and a simple, but to-die-for Italian vinaigrette, fits the bill. It’s an outstanding combination of ingredients with bright and bold flavours and I could honestly eat it everyday.
Ingredients And Notes
- Romaine lettuce – I actually really enjoy this Italian salad with iceberg lettuce as much as with Romaine lettuce. Iceberg lettuce is currently kind of sad looking at the grocery stores and is more expensive than Romaine. Use whichever looks best to you, or use a mix of both.
- Red onion – Thinly sliced red onions are pretty standard in an Italian Salad for some punchy, oniony flavour.
- Provolone and Parmesan cheese – You can use mini bocconcini balls instead of provolone, but I prefer the more flavourful provolone cheese. To finish the salad, a good amount of shaved parmesan cheese is pretty essential. That said, sometimes I omit the cheese entirely and the salad is still spectacular.
- Pepperoncini – Tangy and mildly spicy, I can’t imagine an Italian salad without any pepperoncini. They will vary vastly in heat level from brand to brand and pepper to pepper so taste ahead if you’re sensitive to heat. The ones I used in this salad had zero heat.
- Olives – Green or black olives will work for this salad. I always have green ones in my pantry so that is what I used. I like to pit some and also leave some unpitted for a little more flavour and variety.
- Other optional veggies – I added celery for extra crunch, and jarred roasted red peppers for extra flavour. Cherry tomatoes, and/or artichoke hearts would also be great.
- Optional protein – Chopped salami plays on the classic Italian sub-sandwich flavours but feel free to omit to keep vegetarian. Often, I will also add a can of chickpeas to make the salad even heartier.
- For the vinaigrette – The bright and tangy vinaigrette for this salad is key, so you might want to be faithful to it, at least on first effort. Red wine vinegar, good olive oil, minced garlic, Dijon Mustard, dried oregano and a smidge of honey add the classic Italian flavours to the salad.
How To Make Italian Chopped Salad
Though this salad uses simple supermarket ingredients, it is the attention to details in making it that will transform it into something delicious that you will want to eat again and again. Here’s the simple steps to make it:
- Chop, wash, and dry the lettuce. Use a salad spinner, if possible, to thoroughly dry the leaves. Drying the leaves completely before dressing them will avoid everything being awash in a watery vinaigrette. If you don’t have a salad spinner, a few kitchen towels will also work. Add the chopped leaves to a large bowl.
- Chop the veggies and cheese. I consider this a chopped salad so I like to chop everything quite small. Add the chopped provolone cheese and veggies to the bowl of lettuce. At this point you can refrigerate the salad for later use or set aside while you prepare the vinaigrette.
- Prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl or jar.
- Finish. When ready to serve, give the salad a good toss. Drizzle about half of the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently. Pour remaining dressing as needed. Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper, if necessary. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
If you won’t be serving all the salad at once, store the salad and vinaigrette separately in the fridge and add the dressing as needed. This will keep your lettuce crisp. The vinaigrette will solidify in the fridge so remember to take it out in advance or heat for a few seconds in the microwave.
Lightly dressed, the salad won’t stay as crispy but it will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Italian Salad Variations
- Add chicken or steak. This is one of those salads where adding in some chopped cooked chicken or thinly sliced steak makes it even tastier and more of a complete meal.
- Make it vegan. Add chickpeas, artichoke hearts and your favourite vegan cheese.
- Add radicchio. I wanted to keep things simple here but I almost always add half a head of radicchio. In fact, this Italian salad is fabulous with a mix of iceberg lettuce, radicchio and Romaine. And if you love Lacinto kale, add that too!
- Add croutons. Some crunchy, toasty croutons would be fabulous in this salad.
This salad is hearty enough all on it’s own to make a filling and satisfying lunch. As a side for dinner, the salad is excellent alongside pizza, the best bolognese, burgers, this sheet pan sausage dish, lasagna, or any saucy stew.
You can even add some cold short pasta to the salad and serve with crusty bread on the side – yum!
Lastly, I’ll tell you a secret…One of our favourite ways to eat this salad is topped with a saucy, Nonna-style, large Italian meatball. You really should try it, it’s divine.
More Salad Recipes To Try
- Chopped Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing
- Radicchio Salad with Fennel and Pear
- Pineapple Slaw with Yogurt Dressing
- Broccoli Salad
If you give this Italian Salad Recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
For the Salad
- 1 large head Romaine lettuce or 3 hearts washed, dried, cored, and chopped
- ½ medium red onion thinly sliced
- 8-10 pepperoncini thinly sliced
- 1 celery rib thinly sliced
- 6 ounces jarred roasted red pepper chopped (about half cup)
- 3/4 cup smashed green or black olives pitted
- 4 ounces provolone cheese cubed
- 4-6 oz thinly sliced Genoa salami cut into strips (optional)
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 1/2 cup)
For the Italian Vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- a few grinds of freshly cracked pepper
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a large serving bowl, combine the chopped lettuce, onion, pepperoncini, celery, roasted pepper, olives, Provolone, half of the Parmesan, and salami (if using). Gently toss everything together. At this point you can refrigerate for later use or set aside while you prepare the vinaigrette.
- Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a medium bowl or jar. Whisk until well blended and emulsified.
- If serving all the salad at once, drizzle half of the vinaigrette over the salad, and gently toss to combine. Drizzle a little more, as needed, top with remaining Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.