Filled with briny, crunchy, fresh, and zippy flavor, this easy Italian salad recipe delivers a wow factor with absolutely zero fuss! A bold Italian dressing and a few simple pantry staples make all the difference.

Italian salad in a serving bowl with wooden serving utensils. Next to this are bowls of croutons, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
Photo Credits: Kathrine Irwin

This Italian salad recipe is very much a “table salad”–or a salad you can throw on the table no matter what you’re serving. I consider it in the company of other iconic table salads like Tabouli or Shopska: It may be humble and easy to make, but the sum is worth so much more than its parts! 

A mixture of sweet romaine lettuce and slightly bitter radicchio gives this simple salad a delicious balance and bold flavor. Juicy cherry tomatoes add freshness, and layers of pickled things like olives and pepperoncini add depth and a more assertive vibe to bring this salad to the next level. 

A simple Italian dressing made with pantry staples like Italian seasoning, really good extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar is rich and delicious. This is definitely a table salad you’ll make on repeat, for Sunday suppers, busy weeknights, and dinner parties alike. 

Table of Contents
  1. Italian Salad Ingredients 
  2. Swaps and Substitutions
  3. How to Make Italian Salad
  4. What to do with Leftover Romaine
  5. What to Serve with This Italian Salad Recipe
  6. More Italian Salad Recipes
  7. Big Easy Italian Salad Recipe
Ingredients for Italian salad including romaine lettuce, radicchio, red onion, cherry tomatoes, black olives pepperoncini, shaved parmesan, salt, pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar and Italian seasoning.

Italian Salad Ingredients 

I went for a vibrant mix of flavors, textures, and colors to give this easy Italian salad a restaurant-level vibe, but each ingredient is super easy to find. You’ll need:

  • Romaine lettuce is satisfyingly crunchy and sweet. 
  • Radicchio is delicately bitter, giving this simple salad a bolder flavor. 
  • Red onion or shallot adds a sweet and savory depth of flavor. 
  • Cherry tomatoes are juicy and have a nice bite to them even when they’re very ripe. 
  • Pitted black olives add a layer of pickled, briney flavor. 
  • Pepperoncinis, a type of yellow chili peppers, are super bright and slightly spicy, making this simple salad far from boring. 
  • Shaved parmesan shards add an addictive umami quality. 
  • Salt and black pepper enhance the flavor.
  • Croutons are optional, but crunchy texture and toasty richness. You can use store-bought or make your own–steal the homemade croutons in step 1 of this Chicken Caprese Salad recipe. 
  • Italian seasoning adds a distinctly Italian flavor with dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, and more. You can likely make your own with a well-stocked spice drawer, or use a high-quality store-bought variety.
  • Red wine vinegar is the only acidity in the very simple Italian dressing. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil is used for the Italian dressing and imparts a lot of the richness and flavor nuance. I like the richness, freshness, and light fruity notes of our Italian Nocellara for this recipe, but any high-quality extra virgin variety you have on hand will work as long as it has a pleasant flavor.
A close up of Italian Salad.

Swaps and Substitutions

If this Italian chopped salad is anything, it’s adaptable. Don’t be limited by the recipe! Throw in what you have and what you like. Some suggestions:

  • Romaine lettuce: Anything mild, sweet, and (ideally) crunchy, like little gems or butter lettuce. 
  • Radicchio: Any bitter chickory, like frisee or endive. 
  • Red onion: Any mild allium that won’t overpower the flavor, like chives, green onions, or shallots. 
  • Cherry tomatoes: Any sweet, juicy tomato variety that stays rather firm when it’s ripe, like chopped Roma or grape tomatoes. If you don’t like tomatoes substitute with Persian cucumbers for freshness.
  • Black olives: Anything briney you like, from Castelvetrano olives to capers. 
  • Pepperoncini: Something spicy and bright, like pickled jalapeño, banana peppers, or Guindilla peppers. 
  • Italian seasoning: If you don’t have Italian seasoning on hand and you don’t want to make your own, you can use dried oregano instead. 
  • Red wine vinegar: Champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and lemon juice all work. 
  • Shaved parmesan: Torn mozzarella or even crumbled feta would taste delicious. Or leave off the cheese for a vegan/dairy-free option. 
  • Croutons: Croutons are very much optional, but if you avoid gluten and still want a little something crunchy, add chopped toasted almonds or pistachios. 
Italian salad in a serving bowl with wooden serving utensils.

