I have a challenge for you (and me) today. I challenge us all to start making a giant fresh salad on Sundays, so we can eat salad all week long. Starting with this gigantic, colorful, dare-I-say the best Italian chopped salad.
When you have a really great salad in the fridge, you might even reach for it before you grab the bag of chips. Happened to me! I’ve enjoyed four iterations of this salad over the past couple of weeks (especially the final version you see here), and I’m still craving more.
The motivation behind this salad recipe came when I ordered an Italian chopped salad and a pricy Neapolitan pizza down the street. I requested the chopped salad without the bacon, and it was definitely missing that salty, savory, gimme-more edge without it. Crispy bacon is the only meat I ever miss.
I set out to create a better meatless Italian chopped salad, and here it is. You’ll find most of the usual ingredients, including crisp lettuce, radicchio, red onion, fresh tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers and provolone cheese. I tried a few other kinds of cheese, but it’s no wonder provolone is the most common—it’s the tastiest. That said, you could easily skip it for a delicious dairy-free/vegan salad.
You’ll find a few unexpected ingredients here that send this salad over the top. First up, chickpeas, which aren’t uncommon but make this salad more hearty. I also added celery for extra crunch, and sun-dried tomatoes for some extra oomph. The umami flavor in sun-dried tomatoes make up for the umami-rich pork that you usually find in Italian chopped salads.
Toss all of those ingredients in a bold, homemade Italian vinaigrette and you will have a seriously addictive salad. I’ve enjoyed smaller portions as a side or larger portions as a light meal. Please let me know how you like it!
- 10 ounces chopped romaine lettuce* (about 2 medium or 3 small heads, chopped)
- ½ medium head of radicchio*, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
- ½ medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup stemmed and thinly sliced pickled pepperoncini peppers
- ⅓ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and roughly chopped
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 cup (4 ounces) ¼" cubes of provolone cheese (optional)
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 10 twists freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt, more to taste
- Pinch of red pepper flakes, for heat (optional)
- In a large serving bowl, combine the chopped lettuce, radicchio, onion, celery, cherry tomatoes, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpeas and cheese (if using). Toss the ingredients together and set aside.
- To prepare the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a liquid measuring cup. Whisk until blended. Taste, and add more salt if the dressing doesn't knock your socks off (I usually add one to two more pinches of salt).
- If you'll be serving all of the salad at once, go ahead and drizzle enough dressing in to lightly coat the salad and toss to combine. I prefer to store the salad and dressing separately so I can enjoy salad for a few days. Just whisk the dressing again before drizzling (if the olive oil solidifies a bit in the refrigerator, don't worry, that's normal—just let it warm up for about 5 minutes at room temperature or microwave for 10 to 20 seconds).
Make it dairy free/vegan: Omit the cheese! It's still great without it.
*Romaine and radicchio notes: If you want to make this salad in a hurry, just buy two bags of chopped romaine/radicchio mix, and chop it into even smaller, bite-sized pieces. Radicchio is very bitter and can be hard to find, but I thought it added something special to this salad. If you hate it/can't find it, skip it. If you adore it, feel free to use the whole head.