My Mom’s Legendary Italian Salad Dressing

My Mom's Legendary Italian Salad Dressing by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

Growing up, my mom cooked dinner almost every single night. Take out, pizza, or restaurant outings were rare treats; each night, my mom would make your typical well-rounded dinner consisting of protein, either rice or a baked potato, some type of vegetable, and always a salad.

Back in the ’80s, fancy green mixes weren’t all the rage yet, so we had your run of the mill iceberg lettuce. For awhile, my mom served it with an assortment of bottled dressings to choose from, and then at some point that stopped. She started putting her own dressing on the salad… and, it was good. Like, really good.

As far as I could tell, she’d just sprinkle a little of this and a little of that, and it was delicious. It was mom’s salad. Eventually, extended family members would get a taste of the salad at a family party or something of the like, and suddenly mom become “the salad lady”. Everyone loved her dressing, and to this day, if there’s a holiday or family function, my mom is always asked to bring the salad.

My Mom's Legendary Italian Salad Dressing by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

Two of my best friends from high school still mention my mom’s salad dressing on occasion. “Does your mom still make that same salad? That’s the best dressing I’ve ever had!” A cousin of mine got married a few years ago, and when the invitations arrived for his fiancé’s bridal shower, they included a blank recipe card and everyone was asked to bring a favorite recipe to share with Jess. My mom’s invitation had a special request from the bride: “Aunt Marie, Could you please give me your salad dressing recipe?” it read. When I make a salad, my Chief Culinary Consultant routinely asks, “Is that your mom’s salad dressing?”

My Mom's Legendary Italian Salad Dressing by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

When I asked my mom if she got the recipe somewhere, she said she hadn’t, and that she had gotten bored with bottled dressing and just started making her own, throwing in things she liked. The recipe is really quite simple, and you can use more of less of any ingredient based on your own taste preferences. I personally love a ton of fresh cracked black pepper in my salad, so I always add a lot more. When I’m being extra good with my eating habits, I omit the sugar entirely. My dad always sprinkled much more Romano cheese into his salad bowl. You should also feel free to use your favorite type of vinegar; I’m partial to salad vinegar, but my mom has made this with red wine vinegar, balsamic, and even rice wine vinegar if that’s all she has in the pantry.

When my mom makes her dressing, she never, ever makes it in a container, rather directly on the salad, sprinkling and drizzling everything right on, then mixing it together. She began teaching my sister and I how to make it when we were in our early teens, and after awhile, you just sort of get a feel for it. It took me quite a bit of time measuring and adjusting, then measuring and adjusting some more, to get the right ratios here. Use this as a starting point for adding or subtracting to make it your most loved salad dressing!

My Mom's Legendary Italian Salad Dressing by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

Our family’s favorite salad dressing, from my mom, with love :)

One year ago: Chipotle Chicken and Corn Chowder
Two years ago: Peanut Butter Blondies
Three years ago: Apple & Cheddar Pupcakes for Einstein’s 4th Birthday!
Four years ago: Dog Birthday Cake
Six years ago: Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

Mom's Legendary Italian Salad Dressing

Yield: A generous ½ cup dressing

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

My mom is famous in our family and among friends for her thrown-together Italian salad dressing!

Ingredients:

⅓ cup olive oil
3½ tablespoons vinegar (suggestions: salad, red wine, or balsamic)
2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

1. Add all of the ingredients to a salad shaker, mason jar or other container. Close with a tight-fitting lid and shake for about 10 seconds to combine. Drizzle over salad and serve! Leftover dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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86 Responses to “My Mom’s Legendary Italian Salad Dressing”

  1. Kim L on January 14, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Love this (and the story behind it!) I make my own Greek Vinagrette so look forward to adding this to my homemade list!

