Essential Recipe: Italian Salad Dressing

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Bottled Italian salad dressing and I go way back, so much so that I actually named my personal blog, Dixie Caviar, after a dish using the zesty store bought blend. I am still quite attached to that recipe (and yes, I still use the bottle), but for all other purposes, this from-scratch version will blow all other competition out of the water.

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I am happy to say that my salad dressing skills have come a long way in the past decade. I can whip up a creamy Caesar or quick vinaigrette in the blink of an eye. But it has always been the classic Italian that I could never get quite right. I must admit it has taken some tweaking, but I am pleased to say that this is it.  

So what makes this Italian dressing so good? A mix of red and white white vinegars supply plenty of zing, while shallots, minced garlic, and red pepper add the zip. Dijon adds a tanginess and also helps thicken things up, and a hint of honey balances things out. I prefer a neutral oil in this as opposed to olive oil, which can have tendency to overwhelm the other flavors. And while some folks may not prefer dried herbs, I find they are crucial to getting the desired flavor I want to achieve. A good shake in a tightly sealed jar (or a whiz in the blender) emulsifies the ingredients, yielding a creamy, dreamy Italian vinaigrette.

Don't just keep this zesty dressing around for your side salads though. It also makes a great marinade for fish and chicken, or it can be a delicious dunk for summer veggies. And you know what, it's so good that it just might have to replace the bottle in the famed Dixie Caviar. To be continued...

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Italian Salad Dressing

Makes 1 1/2 cups (using 2-4 tablespoons per salad)

1 cup neutral salad oil, such as canola (See Recipe Note)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove, pressed
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. (I love this shaker.) Shake vigorously until the mixture is thickened and well-combined. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined.

Taste the dressing using a lettuce leaf and adjust seasonings. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Recipe Notes:

  • Italian Dressing with Olive Oil: Olive oil can be substituted for the neutral oil in this dressing, though I find that olive oil can have tendency to overwhelm the other flavors.
  • Making More or Less Dressing: This dressing makes enough for several dinner salads over the course of a week or so. To make more for larger salads or less for a single salad, just scale the ingredients to make the amount you need.

(Images: Nealey Dozier)

Per serving, based on 12 servings. (% daily value)
Calories
166
Fat
18.2 g (28%)
Saturated
1.3 g (6.7%)
Trans
0.1 g
Carbs
1.1 g (0.4%)
Fiber
0.1 g (0.6%)
Sugars
0.7 g
Protein
0.1 g (0.2%)
Sodium
167.9 mg (7%)

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