My Mom’s Legendary Italian Salad Dressing
Homemade Italian Salad Dressing – My mom’s famous recipe that makes everyone exclaim, “this is the best salad I’ve ever had!” Make it today!
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 Italian salad 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 directly onto the salad, mix it all together, and it was delicious. Eventually, extended family members would get a taste of the salad at a family party, and suddenly my mom become “the salad lady”. Everyone loved her unique Italian salad dressing, and to this day, if there’s a holiday or family function, my mom is always asked to bring the salad.
Two of my best friends from high school still mention my mom’s Italian 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. 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?”
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!
Our family’s favorite salad dressing, from my mom, with love :)
UPDATE: A video of my Mom’s Legendary Italian Salad Dressing for you!
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
- ⅓ cup (72 ml) olive oil
- 3½ tablespoons (3.5 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 (0.75 teaspoon) salt
- ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) garlic powder
- 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.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Very perfect. I like its taste
Been using this for years :) Thank you!
I’ve made this in the past and I’m back for the recipe to make again! I absolutely love it!
Did what you said – I made it today! It’s an excellent salad dressing. I used an immersion blender to mix everything up – it worked very well. Thank you (and your mother) for the recipe.
I make this dressing ALL the time. Its the best!
That sounds like a delicious recipe. I plan to try it with a Brussels sprout salad this ever. Two new things. I’m being brave. 😇
My favorite salad dressing that I make us to our the oil in the bottom of the salad bowl and add seasonin s. I then put the greens and other salad fixings on top When I am ready to serve, I just mix it in the bowl and add the vinegar or lemon juice.
Thanks for all your recipes.
I have to say, this IS the best Italian Dressing, I have made it this so many times that I had to let you know. My family loves it, so thanks for sharing. I’m from Philly but now reside in Maine.
This has such a great flavor.
My dressing keeps solidifying over night-what am I doing wrong?
Hi Kris, That’s not uncommon when you refrigerate oil; if you let it come to room temperature it will be just fine.
I made it with a fancy EVOO, and it was just overwhelmingly oily and fatty for my tastes, as a few other reviewers said. If you’ve got a more sensitive palate, then it’s also a bit too salty.
Tasted about as Italian as the Olive Garden. I think it’s a good recipe though for people who are used to eating salad dressings from bottles or like to hide the taste of vegetables.
Needed recipe for good Italian dressing. Will comment after making it for my antipasto salad. Thank you.
I have an allergy to preservatives, so the fresh way is the only way for me. It’s the only way to know what is in the dressing. It’s so easy to make them. I can’t wait to try yours! Thank you for sharing.
The picture of the dressing looks light, but the video seems very dark.. should I use white vinegar to get the look in the initial pictures?
Hi Vee, You can use salad or red wine and it will be light in color. The video isn’t an accurate portrayal and I’ve been meaning to remove it. My apologies!
Hello Michelle, what kind of olive oil do you use for this recipe? I have read they are not all equal. Thanks in advance!!
Hi Patrick, I’m not sure if you’re referring to brand or “type” – I’ve always preferred a “light” olive oil in my salad dressings, as regular olive oil always tastes a little too heavy to me. As for the brand, I buy California Olive Ranch. I hope that helps!
Easy and very tasty
I just made this dressing and it was horrible. I have the best ingredients and followed the recipe to a tee. It was too sweet and needed spices. The sugar completely ruined it. I made my own and it turned out great.
I Love it!!
Thanks for this! Is the cheese necessary?
It’s a nice addition, but not necessary.
Hi, would this work as a cold pasta salad dressing?
Hi Lesley, Yes, absolutely!
Can’t remember the last time I bought salad dressing. It’s so quick and easy, plus fresher tasting and already have the ingredients around. Will try your mother’s
Hi Michelle – I would like to try this with salad vinegar but my local stores don’t carry it. Have you ever tried to make the vinegar from scratch? I know you mentioned other vinegars but I want to try it the way you recommend it first before making it with the other types of vinegar. Thanks!
Hi Sheila, I’ve never tried to make my own salad vinegar; I would probably just sub apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar.
I tried this dressing for the first time on our chopped salad of “gourmet medley” tomatoes, cucumber, celery, red onion, and yellow pepper. Excellent! No changes! A real “KEEPER”! Thank you.
Thanks, Michelle, for this recipe. It reminds me of the salad I grew up with. My mom learned it from my Italian grandmother :)
I wasn’t crazy about this recipe. Italian Dressing is my favorite salad dressing of all time, so I was excited about trying this recipe. The first time I tried it, I read the directions wrong and used 1/2 cup of olive oil, and it had such an “oily” taste. I re-made it the next day with 1/3 cup olive oil, and it still had that “oily” taste. I will have to try another recipe. The other ingredients were perfect, but I couldn’t taste them much because of the oily taste.
This dressing is the best! It’s my go to recipe Thank you!!
Made your mom’s salad dressing recipe using Balsamic vinegar today. I used it to dress a pasta salad. Excellent dressing recipe! Thank you for sharing your family recipe!
I was looking for a simple (good!) Italian dressing recipe for a pasta salad. This was fantastic. I’ll definitely be making it again. No more bottled dressing for me! Thanks for sharing. :)
The dressing was easy and delish! Thanks!
Have you ever brushed this dressing on sandwiches? I do with my own family vinaigrette and it’s amazing.
LOVE THIS!!! So easy and so tasty! Thank you!