    Reply

  2. Averie @ Averie Cooks on January 14, 2014 at 2:19 am

    I love that you grew up with homemade salad dressing and that your mom was making her own blend! That’s awesome! I like making salad dressings too but mine are never usually the same thing twice :) The next time I have some romano on hand, I’m making this! Pinned

    Reply

  3. Sarah Toasty on January 14, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Love this, it reminds me of the dressing at Sabatino’s in baltimore. I could DRINK that stuff with some double-sided garlic bread… my sister will be so happy i found something similar, thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  4. Linda on January 14, 2014 at 3:30 am

    Hi Michelle, Thanks for posting this! My mom made a homemade salad dressing very similar to this every night as well —and ALWAYS directly on the salad . She used finely minced fresh garlic in place of the garlic powder, and occasionally (if she was making a really big salad!) she shook it up in a small jar and then applied it. And, like your mom, her salad was always requested at every family gathering. Sometimes (whene she could find it) she made a special version with escarole or chicory, but mostly it was good old iceberg lettuce. What wonderful memories, and now , I have shared the technique and the recipe with my own daughter. Love your blog! XOXO

    Reply

  5. Elines Acevedo on January 14, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Happy birthday to Einstein!

    Reply

  6. Leslie W on January 14, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Hi Michelle! Thanks for your mom’s dressing recipe. Even without any dressing your salad pictures look so amazing I think I could live on that. What all did you put in there? Happy New Year!

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 14th, 2014 at 10:30 am

      Hi Leslie, It was just a chop salad with romaine, cucumber, mushrooms, radish, carrots, purple cabbage, green onions and feta.

      Reply

  7. Laura @ Lauras Baking Talent on January 14, 2014 at 6:26 am

    This dressing looks delicious! Thank your mom for sharing it with us :)

    Reply

  8. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on January 14, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Yum! Your Mom’s salad dressing sounds wonderful and your salad looks so pretty! Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply

  9. mary on January 14, 2014 at 6:56 am

    is salad vinegar white vinegar?

    Reply

  10. Teri on January 14, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Hi,
    How long will this dressing last in the refrigerator?
    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 14th, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Hi Teri, It will last about two weeks. I have updated the recipe above to include that :)

      Reply

      • Ellen on March 11th, 2014 at 2:39 pm

        I’m wondering why the dressing wouldn’t last more than two weeks. What would be the perishable part of it?

        Reply

  11. Lucy on January 14, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Michelle, thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I love to eat good salads but was getting really bored with the salad dressing in the stores, the were pretty bad so I almost stopped eating salad’s. A few years ago my brother and sister-in-law gave me a couple of bottles of Olive Garden’s salad dressing and it was sooooooo good!! I’ve been using it ever since and eating salad almost every day. I’ve often wondered what they were using to make their italian dressing. This recipe looks like it could be comparable and possibly a substitue from having to go buy a bottle versus making my own delicious dressing! :) I’m going to give it a try!

    Reply

  12. Robby on January 14, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Freshly made dressing can elevate any salad. This looks like the next thing to try for one of the church luncheons I do. Can you tell me more about ‘salad vinegar’. I’m not familiar with that, but I’d love to try it. Red wine vinegar was on our salads growing up.

    Reply

  13. Tricia @ Saving room for dessert on January 14, 2014 at 8:40 am

    I love the story behind this dressing – so special! And the recipe sounds pretty amazing – printed and pinned!

    Reply

  14. Máire on January 14, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Was just wondering what salad is in the picture there, is looks tasty?!

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 14th, 2014 at 10:36 am

      HI Maire, It was just a salad I had made for lunch with stuff I had in the fridge: romaine, cucumber, mushrooms, radish, carrots, purple cabbage, green onions and feta.

      Reply

  15. Alyssa on January 14, 2014 at 9:16 am

    How long does this salad dressing last? I was thinking about doubling it and keeping it in the fridge? Or is it better to just make a new batch each time?

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 14th, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Hi Alyssa, This will last about two weeks in the fridge.

      Reply

  16. Sara K. on January 14, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I’m so glad you posted this. I have been wanting to try making homemade dressing (mostly because I don’t eat salad as often as I should and hate having a preservative filled bottle of dressing sitting in my fridge for months!). This looks so easy and I have everything but the romano cheese sitting around my kitchen all the time!

