Antipasto salad combines the best Italian appetizers/cheeseboard into one sensational salad!
This antipasto salad recipe will be the most satisfying, flavorful salad you ever sink your teeth into! It’s easy to make, exploding with bright flavors and textures and is a hypnotic stand-alone main dish or it can be served as a steal-the-show side. This antipasto salad is loaded with salami, pepperoni, tomatoes, artichokes, pepperoncini, olives, red onions, provolone, and mozzarella all tossed in a zesty homemade Italian dressing that will have you swooning! It’s also wonderfully customizable, so you can add or swap in any of your favorite antipasto ingredients that you have on hand. This antipasto salad is quick to make with just a little chopping and a few shakes to combine the dressing. Best of all, it can be made ahead of time for the perfect stress-free win!
Italian salads are always a hit. Some of our favorites include Italian Tortellini Salad, Cucumber Tomato Salad, and Green Bean Salad with Balsamic Basil Vinaigrette. But first, start with this Antipasto Salad then complete your tasty tour of Italy!
Antipasto Salad recipe
This antipasto salad is hands down my favorite no-cook summer meal – it is salad perfection and a MUST MAKE recipe! It’s a hypnotic, satisfying, light lunch or dinner with SO many big, bold, alluring flavors and textures. It’s a rainbow of light, fresh ingredients, comforting, hearty ingredients and zippy, tangy ingredients and of course creamy, crunchy and crispy textures AKA it’s an excuse to turn a cheeseboard into dinner with so much to love in every bite!
Best of all, this antipasto salad is easy to make and ideal for summertime because you don’t even have to turn on the stove! It piles the best classic Italian starter foods atop crispy lettuce and drizzles them with a homemade vinaigrette that will knock your socks off!
You will love this antipasto salad recipe because:
- It will make you the hero at every party, potluck, picnic and backyard barbecue
- It can be served as a main dish or side
- It’s EASY to make but tastes and looks gourmet
- On that note, it’s colorful, beautiful and elegant yet even the kids will love it!!
- It’s bursting with the best array of meat, cheeses and veggies
- The homemade Italian dressing will be the best of our life
- The homemade croutons are the definition of addicting
- It’s fresh, bright, satisfying and exploding with flavor and texture: the CRUNCH of herbed croutons, the CREAMINESS of buttery mozzarella, the MEATINESS of salami and pepperoni all balanced by the ZIPPY pepperoncini, and SALTY olives
- It’s uber VERSATILE – add any ingredients you want!
- It’s easy to prep ahead and toss together when ready to serve
In short, this antipasto salad is hearty, comforting and refreshing all at the same time and belongs on your table all year long!
What is antipasto (or antipasti)?
Antipasto is the first course of an Italian meal – much like an elaborate cheese board appetizer. It usually consists of an array of cheeses (like mozzarella and provolone), cured meats (like prosciutto and salami), marinated vegetables (like mushrooms and artichokes) and briny favorites (like olives and pepperoncini).
There really is no right or wrong way to make or serve antipasto, as everyone makes it a little differently – just like there is not right or wrong way to make this antipasto salad. Just add your favorite Italian meats, cheeses and tangy vegetables and drizzle with my fabulous Italian dressing and you have the best salad of your life!
What is the difference between antipasto and antipasti?
Antipasto is singular, and antipasti is plural in Italian. The word antipasto is used to indicate the course or a singular dish. For example, “Salami was a delicious antipasto before the meal.” When you refer to multiple starters such as salami and mozzarella, it is antipasti. For example, “Mozzarella and salami were delicious antipasti before the meal.”
What is in ANTIPASTO SALAD?
This antipasto salad recipe is loaded with everything delicious! It combines all of your favorite antipasto ingredients into one big bowl of YUM. You will need:
- Romaine lettuce: use a large head of Romaine, otherwise you can use 2-3 smaller heads. You can even use half Romaine and half iceberg for a lovely crunch.
- Genoa salami: is a kind of salami believed to have originated in Genoa, Italy. It is seasoned with garlic, salt, black and white pepper, and red or white wine. You can purchase Genoa Salami either at the deli counter or they often have it pre-packaged with the specialty deli meats. If you can’t find Genoa Salami, you can use your favorite salami.
