I couldn't live in a world without homemade Italian Dressing. It's quick, easy, and works delicious magic on anything from baby greens to a plate of homegrown tomatoes. So much better than Olive Garden, and not a filler or artificial ingredient in sight.
This popular cold pasta salad relies on this dressing for its delightfully zippy taste. It's economical, creative, and a great lesson in balancing flavors when you're cooking. Are you new to DIY, but not sure where to start? Try Homemade Red Wine Vinaigrette, then move on to Asian Salad Dressing, which also makes a fantastic marinade. Before you know it, you'll be skipping the salad dressing aisle at the store.
Making a larger batch for a big, huge bowl of pasta salad? Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What's in authentic Italian Dressing?
Here's what you need:
- Olive oil. The best oil for Italian dressing? Olive oil. I like extra virgin.
- Vinegar. I like red wine vinegar, but white wine vinegar is nice. Apple cider works, too!
- Parmesan cheese. Grated works well here. Freshly grated works even better.
- Lemon juice. Throw in some zest if you feel like it.
- Honey. For just a touch of sweetness. You can also use agave nectar, coconut sugar, or regular granulated sugar.
- Dijon mustard. For flavor and emulsification. Brown (whole grain) mustard is good too.
- Dried spices. I like a mixture of dried basil, oregano, and parsley. If you have it, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of my pantry staple recipe for Italian seasoning.
- Garlic. I use dried garlic powder here because it's convenient and safer. Especially useful if you're making a bigger batch to use down the line.
How to make Italian Dressing:
Couldn't be easier!
- Add the ingredients to a glass jar or blender.
- Shake or blast until combined.
If you want to make the dressing right in the salad bowl, just throw everything into the bottom of the bowl and whisk. Then pile your salad ingredients on top and toss. Maybe a little extra Parmesan sprinkled on top, just for fun.
Tips, variations, and substitutions:
- Taste test. Before you serve it, dip a fingertip in the dressing and give it a taste, maybe even with your eyes closed. Does it need anything? If it seems a little lackluster, you may want to add an acid: vinegar or lemon juice. Is it too sharp? Maybe another little bit of olive oil. Then taste again. Still not quite right? Fiddle with the balance of salty, acidic, sweet and savory until it tastes just right for you. Everyone has different tastebuds!
- Vegan Italian Dressing. Easy! Skip the cheese and replace with 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast.
- Creamy Italian Dressing. Simple! Add 1/2 cup good quality mayo (Hellman's or best Foods) to the dressing.
- Fresh herbs. Hey, if you got 'em, use 'em! Use about twice the amount the recipe calls for, because the equivalent in dried herbs takes up less room in the measuring spoons.
How long does homemade Italian Dressing keep?
This dressing will be good for up to a week in the refrigerator. If you want something that can last longer, leave out the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle it on your salad right before tossing.
Put your salad dressing to work:
Here are a few of my favorite ways to use a fresh batch of dressing. Chopped salads, pasta salads, lentil salads, the list goes on.
- Easy Cold Pasta Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- California Pasta Salad
- Mediterranean Chopped Salad
- Italian Antipasto Salad
- Mediterranean Lentil Salad
- Over roasted vegetables, especially roasted peppers, roasted asparagus, or roasted green beans
- Sandwiches made with Italian deli meats, olives, provolone, and hot peppers
- Over cold, tender white or Cannellini beans with chopped crunchy vegetables, as an impromptu bean salad
The Best Homemade Italian Dressing Recipe
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove minced fresh garlic
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, basil, oregano, parsley, and garlic powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Store covered in the refrigerator.