    Reply

  17. Cate @ Chez CateyLou on January 14, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Your mom and family dinners sound so similar to mine growing up! And an iceberg salad with homemade Italian dressing was on the menu 80% of the time! I can’t wait to try your mom’s recipe – looks so simple but so delicious!

    Reply

  18. Debbi K. on January 14, 2014 at 11:22 am

    LOVE your blog! Made many of your recipes, you are an inspiration! I LOVE this type of dressing and will be making your mom’s recipe tomorrow! What a special gift, thank you for sharing! I too have never used salad vinegar but love vinegar, will have to find it!

    Reply

  19. Jennifer on January 14, 2014 at 11:56 am

    This reminds me so much of both my weeknight dinners growing up in the 80s – protein, starch, vegetable and always a salad – and the salad dressing that we always used on our salads. Sensation Salad Dressing is a staple in Southern Louisiana, at least if you know anyone who has a copy of the River Road Recipes cookbook. Here is a link to a version of the dressing, which is still one of my absolute favorites : http://www.jfolse.com/recipe_week/recipe0909/WAFB_090109SENsalad.html

    Reply

  20. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on January 14, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I’ve never heard of salad vinegar before. I’ll have to look for it next time I’m in the grocery store! Thanks for sharing this :)

    Reply

  21. McKenzie on January 14, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I loved homemade salad dressing! So simple, healthy and good!

    Reply

  22. Abbe@This is How I Cook on January 14, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I always make my own dressing, too but never measure. I better start so i can pass it on to my kids. What a great tribute to your mom!

    Reply

  23. Gidget on January 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Simple and delishious!
    I love visiting you blog thank you!

    Reply

  24. Christina Auton on January 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for this! I just made it for my lunch salad, it was delish! I used balsamic this time but may try a lighter vinegar like the salad vinegar you suggested next time to get a lighter flavor. Although I love balsamic sometimes it can be overpowering :)

    Reply

  25. Becca @ Crumbs on January 14, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Ooh sounds right up my street! I have salads for lunch most days and this will definitely liven it up!

    Reply

  26. Emily on January 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Fabulous post for January healthy eating! And your salad looked super, too!

    Reply

  27. Chloe on January 14, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    That’s definitely my kind of recipe!

    http://www.ninegrandstudent.wordpress.com

    Reply

  28. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar on January 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Your mom’s salad looks great!! Such a fabulous recipe!

    Reply

  29. Patti Z on January 14, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    What a great story. I can’t wait to try this dressing. Thanks,BEB!

    Reply

  30. Nancy Long on January 14, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    I’ve been making my own dressings for well over 30 years now; much better than any bottled dressing and less expensive to make. Hint, lately I’ve been adding a touch of honey in place of sugar. Hubby loves it. He’s always been a blue cheese dressing guy, but he loves my vinaigrette and I always throw in some kind of cheese. Use blue cheese often for him. btq, I’m 71 and have never heard the term ‘salad vinegar’. My mother used apple cider vinegar.

    Reply

  31. Martha in KS on January 14, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. Have you heard of Wishbone Salad Dressings? The Italian dressing was created at the Wishbone Restaurant in Kansas City in 1945. That was a special place that my family went to for birthday dinners a couple of times. They served a cake with a sparkler on it! Lipton now owns the company but still makes the dressing in Kansas City. Just a little salad dressing history.

    Reply

  32. becky on January 15, 2014 at 9:15 am

    michelle, your recipes are awesome!!! i especially love the story behind this one. It reminds me of the salad dressing at the olive garden. cant wait to make it. Also happy birthday Einstein :)

    Reply

  33. Alexe @ Keys to the Cucina on January 15, 2014 at 11:36 am

    This dressing looks so delish. I too grew up with a Mom who cooked every night, so I can appreciate your Mom ditching that nasty bottle dressing for something healthy and homemade!

