This simple Italian Salad recipe is quick and easy to make, tossed with a zesty Italian vinaigrette, and can easily double as a side salad or main dish.
Our week of easy side salad recipes continues today with the very first salad I ever learned how to like…
…a classic Italian salad. ♡
Specifically, this classic Italian side salad, inspired by none other than the Olive Garden. ♡♡♡
Back in my picky-eating days, I used to avoid salads like the plague. But that all changed my freshman year of college when a group of friends squeezed into my old VW bug one night for a road trip to have dinner in the “big city” at — yes — the Olive Garden. It was the hot new restaurant in Wichita circa the early 2000s, and their famous unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks combo was every broke college student’s dream come true. I remember becoming an instant fan of their creamy Zuppa Toscana soup, and went big on those hot and soft breadsticks each time they were passed around. Then — probably to impress some boy in the group — I remember impulsively following suit and adding some of their famous Italian green salad to my plate as well. And 100% to my surprise, I loved it!!!
Ever since, I’ve been a huge fan of Italian salads and love experimenting with different ways to make them. But I have to admit there will always be a special spot in my heart for my first love — that dreamy throwback Olive Garden-style Italian salad. Fresh greens, zesty croutons, crisp red onions, juicy tomatoes, mild pepperoncini peppers and freshly-grated Parmesan are just an unbeatable combination every time! Especially when made with this super-simple Italian vinaigrette. And especially when you go big on the Parmesan (which I wholeheartedly recommend you do).
That said — like all of the side salad recipes that I’m sharing this week — this Italian salad is 100% customizable with whatever ingredients you love best. So feel free to get creative and clean out the fridge and make this recipe your own! I’ve also included tips below for how to make it gluten-free or vegan, if you would like. And if you feel like adding in some extra protein (such as chicken, steak, shrimp) or beans (such as chickpeas), this side salad can easily transform into a hearty entree too.
We make some version of this salad pretty much every time we make Italian food in our house, and it always hits the spot. So if you were also a fan of the OG back in the day, or if you’re just looking for a tried-and-true Italian salad recipe to add to your repertoire, bookmark this one and give it a try!
To make this easy salad recipe, you will need:
To make this Italian salad recipe, simply…
There are about a million ways that you can customize this salad. So feel free to get creative and use what ingredients you love most (or need to use up in your kitchen!) and make this one your own. For example, feel free to:
Looking for some winning entrees to serve with this salad? Here are a few of my faves.
If you’re looking for more side salad inspiration, here are some of my faves!
This simple Italian Salad recipe is quick and easy to make, tossed with an Italian vinaigrette, and can easily double as a side salad or main dish. See notes above for possible ingredient variations.
Recipe inspired by The Olive Garden.All images and text ©
If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!