If there’s anyone in your life who thinks salads are boring, one bite of my antipasto salad will change their whole outlook. It’s chock full of meat, cheese, olives, and pickled veggies for new textures and flavors in every bite.
What if I told you there was a salad that was so flavorful and filling that you’ll forget you’re even eating a salad? Antipasto salad checks all those boxes and more.
It’s an awesome starter for your next dinner party, a great dish to take to potlucks, and it’s a perfect side for grilled foods. It can easily be scaled to feed two people or fifty.
Plus, it requires no cooking whatsoever—you just chop up all the ingredients, whisk the dressing together, and combine it all in a big bowl.
What’s not to love?
An antipasto salad is one of the most versatile dishes you can have in your repertoire. It’s a combination of all the best things in life and it can be an appetizer, a salad course, or a whole meal in one bowl.
An antipasto salad can be made up of lots of different cured meats, cheeses, vegetables, and olives. In some regions, antipasto can even include cured fish.
Antipasto salads are served at many Italian restaurants, and they all have their own personal spin on the dish. For example, the famous Buca di Beppo antipasto salad recipe has pepperoni, pepperoncini, and provolone, while another restaurant may use salami, red peppers, and mozzarella.
The word antipasto technically means the first course in an Italian meal.
Traditionally, it was served more in the style of appetizers or hors d’oeuvres as small plates designed to whet the appetite for the main course.
Antipasto can have lots of different complementary flavors and textures, or it can be completely minimalist. It can be made up of three different meats, four cheeses, and all the pickled veggies you can find, or be elegant and simple with only one of each so that all the different components shine on their own.
So basically, what I’m trying to say is that there is no antipasto salad definition —everyone has their own personal favorite combination of flavors and textures, myself included.
Today I’m going to share with you an antipasto salad recipe with lettuce . It is, in my humble opinion, the very best antipasto recipe .
My version has Genoa salami, diced mozzarella, two types of olives, pepperoncini, fresh tomatoes, fresh red peppers and garbanzo beans, so it’s a nice balance of indulgent and nutritious.
The textures of the salami and cheese mix so well with the crunch of the lettuce and peppers. The creaminess of the garbanzo beans complements the acidity from the tomatoes and the tanginess of the dressing in a way that will definitely make you want seconds.
And speaking of the dressing—it is to die for. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and savory and it ties the whole dish together beautifully.
This salad is the salad.
It’s guaranteed to be a hit with everyone, kids and picky eaters included. If there is such a thing as a recipe that makes everyone happy, this is it.
Dressing: I use a homemade vinaigrette with red wine and balsamic vinegars, dijon mustard, and Italian seasoning in this antipasto salad recipe.
Italian dressing out of the bottle would be perfectly fine if you’re pressed for time, though.
If you opt for the homemade version, it’s easy to tweak it to your personal taste. You can add some crushed red pepper for a little heat or a little sugar if you like it really sweet. Remember the Balsamic vinegar adds quite a bit of sweetness already and really balances out the acidity.
It’s your salad and you can dress it how you want to!
Cheese: I use diced mozzarella in this recipe. Some recipes use shredded cheese instead, but I think dicing it helps to get it more evenly distributed so you have a “mini chunk” of cheese in every bite.
If you’re a cheese lover, you can add a little extra (or a lot), or even use a combination of two or three cheeses—I mean, really, when it comes to cheese, is it possible to have too much?
Onions: Red onions are more traditional for antipasto salad, but if you don’t have any on hand, shallots would work too. Since they’re raw, it’s probably best not to use a super pungent variety.
If your onion is a little strong, you can soak it in water for a few minutes after chopping it, or just rinse it under the faucet to make the flavor milder.
Peppers: I use a combination of fresh red bell peppers and pickled pepperoncini because I like the contrast. The crunch of the bell peppers and the acidity of the pepperoncini add a nice extra level of texture and flavor to this salad.
If you have a jar of roasted red peppers rather than fresh, they would add a nice, deep sweetness to the salad. Pepperoncini isn’t super spicy, but you could substitute a sweeter pickled pepper for it if you have sensitive taste buds.
Olives: Olives can be a really polarizing subject. People seem to either love them or hate them. If you happen to be in the “hate” camp, you can just leave them out entirely and your antipasto salad won’t suffer a bit.
Lighten It Up: This recipe could easily be made healthier by changing the quantities of some of the ingredients. Using less meat and cheese and more vegetables will definitely lighten up this antipasto salad.
Calories in the vinaigrette can be reduced by using a little less oil. You could also use reduced fat cheese or substitute a leaner meat for the salami.
Make Ahead: You can mix up the vinaigrette and get everything sliced and diced ahead of time, then just throw it all in a bowl and toss it together right before serving.
I wouldn’t recommend mixing the whole salad together too far in advance to preserve the textures of all the individual ingredients. But if you have everything ready to go the night before, stirring it all together when you’re ready to eat it will be a snap.
How Many Will This Salad Serve: This salad serves 4-6 people as an entree or 6-8 as a first course.
- Yield: Serves 4-6
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Olive Oil - 3/4 Cup
- Red Wine Vinegar - 2 Tablespoons
- Balsamic Vinegar - 2 Tablespoons
- Shallots, Finely Minced - 1 Tablespoon
- Fresh Garlic, Minced - 1 Tablespoon
- Dijon Mustard - 2 Tablespoons
- Dried Italian Seasoning - 1 1/2 Tablespoon
- Salt - 1 Teaspoon
- Black Pepper - 1/2 Teaspoon
- Rotini Pasta - 8 Ounces
- Romaine Lettuce, Torn into Bite-Sized Pieces - 15 Ounce Bag
- Grape Tomatoes, Cut in Half - 1 (10 Ounce) Container
- Small Red Onion, Thinnly Sliced - 1/4 Small
- Red Bell Pepper, Julienned - 1/2
- Basil Leaves, julienned - 1/2 Cup
- Garbono Beans, Drained and Rinsed - 1 (15 Ounce) Can
- Mozzarella, Shredded or Diced into 1/4 Inch Cubes - 8 Ounces
- Genoa Salami , Diced into 1/4 Inch Cubes - 8 Ounces
- Green Olives, Pitted, and Drained - 1 Cup
- Black Olives, Pitted, and Drained - 1 Cup
- Peperoncini Peppers, Sliced, and Drained - 1/2 Cup
- Salt - To Taste
- Pepper - To Taste
- Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.
- Cook the Rotini in well salted water, according to package instructions. Drain well.
- While the pasta is still warm, toss it with 1/2 cup vinaigrette in a salad bowl large enough to accommodate the finished salad.
- When the pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the rest of the salad ingredients. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad, to taste, and toss well. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.