- Pepperoni: is an American variety of salami made from cured pork and beef seasoned with paprika and chili pepper. You are probably thinking of thinly sliced pepperoni you find in a package for pizza. Yes, you can use that pepperoni but for a more quality product, purchase pepperoni still in the log that you slice yourself. You can find this pepperoni at the deli counter or with the specialty deli meats.
- Tomatoes: please use ripe cherry tomatoes for the best texture. Cherry tomatoes are inherently sweeter than grape tomatoes, so aim for cherry if you can.
- Artichokes: are tender, slightly sweet and. Even if you don’t think you like artichokes, I’m pretty sure you’ll love them in this antipasto salad recipe! Purchase artichoke hearts in water NOT marinated. The marinated ones often have an acrid taste.
- Olives: I use half Kalamata olives and half green olives. You can also purchase a jar of mixed black and green olives. Please use Kalamata olives and not just black olives for their dark, rich intensely fruity flavor.
- Pepperoncini: please don’t skip! Pepperoncini bring this antipasto salad to life! They are slightly sweet but mostly tangy with a slight zip of heat. The pepperoncini (100 to 500 Scoville heat units) is much closer to a bell pepper than a jalapeño (jalapenos are about 40x hotter) so don’t be scared away. Their sweet heat tang is explosively delicious. Pepperoncini typically come in a glass jar and is easy to find at your grocery store next to the sandwich condiments such as pickles, banana peppers and jarred roasted red bell peppers.
- Red onions: you can thinly slice the red onions or chop them. Red onions are quintessential to antipasto salad, but if they are too strong for you, then you can add the sliced/chopped onions to bowl, and submerge them in cold ice water for 10 minutes, before draining, drying and using.
- Mozzarella: I prefer to use fresh mozzarella balls, cut into bite size pieces. They are often labeled “snacking balls” which is appropriate because I could eat them by the handful. They are soft and buttery and melt-in-your-mouth YUM. They can be found in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store. You can also use a fresh mozzarella log and cube it. If this mozzarella is too expensive or you don’t want to make a separate trip, you can substitute regular mozzarella and chop it into cubes but the flavor/texture won’t be quite the same.
- Provolone cheese: I like to purchase the provolone at the deli counter and ask them to slice it 1/22-inch thick and then when I get home, all I have to do is slice it 1/2-inch thick in the other direction to create cubes.
- Vegetarian antipasto salad: swap the meat for roasted chickpeas and add extra veggies such as cumbers and bell peppers.
- Antipasto pasta salad: swap the lettuce for 1 pound of cooked, medium pasta such as cavatappi, fusilli, rotini or go for gold and use cheese tortellini.
- Swap dressing: you can mix up the flavor profile by using a balsamic based dressing like my balsamic basil vinaigrette.
Ingredient Variations and Substitutions:
You are welcome to add any of your favorite add-ins to this antipasto salad. Here are just a few ideas:
- Prosciutto: swap the pepperoni for prosciutto – it’s silky and salty fabulous.
- Bacon: can be substituted for the pepperoni or salami. Make sure to use thick-cut bacon so it doesn’t get soggy immediately.
- Chicken: you can add chopped rotisserie chicken in place of the salami if you don’t eat pork. It’s not quite as flavorful but will still be tasty.
- Cucumbers: you may use English cucumbers so you don’t have to bother peeling them, but you may also substitute with a peeled, slicing cucumber.
- Corn: adds a summery flair. You can char the corn on the grill or in your skillet like in my grilled corn salad recipe for a tantalizing sweet and smokey addition.
- Bell pepper: I recommend a red, orange or yellow bell pepper because they are sweeter than green.
- Mushrooms: add your fresh chopped mushrooms or marinated mushrooms for a sweet and tangy flair.
- Roasted red peppers: pick up jarred roasted bell peppers that can be found next to the pickles at the grocery store or roast your own. Make sure you pat the jarred bell peppers dry so they don’t make the salad soggy.
- Roasted veggies: add any of your favorite roasted vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, etc.
