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Italian Tossed Salad

This easy Italian Tossed Salad is fresh, crisp, delicious and pairs perfectly with pasta, pizza, all of your favorite Italian dishes, or any meal!

Inspired by the classic Olive Garden salad, romaine lettuce is tossed with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, parmesan cheese, and Italian dressing for a salad that you’ll want to make again and again!

Around here, a yummy side salad is a must with just about any dinner (it’s a great way to get in some extra veggies). And when it’s Italian night, this simple Italian salad is my go-to.

Not only is it colorful and pretty to look at, but it’s got such a great variety of textures and flavors. It’s so good!

The lettuce is crunchy. The tomatoes are ripe, juicy and sweet. The cucumbers are fresh and crisp. The onions are…well, they’re oniony. The olives and pepperoncini are briny. The parmesan cheese is a little nutty.

And let’s not forget about the dressing.

For this salad, I always use and recommend my Homemade Italian Dressing (it’s zesty and packs a real flavor punch). But feel free to use your favorite regular or creamy Italian dressing or even a balsamic vinaigrette.

So if you’re looking for ways to change up your same-old side salad, definitely give this one a try!

all of the ingredients needed to make a tossed Italian salad: chopped romaine lettuce, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and onions, chopped kalamata olives and pepperoncini, parmesan cheese, and Italian dressing

Ingredients You Need

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes (I like to use Roma/plum tomatoes)
  • English cucumber (may also be called seedless cucumber; these are the ones that are longer and thinner than regular cucumbers and are often individually wrapped in plastic)
  • Onion (I use a sweet onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla; red onion can also be used)
  • Kalamata olives (pitted)
  • Pepperoncini
  • Parmesan cheese (freshly shredded/grated)
  • Italian dressing (use your favorite; I use my Homemade Italian Dressing)

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card below.

How to Make Italian Tossed Salad

  1. Place chopped romaine lettuce in a large bowl.
  2. Top the lettuce with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, kalamata olives, and pepperoncini.
  3. Toss and serve with freshly shredded parmesan cheese and your favorite Italian dressing.
  4. Enjoy!
2 numbered images showing the steps to make tossed Italian salad, number 1 is a bowl of chopped romaine lettuce, and number 2 is the bowl of lettuce topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives and pepperoncini
2 numbered images showing the steps to make tossed Italian salad, number 3 is of the tossed salad with a wooden salad spoon and fork, a pitcher of Italian dressing, and a bowl of parmesan cheese on the side

Note: This is just a brief overview of the steps. Scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for the full printable recipe with ingredient amounts and detailed instructions.

Recipe Tips & Tidbits

  • If you’re going with a homemade dressing, make that first. Then set it aside or refrigerate it until you are ready to serve.
  • Since English cucumbers don’t need to be peeled, I like to partially peel them and leave some of the skin on. To do this, I just peel a large strip of the skin from top to bottom, leave a long strip of skin, peel another strip, and so on all the way around the cucumber.
  • Feel free to adjust the amount of any ingredient to suit your own personal tastes.
  • Instead of tossing the salad with the dressing and parmesan before serving, I serve them on the side so everyone can add however much of each they want to their own salad.
    • This also helps if there is any leftover salad. You can easily store the salad, dressing and parmesan separately in the fridge whereas an already-dressed salad won’t keep at all.
  • You can turn this side salad into a light lunch or dinner entree salad by adding some cooked chicken, steak, shrimp or other protein (I would do 2 bigger salads).

Substitutions & Variations

  • Iceberg lettuce or even a spring mix of lettuces can be used instead of romaine.
  • Halved cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes can be used in place of the sliced tomatoes. You could even add sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Regular cucumber can be substituted for the English cucumber (I would peel it completely and, if there are a lot of seeds, scoop them out before slicing).
  • Red onion can replace the sweet onions.
  • Regular black olives can be used instead of kalamata olives.
  • Possible additions: artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, chopped/sliced bell peppers, radishes, chickpeas, cannellini beans, pine nuts, salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, mozzarella or provolone cheese.
  • And – last but not least – croutons are always welcome! Use your favorite store-bought croutons or try my easy Homemade Baked Croutons).
Italian tossed salad in a large glass serving bowl with a pitcher of Italian dressing, a bowl of parmesan cheese, and wooden salad servers on the side

Make Ahead and Leftover Storage

Make Ahead

Yes, you can make this salad ahead of time if you’d like.

To keep it as fresh as possible for when you serve it, I suggest making it only a few hours ahead. Keep the salad, parmesan and dressing all separate until serving time.

Leftover Storage

Store leftover undressed salad, parmesan and dressing separately (covered or in airtight containers) in the fridge.

The chopped veggies, especially the tomatoes and cucumbers, can start to lose their freshness rather quickly, so it may last for 1 to 2 days, tops. The sooner you enjoy it, the better!

If you have leftover salad that has already been dressed, it won’t keep because it will be super soggy in no time.

Italian tossed salad topped with parmesan cheese on a white plate with Italian dressing being poured over the top

What to Serve with an Italian Tossed Salad

This Italian salad goes great with any kind of Italian food (of course) like spaghetti, baked ziti, lasagna, and even pizza. But you can pair it with anything you want. Here are a few of my Italian favorites:

It also goes great with soups like:

And don’t forget about the breadsticks, garlic bread, garlic knots, or just some good Italian bread.

I hope you try this Italian Tossed Salad recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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More Salad Recipes to Try

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it went! Please leave a star rating and comment below. Thanks!

tossed Italian salad on a white plate with a fork

Italian Tossed Salad

This easy Italian Tossed Salad is fresh, crisp, delicious and pairs perfectly with pasta, pizza, all of your favorite Italian dishes, or any meal!
Print Pin Save Rate & Comment
Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 (as a side salad)
Estimated Calories: 278

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • ½ large English cucumber (sometimes called seedless cucumber), partially peeled or unpeeled and sliced about ⅛ inch thick (about 24 slices)
  • 2 (3 to 4-ounce each) tomatoes, halved and sliced about ¼ inch thick (I like to use Roma/plum tomatoes)
  • ½ cup sliced sweet onions, or red onion
  • ¼ cup halved, pitted kalamata olives
  • ¼ cup sliced pepperoncini
  • ½ cup freshly shredded or grated parmesan cheese, or to taste
  • ½ cup Italian dressing, or to taste; use your favorite (I use my Homemade Italian Dressing)

Instructions

  • Place the chopped romaine lettuce in a large bowl.
  • Top the lettuce with the sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, kalamata olives, and pepperoncini; toss.
  • Serve immediately with the parmesan cheese and Italian dressing.

Notes

  • If you’re making a homemade dressing, make that first. Then set it aside or refrigerate it until you are ready to serve.
  • To partially peel the cucumber, peel a large strip of the skin from top to bottom, then leave a long strip of skin, then peel another strip, and so on all the way around the cucumber.
  • Instead of tossing the salad with the dressing and parmesan before serving, I serve them on the side so everyone can add however much of each they want to their own salad. 
  • Estimated calories shown are based on 1 serving made up of ¼ of the tossed salad, 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons of my homemade Italian dressing (which is 170 calories). If you use a store-bought or other dressing or use more or less parmesan or dressing, adjust the calories accordingly. 
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to see it!Share it on Instagram, tag @nowcookthis and use the hashtag #nowcookthisrecipes. Thanks!
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