How to Make Italian Salad

You don’t even need to grab measuring cups for an Italian salad. Feel free to eyeball it, but this is loosely what you’re going for: 

  • Prep your veggies, adding them to your serving bowl as you go. Chop one head each of romaine lettuce and radicchio. Thinly slice 1 small red onion and halve 1 cup of cherry tomatoes. To the bowl, add 1 cup of pitted black olives and 2 cups of pepperoncini. Toss everything gently to mix. The ingredients for the Italian salad in a large serving bowl just before being mixed together. Surrounding this is a jar of the salad dressing and the lid, a cloth napkin, and small bowls of salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  • Make the Italian dressing. In a mason jar or sealable container, add 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil. Close the lid and shake very well. (Or, add the Italian seasoning, salt, and vinegar to a small bowl. Whisk as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until emulsified.) Italian seasoning added to a jar with red wine vinegar. Surrounding this are small bowls of salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, a spoon with Italian seasoning, and a cloth napkin.
  • Dress and serve. Just before serving, use the largest side of a box grater or a peeler to shave ½ cup’s worth of shaved parmesan. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Add the shaved parmesan and a dash of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in a handful of croutons, if you’d like, and serve.Italian salad in a serving bowl. Next to this are wooden serving utensils, a cloth napkin, and bowls of croutons, pepper and Italian seasoning.

What to do with Leftover Romaine

This Italian salad recipe uses just one head of romaine, so if you bought a whole bag here are 3 delicious ways to use it:

Italian salad in a serving bowl with wooden serving utensils. Next to this are bowls of salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.

What to Serve with This Italian Salad Recipe

You can’t go wrong sticking with its Italian spirit. For a full Italian extravaganza, start with Negronis and Arancini (Italian Fried Risotto). Prep the salad and dressing ahead of time, but keep them separate. Once everyone’s arrived and seated, dress the salad and serve with a crisp white wine. 

Continue with Chicken Puttanesca to match the bold and briny flavor–and don’t forget freshly baked Roasted Garlic Foccacia on the side. For dessert, how about Homemade Cannoli and a strong espresso? Saluti!

More Italian Salad Recipes

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a bottle of nocellara Italian extra virgin olive oil from the mediterranean dish.
5 from 2 votes

Big Easy Italian Salad

Suzy Karadsheh
Italian salad in a serving bowl with wooden serving utensils. Next to this are bowls of salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.
This is an easy salad to please a crowd: endlessly adaptable and goes with just about anything. I think of it as a life-long salad situation: make it on repeat, swapping in what you have on hand and what you like.
Prep – 15 minutes
Total – 15 minutes
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 8
Course:
Entree/Salad

Ingredients
  

For the Salad

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 head radicchio, chopped
  • 1 small red onion or 2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pitted black olives
  • 2 cups pepperoncini
  • ½ cup shaved parmesan
  • Black pepper
  • Croutons (optional)

For the Italian Dressing

Instructions
 

  • Mix the salad. In a large bowl, combine the romaine lettuce, radicchio, red onion (or shallots), cherry tomatoes, olives, and pepperoncini. Toss gently to mix.
  • Make the Italian dressing. In a mason jar or sealable container, add the Italian seasoning, salt, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Close the lid and shake very well. (Or, add the Italian seasoning, salt, and vinegar to a small bowl. Whisk as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until emulsified.)
  • Dress and serve. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Add the shaved parmesan and a dash of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in the croutons, if using, and serve.

Video

Notes

  • Make ahead: You can prepare the dressing and salad the night before. Store them separately, covered in your refrigerator. Give the dressing a good shake/whisk before using, and dress the salad just before serving. 
  • Leftovers: This salad is best right after you dress it, but radiccio and romaine are hearty enough that leftovers should last for a day or so in your fridge–it’ll just be a bit less crisp.
  • If you don’t use all the dressing: Store, covered in your fridge, for up to 2 weeks.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 147.8kcalCarbohydrates: 4.8gProtein: 3.3gFat: 13.4gSaturated Fat: 2.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 4.3mgSodium: 516.2mgPotassium: 166.6mgFiber: 2.2gSugar: 1.8gVitamin A: 621IUVitamin C: 31.1mgCalcium: 97.9mgIron: 0.6mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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