Hi Michelle, thanks for your mom’s recipe, I like Italian Dressing in restaurants, now I can make my own.
Can you give me an idea on what kinds of vegetables will be good with this dressing ??? Or what salad combination would you suggest. Thanks.
Hi Ela, My mom uses this for whatever salad she is making – you can put anything on it, really.
I can’t wait to make this. I see the recipe calls for olive oil- do you mean regular or extra virgin? Do you have a brand preference as well?
Hi Jackie, You can use any type – I’ve made it using extra virgin, light, regular, etc. I don’t have a brand preference when it comes to olive oil… I buy all different kinds!
Hi, I found your recipe and tried it with a spaghettisquash salad (instead of pasta) for the first time on Super Bowl Sunday. I loved it! I took some to work for lunch and shared with my assistant and she wants me to make her some! I made the salad again last night and added more chopped vegetables, spaghettisquash, cucumber red & green peppers, red onion, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes. Loved it! Thanks for sharing!
Hi Michelle – I look forward to making this very easy recipe for Italian dressing. It sounds so delicious. I will let you know how I like it. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Sincerely, Jay
I just made this recipe and it is incredible!!! Thank u for sharing!
I was looking for a good dressing and I must say this was delicious. I added a little parsley and oregano… Perfection, thanks so much for you and moms for sharing. Happy Holidays!
I made this tonight to go with a simple salad we had with my MIL’s family-recipe pasta. She took one bite and got tears in her eyes–she said it reminded her of her beloved Italian grandmother’s dressing. Thanks SO much for sharing!
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!
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.
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.
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?
Great recipe! This is now my go-top dressing! I use white wine vinegar and skip the cheese, absolutely love it.
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.
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. :-)
Hi Traci, You could just omit the cheese, there really wouldn’t be a substitution for it.
Great dressing! I added 1-2 T fresh lemon juice and it was very tasty!!!
This is a terrific recipe! My family really enjoyed it. Thank you.
I made this, then made it again and again! It is delicious! Thanks!
I made this tonight and put it on a spinach salad. Yum! Thanks for the recipe!
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.
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)
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.
I decided to make it one part vinegar and one part oil and it seems to fit good for my style
I had that same issue…too oily tasting (even when on the salad).
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!
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!
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.
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.
I noticed in the picture it looks like herbs were in this dressing. Did you add some Italian herbs to the dressing or… ? Thanks!
Nope, no herbs, that’s the cracked black pepper!
After reading this post, I bought some salad vinegar and fresh Romano. This dressing is our new family favorite! Thanks so much for sharing!
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.
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.
I just ate a tossed salad with your Mom’s salad dressing. It was great. Thank you for sharing!
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.
Made this last night and it was AMAZING!!!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!
i would love that chopped salad recipe!
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.
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!
Can’t get better than recipes based from generation to generation!
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!
Hi Lynda, I buy Alessi regular balsamic vinegar, and DeLallo white balsamic vinegar (more mild).
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 :)
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!
WOW! just made the dressing. So good!
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.
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!
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!
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 :)
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.
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.
What a great story. I can’t wait to try this dressing. Thanks,BEB!
Your mom’s salad looks great!! Such a fabulous recipe!
That’s definitely my kind of recipe!
Fabulous post for January healthy eating! And your salad looked super, too!
Ooh sounds right up my street! I have salads for lunch most days and this will definitely liven it up!
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 :)
Simple and delishious!
I love visiting you blog thank you!
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!
I loved homemade salad dressing! So simple, healthy and good!
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 :)
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
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!
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!
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!
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?
Hi Alyssa, This will last about two weeks in the fridge.
Was just wondering what salad is in the picture there, is looks tasty?!
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.
I love the story behind this dressing – so special! And the recipe sounds pretty amazing – printed and pinned!
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.
Hi Robby, Salad vinegar is something that I’ve always just found at the grocery store. Here is a link to the one they stock at my local store: http://www.heinzvinegar.com/products-salad-vinegar.aspx
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!
How long will this dressing last in the refrigerator?
Hi Teri, It will last about two weeks. I have updated the recipe above to include that :)
I’m wondering why the dressing wouldn’t last more than two weeks. What would be the perishable part of it?
is salad vinegar white vinegar?
Wondering the same thing! I’ve never heard of salad vinegar!
Hi Jen, I buy it at the grocery store: http://www.heinzvinegar.com/products-salad-vinegar.aspx
I was wondering, too!
Hi Teri, I buy it at the grocery store: http://www.heinzvinegar.com/products-salad-vinegar.aspx
I am also wondering what salad vinegar is.
Hi Lucy, I buy it at the grocery store: http://www.heinzvinegar.com/products-salad-vinegar.aspx
Hi Mary, Salad vinegar is an actual product, I just buy it at the grocery store: http://www.heinzvinegar.com/products-salad-vinegar.aspx
I’ve been cooking for 32 years and have never heard of or seen salad vinegar!
Yum! Your Mom’s salad dressing sounds wonderful and your salad looks so pretty! Thanks for sharing!!
This dressing looks delicious! Thank your mom for sharing it with us :)
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!
Hi Leslie, It was just a chop salad with romaine, cucumber, mushrooms, radish, carrots, purple cabbage, green onions and feta.
Happy birthday to Einstein!
Thank you! :)
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
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!
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
Love this (and the story behind it!) I make my own Greek Vinagrette so look forward to adding this to my homemade list!