    Reply

  34. Fran@fransfavs.com on January 15, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Michelle, thanks so much for this! My Italian mom also just sprinkled ingredients directly over our salads when I was growing up using fresh ingredients, and it always tasted so good. She never bought a bottle of salad dressing. I am sad that I never worked with her to duplicate it before she died. Can’t wait to try this!

    Reply

  35. Candace on January 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    This dressing looks great. I try not to buy salad dressing because of all the added unneeded ingredients. I like to know what I am eating.

    Reply

  36. puja on January 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    WOW! just made the dressing. So good!

    Reply

  37. Caroline Luisi on January 15, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    I love this post. Kris’s mom is the same way with her dressing. She also does it directly on the salad, and I can never get it right when I try to make it at home. She swears by garlic cloves at the bottom of the salad bowl. I made your dressing today and it is soooo good. Thanks Michelle and Mrs. Norris!! This is my go-to salad dressing recipe from now on :)

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 15th, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Hi Caroline, I’m so glad you liked the dressing! Must be a regional Italian thing :) I hope you and Kris and the girls are doing well! Tell him I said hello!

      Reply

  38. Lynda on January 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I didn’t have Romano. After reading yor recipie I had to have this salad now. It was ok but I wouldn’t use parmazan agin I think it was maybe more overpowering then Romano..can’t wait to try agin..o and both way my grocery does not carry salad oil either. I used red wine vinaigrette but would like to know if you can recommend a grand of balsamic? So many brands out there.this is my 1st time ever leaving a comment…I love your recipies and your site is very easy to use..I share your recipies and tell everyone about you!

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 16th, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Lynda, I buy Alessi regular balsamic vinegar, and DeLallo white balsamic vinegar (more mild).

      Reply

  39. Kira - HealthAble Old Soul on January 16, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Can’t get better than recipes based from generation to generation!

    Reply

  40. Breanna on January 16, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I made this tonight and it will definitely be a staple for us! I’ve been looking for a simple dressing and this one seems like a keeper. I used white wine vinegar and Parmesan and it was just right. I’m going to look for Salad vinegar the next time I go to the grocery though. Thank you for sharing your Mom’s recipe!

    Reply

  41. Caroline on January 16, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    I made this dressing for the salad we had for dinner tonight, and it was a big hit! My husband and I both loved it, and my kids were enthusiastic as well. And let me tell you that they have some strong food opinions! Thanks for sharing this recipe – it will become a staple.

    Reply

  42. ann hazelett on January 17, 2014 at 9:17 am

    i would love that chopped salad recipe!

    Reply

  43. Mel on January 17, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Made this last night and it was AMAZING!!!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!

    Reply

  44. Shelby on January 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Actually,I have used this vinegar many years ago, probably when I first started making my own dressings. Now that I use so many different vinegars, I guess I just forgot about this one. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply

  45. Sandi on January 18, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    I just ate a tossed salad with your Mom’s salad dressing. It was great. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

  46. Greg Patterson on January 19, 2014 at 12:30 am

    With this basic recipe you can add cubed chicken, tuna fish, salmon, etc to make other wonderful salads. I like the red wine vinegar idea. I will have to try that out.

    Reply

  47. Grae on January 19, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks for the recipe Michelle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “salad” vinegar here in Canada. I’m going to have to look more closely the next time I go to the store….or maybe I need a trip across the border to get some. I just LOVE American grocery stores…so much more selection. Good thing I live close enough to the USA.

    Reply

  48. Jennifer on January 20, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    After reading this post, I bought some salad vinegar and fresh Romano. This dressing is our new family favorite! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply

  49. M on January 21, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    I noticed in the picture it looks like herbs were in this dressing. Did you add some Italian herbs to the dressing or… ? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 21st, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Nope, no herbs, that’s the cracked black pepper!

      Reply

  50. christine on January 21, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Just made this dressing. It tastes like an old school Italian restaurant dressing. LOVE it’s lightness and flavor. Excellent. A definite regular in the rotation now.

