Homemade salad dressing is pretty low hanging fruit if you’re looking to up your cooking game. It’s quick to make, budget-friendly, and tastier than store-bought.
Homemade Italian dressing is a prime example. You shake it up in an ordinary jar using pantry staples. The whole operation will take you under 2 minutes and results in enough dressing to get you through a couple of family-sized salads. Plus, it’s made with heart-healthy olive oil and packs less sugar and none of the gums or additives in many ready-made dressings.
The inspiration for the flavor here is the old school Good Seasons Italian Dressing I grew up on. My mom would empty the seasoning packet into the glass cruet sold alongside the dressing, then add oil, vinegar, and water, and give it a good shake. If I happened to be in the kitchen, she’d outsource the task to me.
Ingredients from an Italian Kitchen
I’m not sure this type of Italian dressing is particularly Italian at all. Salads in Italy typically arrive at the table undressed, with olive oil and vinegar served separately on the side. That said, the ingredients in this recipe include olive oil, garlic, onion, basil, and oregano, all things you’re likely to find in an Italian kitchen.
Tips to Make the Best Homemade Italian Dressing
You don’t need a slew of insider secrets or hot tips to get this dressing right. That said, here are a few suggestions:
- Use extra virgin olive oil. It’s superior in taste and nutrition to many of the vegetable oils used in store-bought dressings.
- Update your spices. If your basil, garlic, and other spices have been tucked away in your pantry longer than you can remember, it’s probably time to freshen things up. Ground spices are good for roughly 6 months from purchase. Aromas and flavors deteriorate over time, which will impact your finished dressing if you’re using vintage spices.
- Use a lidded glass jar. You can certainly whisk this in a bowl, but shaking it in a jar is quick and makes for easy storage.
Tinker with the Ingredients
Dressings as a general category are really made for tinkering. This one is no exception!
- Use another vinegar, such as white wine, champagne, balsamic, or sherry vinegar.
- Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard or white miso paste. It will give the dressing a bit more body and a pop of flavor.
- If you know you’ll use the dressing within about 4 days, add a minced clove of fresh garlic instead of the dried garlic for an extra kick.
- Use fresh orange juice instead of the water.
- Add a few teaspoons of fresh minced herbs, such as chives, parsley, basil, or tarragon.
So Many Ways to Use Italian Dressing
Italian dressing is tangy and lightly herbaceous with just enough garlic and onion to give it some pep. It’s a dressing that pairs well with other staples of the Italian table, such as crunchy Romaine salad, tomatoes, grilled and roasted vegetables, tender beans, and pasta.
This is an immensely versatile dressing with endless ways to use it. Here are ideas to get your started:
- Toss with a simple green salad.
- Use it to dress an Italian-style chopped salad with romaine lettuce hearts, tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, olives, cubed Mozzarella, and sliced salami.
- Drizzle over a deli sandwich instead of mayo and mustard.
- Toss with cold pasta and diced vegetables for a fresh pasta salad.
- Drizzle over fresh sliced tomatoes and Mozzarella.
- Toss with blanched green beans and toasted almonds.
- Drizzle over a platter of grilled vegetables, such as zucchini, eggplant, and onions.
- Take those leftover grilled vegetables, tuck them into a pita, and add more dressing along with crumbled feta.
- Make a simple bean salad using warm cannellini beans and shaved Parmesan.
Dressed Up and Salad-Ready
Homemade Italian Dressing
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Make the dressing:
In a large, lidded jar that holds at least 8 ounces, add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, water, dried basil, garlic powder, oregano, onion powder, salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Tightly cover with a lid. Shake vigorously until the ingredients are blended.
This dressing is an excellent make-ahead option that can easily be doubled. If you plan to use it within 1 or 2 days, it can be kept on the counter. Any longer than that and you should store it in the fridge, where it will be good for several weeks. Just give it a vigorous shake before using.
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