- Giardiniera: is an Italian preparation of marinated, pickled vegetables with loads of tangy flavor. It often contains celery, cauliflower, onions, carrots, red bell peppers and green olives. It comes in both MILD and HOT – so pay attention! Giardiniera can be found in a jar near the pepperoncini at your grocery store.
- Chickpeas. add a nutty, earthy, creaminess and are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Feta cheese: is rich, creamy, salty, tangy cheese adds SO much flavor! It is sold by the block or in crumbles.
- Parmesan: add thinly shaved Parmesan for a salty, nutty flavor.
- Nuts: I skipped the nuts in this antipasto salad recipe because we have the crunch of the croutons – but nuts such as almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, etc. are always a tasty addition.
Is antipasto Salad Gluten free?
The ingredients in this antipasto salad recipe are gluten free except the croutons and possibly the salami and pepperoni. Many manufacturers add gluten to their cold cuts so you will need to check the packaging. Boar’s Head cold cuts is notably gluten free. To make gluten free croutons, use gluten free bread or swap the croutons for sliced almonds for a nice pop of crunch.
The best Antipasto Salad Dressing
The best dressing for antipasto salad is Italian dressing – naturally! Now, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of tasty bottled dressings, but I promise, nothing tastes as fresh and fabulous as your own Homemade Italian Dressing – and it takes MINUTES to whisk together using pantry ingredients!
This easy Homemade Italian Dressing is a balanced tangy and testy blend of olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried herbs and spices and the best part – Parmesan Cheese! It elevates this antipasto salad to a whole new level because after all, a salad is only as good as it’s dressing – so use the best! This Italian Dressing also keeps for 2 weeks in the refrigerator so you can make it ahead of time.
Italian DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
- Olive oil. Use quality extra virgin olive oil for superior flavor.
- Red wine vinegar. I don’t recommend swapping with any other vinegar.
- Lemon juice. Adds a fresh, vibrant citrus pop without tasting “lemony.”
- Parmesan cheese: use freshly grated Parmesan grated on the smallest hole of your grater so it becomes powdery.
- Sugar: balances the vinegar and lemon juice.
- Seasonings: dried parsley, dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika salt and pepper.
How to Make the Best Antipasto Salad
This antipasto salad is easy to make and tastes spectacular. I especially love that you don’t have to deal with cooking any protein! Here’s how easy it is to whip up:
- Make dressing. You’ll want to start off by making your homemade Italian dressing very first so the flavors have time to build and blend. Plus, no one likes warm dressing! To make, simply whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and all the seasonings together in a bowl or add to a mason jar, cover and shake.
- Make croutons. While the dressing is chilling, make the croutons and chop the salad ingredients. These croutons are snackable DElicious and so easy to make! Simply add cubed bread to a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil then sprinkle with Italian herbs and spices; toss until evenly coated. Spread bread into an even layer onto baking sheet and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until golden. Then try not to eat every last one before adding them to the salad.
- Assemble Salad: Add lettuce to a large bowl followed by the rest of the salad ingredients. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine OR dress individual plates if expecting leftovers. Serve immediately.
TIPS and tricks for antipasto SALAD RECIPE
- Customize ingredients. The antipasto salad ingredients and measurements are simply suggestions. After you load a large salad bowl with Romaine lettuce, you can pile on your antipasto ingredients in whatever ratios your taste buds desire. Some will like less meat, others will like less cheese – your call!
- Prep ahead. You can make the dressings, make the croutons and chop the salad ingredients all 24 hours ahead of time. See detailed section below on how to make ahead.
- Shortcuts. You can use store-bought Italian dressing and store-bought croutons although I LOVE my homemade versions. When purchasing croutons, go flavorful like Italian herb.
- Use fresh Parmesan in dressing. You can substitute the freshly grated Parmesan cheese with canned but it will not taste quite as good because fresh Parm is the best! Freshly grated Parmesan will also dissolve much better for a smoother texture.
- Don’t use fresh garlic or herbs in Italian dressing. I usually love fresh garlic and herbs in dressings, but this dressing is loaded with herbs and you would need 3x the amount of fresh which make it pretty clunky. Also, fresh herbs and garlic will only last a couple days in the refrigerator, whereas, you can store the dressing up to 2 weeks if you use dried.