    Reply

  51. Elizabeth on January 23, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    I’m very big into making week rounded meals as well even if sometimes my husband would prefer a plate full of starches. But when it comes time for his pt test he gets really into salads and finding a sugar free dressing can actually be difficult. I can’t wait to try this for him.

    Reply

  52. Vickie on February 6, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I was recently gifted a gorgeous wooden salad bowl form Crate and Barrel. I decided the best was to put it to good use was to try this dressing recipe. When the kids started saying things like “yum, this dressing is good” and “mom, who makes this dressing, it is so good”….I was so pleased. Hugs BEB to you and your mom!

    Reply

  53. Leigh on February 6, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    After looking at many italian dressing recipes, I decided on this one, and it did not disappoint!! I did modify it slightly to be more “me” (ACV vinegar and extra, less sugar, and grated garlic instead of powder), but I’m hooked, I’ll never have to buy italian dressing ever again! Thanks for the awesome recipe!

    Reply

  54. Dan on February 20, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    My variety tasted a little oily. Should I add a little water? Or something else? Or will it taste normal when I actually add it to a salad? (I just tried the dressing on its own)

    Reply

    • Michelle on February 20th, 2014 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Dan, I’ve never tasted the salad dressing on its own, so unfortunately I don’t know how oily it would taste compared to being on the salad.

      Reply

      • Dan on February 21st, 2014 at 11:51 pm

        I decided to make it one part vinegar and one part oil and it seems to fit good for my style

        Reply

  55. Cindy Pfluger Long on March 12, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Love the salad dressing. I used white balsamic and added one tablespoon of Merlot wine. I like regular Balsamic and my husband likes red wine vinegar, now we’re both happy.

    Reply

  56. Janie G on April 18, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I made this tonight and put it on a spinach salad. Yum! Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply

  57. Janie G on April 26, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    I made this, then made it again and again! It is delicious! Thanks!

    Reply

  58. Jocelyn on April 26, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    This is a terrific recipe! My family really enjoyed it. Thank you.

    Reply

  59. Christy on June 11, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Great dressing! I added 1-2 T fresh lemon juice and it was very tasty!!!
    Thank you.

    Reply

  60. Traci Bault on July 9, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I’m vegetarian. I do eat cheese, but it has to be made without animal rennet. I haven’t ever had or bought romano cheese ( I’m assuming it’s similar to parmesan which I’ve never found a vegetarian-suitable variety). What could I use instead of the romano cheese in the salad dressing? Sounds yummy, btw. Can’t wait to make it! Thanks for your time. :-)

    Reply

    • Michelle on July 10th, 2014 at 9:16 am

      Hi Traci, You could just omit the cheese, there really wouldn’t be a substitution for it.

      Reply

  61. ada on July 30, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    sugar? SUGAR?
    I’ve NEVER used sugar in a sallty recipe. NEVER!
    No sugar in salty italian recipes. Maybe some salt in sweet recipes.
    The Italian dressing for a salad is: Olive oil, vinegar, salt. STOP.
    No chees, no sugar, no garlic powder. Black pepper is ok.

    Reply

  62. Anin on August 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Great recipe! This is now my go-top dressing! I use white wine vinegar and skip the cheese, absolutely love it.

    Reply

  63. Jackson Petersen on October 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    great recipe, I used a 16 oz salad dressing bottle, doubled the ingredients, then flushed the last of the grated cheese through the funnel with a splash of Vella Sangria…just fantastic on an Iceberg lettuce wedge…right?

    Reply

  64. Jan B on November 9, 2014 at 9:52 am

    question on the Romano — do you use out of a can (the shaker stuff) or fresh Romano, grating it yourself? When I use Parmesan, I always use fresh, and grate it myself, but your recipe didn’t specify, so want to double-check before I make this.

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 10th, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      Hi Jan, You could use either. Growing up, fresh Romano wasn’t as readily available as it is today, so my mom usually used the shaker kind.

      Reply

  65. Melissa on November 10, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Very good! Just ate this on iceberg lettuce with our pasta. My kids had 2 helpings! Used red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and freshly grated Romano. Thanks for a great recipe!

    Reply

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