My version of a classic Italian Antipasto Salad! Plenty of pepperoni and cheese on a bed of crunchy vegetables topped with a homemade red wine vinaigrette.
Antipasto Salads kind of feel like anti-salads to me.
In a good way! In the best way possible, actually.
While they contain loads of vegetables, they typically have a few “fun” ingredients such as pepperoni and cheese that make them SO much better than any other salad.
Because not nearly enough salads have olives these days. And somehow there are as many as, or more, toppings than lettuce in an Antipasto Salad. And who doesn’t love toppings?!
I started with a bed with green leaf lettuce and added mini pepperonis (mini pepperonis are available in my part of the world, so I try to use them whenever possible out of deference to those less fortunate… hi Australia!).
I also LOVE black olives (or any olive) and lots of thickly-shredded mozzarella cheese. Juicy tomatoes and thinly sliced onions tie up any loose ends. After all, to qualify as a “salad” I’m aiming for 50% vegetable matter.
Let’s not forget a few obligatory pepperoncini, too.
The simplest red wine vinaigrette make a perfect dressing. Just 5 ordinary pantry ingredients whisked together and you’re set to go! A good red wine vinaigrette doesn’t need anything else.
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced (1 cup or 4 ounces, see note 1)
- 1 heart romaine lettuce shredded (4 cups packed or 8 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes halved (10 ounces, see note 2)
- 1 (15 ounce) can pitted black olives (see note 3)
- 1 (5 ounce) package mini pepperoni (see note 4)
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
- Pepperoncini to taste, for garnish (see note 5)
- To make the dressing: In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, and oregano, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper).
- To the bowl with the dressing, add the sliced red onion and marinate at least 5 minutes or up to 30 minutes.
- To make the salad, in a large bowl add lettuce, tomatoes, olives, pepperoni, and mozzarella. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove onions from the dressing and add to the salad. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette to taste and toss to combine. Garnish with pepperoncini.
- Red onions: Substitute sweet onions if desired. 1 cup of onions may sound like a lot, but you temper the harsh raw flavor after a few minutes of marinade time in the vinaigrette.
- Grape tomatoes: 1 ½ cup diced tomatoes may be substituted for the grape tomatoes. Seed your tomatoes if desired.
- Black olives: Substitute Kalamata olives or your favorite green olives if desired. I prefer to leave them whole, but you can cut them in half or slice them.
- Mini pepperoni: 5 ounces (about 1 cup) regular-sized pepperoni, quartered, may be substituted for the mini pepperoni. Or, use turkey pepperoni.
- Pepperonicini: I prefer whole pepperoncini peppers because they are easier to avoid for anyone who doesn't like them. And, the pre-sliced variety have a different (but still delicious) taste.
- Yield: This recipe makes 8-9 cups salad, enough for at least 8 servings at a party or 4 generous lunch servings.
- Storage: Once you add the dressing, leftovers won't keep well.
- Make ahead: The red wine vinaigrette can be stored covered in the refrigerator up to 3 days in advance. All the vegetables can be prepped 1 day in advance. Store the washed lettuce wrapped in a damp paper towel in the refrigerator.
- More mix-ins: Get creative with a can of chickpeas, diced cucumber, sliced fresh mushrooms, blanched asparagus, or some toasted sunflower seeds.
- Olive Garden Copycat: To make this chain favorite, substitute a bag of iceberg lettuce with carrots and red cabbage for the romaine, omit the pepperoni and mozzarella, add your favorite croutons, and garnish with Parmesan cheese table-side. And mix up a batch of this Italian salad dressing. It tastes just like the real thing!