- Customize dressing. We love the dressing just how it is but you can customize it to make it perfect for YOU. For less acidity- add more sugar, less tang – add more olive oil, more tang – add additional vinegar.
- Chill dressing. You’ll want to refrigerate your dressing for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, so the flavors deepen and meld. Cold dressing is also much more appetizing than lukewarm dressing. If you are short on time, pop the dressing in the freezer for 30 minutes than refrigerate beyond that.
- Use day old French bread for croutons. 1-2-day old bread is easier to slice without it caving in on itself. Fresh bread will also work; it just isn’t as sturdy.
- Hold croutons. If you’re anticipating leftovers, add croutons to individual servings and don’t toss with the salad. They can soften even from the salad ingredients without the dressing.
- Don’t dress salad. Wait to drizzle the dressing on the antipasto salad until you’re ready to serve. Don’t dress the entire salad unless you don’t expect leftovers because dressed salad will become soggy.
How to serve Antipasto Salad
You have two options for arranging and serving the Antipasto Salad:
- Antipasto Salad Platter (great if expecting leftovers): create a bed of Romaine lettuce in a large bowl and top with the salad ingredients, keeping them separate from each other; don’t dress the salad. This presentation resembles an antipasto platter and is more buffet-style. It allows individuals to pick and choose what ingredients they would like to add to their salad. Let individuals dress their own salads with the homemade Italian dressing.
- Antipasto Salad Misto: misto means “mixed” in Italian, and refers to exactly that; you will mix all of the salad ingredients togethering a large bowl. If you don’t expect leftovers, you can drizzle the salad with desired amount of dressing. If you do expect leftovers, keep the dressing and the croutons on the side.
How to store Antipasto Salad
How to store leftovers: If you plan on storing leftover antipasto salad, do not toss the salad with the dressing or the lettuce will become soggy and wilted. Instead, store the salad and dressing in separate airtight containers. The croutons should also be stored in a separate airtight container. The antipasto salad without dressing will last about 2 days in the refrigerator although the wet ingredients such as the pepperoncini and chopped artichokes can soften the crunch of the lettuce a bit. The croutons will last for up to 2 weeks.
How to store make ahead salad: This antipasto salad can be assembled ahead of time if you layer the ingredients in the correct order and store the croutons and dressing separately. The salad should be layered with the wettest ingredients on the bottom and the driest on the top to prevent soggy salad, covered, then stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Here’s how to layer your salad:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Artichoke hearts
- Green and Kalamata olives
- Red onion
- Genoa salami
- Romaine lettuce
Can I freeze antipasto salad? No, this antipasto salad does not freeze well.
HOW TO PREP AHEAD ANTIPASTO SALAD
This antipasto salad recipe is great to prep ahead. You can prep all of the ingredients ahead of time or just the dressing, croutons or salad ingredients. To prep ahead:
- Salad ingredients: can be chopped 24 hours in advance and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. I will add the vegetables to separate paper towels, fold up the paper towels around the contents and place in sandwich bags – this keeps excess moisture away from the veggies to keep them fresh.
- Croutons: can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time and stored in a resealable plastic bag with as much air removed as possible or in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Dressing: can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If making ahead, take care not to use fresh garlic or herbs because they will only last a day or so in the refrigerator.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH ANTIPASTO SALAD RECIPE
Antipasto salad is practically a meal-in-itself with protein, veggies and carbs– the only thing left to add is fruit! We love this salad with a simple side of watermelon or grapes or slightly more elaborate fruit salad with honey lime vinaigrette, tropical fruit salad, melon salad or berry salad in honey mascarpone.
Antipasto salad is also fabulous with your favorite backyard barbecue sides such as Baked Mac and Cheese, Potato Salad, Baked Beans, and Corn Casserole. It can also be served as a side salad to any of your favorite entrees, especially Italian dishes without meat such as Cacio e Pepe, Mac and Cheese, Mushroom Orzo, and Mushroom Spaghetti.
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