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Simple Italian Salad

September 1, 2023

This simple Italian salad is the only side salad recipe you need. It fits perfectly with any pasta dish and finds good company alongside a whole roasted chicken or delicate fish dinner.


Italian Salad with romaine lettuce, croutons, tomatoes, pepperoncini, black olives, parmesan cheese and red onions in a bowl.

The Classic Italian Side Salad: A Love Story.

You will never make a more gorgeous side salad than this stunner right here. It’s so simple, but so absolutely delicious and completely craveable. If you’ve just discovered this Italian salad recipe for the first time, congratulations! You’ve finally found that perfect simple house salad to accompany all your Italian pasta, chicken or fish dinners!

Read on to discover for yourself how quickly this riff of the Olive Garden Italian salad recipe comes together and how to make our super simple homemade Italian salad dressing that you’re going to want to put on everything!

homemade Italian salad ingredients in bowls parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives, tomatoes and lettuce.

What Goes Into This Italian Side Salad?

We're not gonna lie, we definitely grew up going to Olive Garden and have always had a special place in our hearts for that unlimited salad. So, when we were on the hunt for the perfect Italian salad recipe, naturally we looked to that copycat Olive Garden recipe for inspiration.

homemade Italian Salad dressing ingredients in a jar
Italian Salad dressing in a jar with a whisk

Our Version of the Copycat Olive Garden Italian Salad Recipe Has:

  • Bright, leafy, green romaine. We love its crunch.
  • Red onions and cherry tomatoes. Both optional, but highly recommended!
  • Pepperoncinis and olives (an absolute must in our honest opinion, for that authentic Italian salad taste).
  • Grated much as you want, of course! (Just like with the Olive Garden salad.)
  • Croutons for extra crunch. Keep it simple with store bought or go all the way with homemade if you have the time!
homemade Italian salad in a bowl with small bowls of parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives and tomatoes around it.

What is Italian Salad Dressing Made Of?

Have you ever looked up the ingredient list of one of your favorite products and immediately wished you hadn’t? Been there, done that. We hate to ruin it for you, but we thought you should see a comparison of what’s in Olive Garden’s Italian dressing verses our own version of the beloved Italian vinaigrette.

From the Olive Garden Website:

Olive Garden salad dressing ingredients: Water, Soybean Oil, Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Egg, Romano Cheese (Milk, Salt, Cultures, Enzymes), Dehydrated Garlic, Sugar, Spices, Xanthan Gum, Dextrose, Calcium Disodium EDTA added to protect flavor, Annatto Color, Natural Flavors.

Our Cleaned-Up Italian Salad Dressing Ingredients:

  • Garlic powder
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
  • Salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • ...and that’s it!
Italian salad recipe with parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives, tomatoes and lettuce in a bowl with serving spoons.

What Kind of Salads Do Italians Eat?

We're no expert when it comes to Italian cuisine, but with a little research we've put together a short list of popular “Italian” salad styles.

1. Chopped: This is our favorite version of Chopped Italian Salad. We love that it’s full of so many goodies!
2. Pasta: We first had this Summer Tortelloni Pasta Salad while vacationing in Italy and have loved it ever since.
3. Tossed: This is a classic for good reason and what the Italian salad recipe we’re sharing today is all about.

classic Italian salad parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives, tomatoes and lettuce in a bowl with serving spoons.

How To Make The Best Italian Salad Recipe:

This simple Italian salad recipe comes together quickly and is the perfect copycat Olive Garden recipe (for when you’re craving it, but can’t possibly leave your house, or are just looking for a healthier option)!

  1. Grab a jar. Add the dressing ingredients, secure the lid, and shake away! Congratulations you just made homemade Italian salad dressing!
  2. Roughly chop the romaine lettuce and throw it in a nice big bowl.
  3. Add the olives, pepperoncinis, onions, and tomatoes.
  4. Toss the salad with the dressing! You’re almost done.
  5. Put as much parmesan cheese and as many croutons as you’d like on your perfect Italian side salad! No skimping please.

Tools You Will Need:

Homemade Italian salad recipe with parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives, tomatoes and lettuce in a bowl .
Italian salad parmesan cheese, red onions, black olives, tomatoes and lettuce in a bowl with serving spoons.

Looking For More Things To Serve This Side Salad With?

Make, Post, Eat, Repeat!

Did you try out this simple Italian salad and love it as much as we do? The next time you make it, snap a pic before gobbling it all down and post it to Instagram tagging @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can admire your handiwork. Happy eating!

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Simple Italian Salad

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  10 min
  • Cook Time:  5 min
  • Calories: 248


  • 1 head leafy romaine lettuce or 2 romaine hearts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated, parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup peperoncini, whole or sliced
  • 1/2 cup black olives, sliced or whole
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • croutons, store bought or homemade

Italian Dressing

  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar


  1. To make the dressing place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until all ingredients are combined. Store in refrigerator for a week. Shake before each use.
  2. To make the salad, place all ingredients in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with Italian dressing and toss to combine.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories248
  • Protein5 g
  • Carbohydrates10 g
  • Total Fat23 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol6 mg
  • sodium505 mg
  • Total Sugars3 g

Simple Italian Salad

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Kathy

    Do I have to store dressing for a week before use? I made it tonight and plan on using it tomorrow night.

    Nope! You can use it immediately. Ir will stay good in the fridge for a week. Enjoy!

  • Mackenzie

    How long does this dressing keep in the fridge

    It should stay good for a week in the fridge. Hope you enjoy Mackenzie!

  • Diane

    How many does this feed?

    6. Hope you enjoy Diane!

  • Deborah

    can you add the dressing 1 hour before it is served or will it get soggy?

    We'd recommend waiting to add the dressing closer to when you'll be serving it for best results. Hope you enjoy Deborah!

  • Rebecca

    Would it work to double this recipe or would the dressing need some adjustment? Thank you!

    Should work ok!

  • LeAnn

    Delicious! I didn't have any pepperoncinis or black olives so I used banana peppers and Kalamata olives instead. Also so I used both parm and mozzarella. I added some chopped hard salami too. And the dressing was excellent as well!

    Thanks LeAnn, we are so happy you loved it!

  • Elnura

    Copied this recipe but added fresh crushed black pepper and 2 tbs of grade A maple syrup to the dressing and mwah! 💖 Fresh chopped basil or white sage would make this viciously delicious

    Thanks Elnura, glad you loved it!

  • Ace

    Great little recipe

    Thanks Ace!

  • Nilam

    Best salad. My friends and family enjoyed it a lot. Easy to make it as well.

    Thanks Nilam, so glad you found it easy and delicious!

  • Cheryl-Ann

    i was very impress with this simple Italian salad and i will be trying it over the weekend.

    Thanks Cheryl-Ann!