Ahhhhhh, summer is finally here! My garden is in, the weather has been hot with plenty of rain, and I was already in the mood for a nice, big, salad! I have at least a baker’s dozen of salad dressing recipes now, and I was surprised to realize that I had somehow forgotten to share a very important dressing! So a classic vinegar and oil-style, Zesty Italian Salad Dressing was going to be first on the list of new summer salad dressings to share with you!
How can you have a whole basketful of dressings without Italian, right? 🙂
The easiest and most versatile dressing of them all, I not only enjoy it very much on salads, but also as a marinade from everything to chicken and chops, to steak and kabobs! You can also use this dressing in pasta, noodle, and slaw salads, too!
So, to make this dressing, simply put everything but the oil into the blender. I don’t use olive oil for this one, though. I find it too heavy and overpowering in flavor, and I like a nice clean, light oil for this such as canola, which is your basic go-to “salad oil”. Vegetable oil also works just fine.
Some prefer to use the basic ratio of 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, but I’m with Julia Child on this. I prefer a little more oil than that, or it’s just too tangy for me, too. 😉 Julia actually used to add even more oil than I do! So, as you can see, this is completely a personal preference. So please do add the amount of oil that you prefer. (1 cup for SUPER tangy, 1 1/2 as I have below for tangy but won’t make your whole face pucker, or 1 3/4 – 2 cups for very mild and slightly oily as Julia Child herself preferred).
One of the other key ingredients in v/o style italian dressings, is garlic. Now, you can most certainly add fresh, finely minced garlic. But you MUST USE the dressing within 1-2 days!! Otherwise you risk creating botulism, a deadly bacteria that at the least, can make you VERY sick!
Here’s how it happens. When dressings have oil, especially quite a substantial amount such as italian dressings, the little bits and pieces of garlic stay distributed throughout the dressing in the jar. In other words, they don’t rise to the top.
As garlic ages, even after 2 days, it releases gases and forms tiny bubbles around the garlic creating an anaerobic atmosphere. Since the dressing is dense with oil, these little bubbles can’t rise to the top, burst, and be exposed to oxygen where the bacteria will die.
So what happened is, all of these little bubbles create the perfect little petri dishes, or little tiny “hot air balloons” if you will, perfect for growing all sorts of nasty bacteria. And that toxic, and potentially deadly bacterium, is “Clostridium botulinum”.
With all of that said…..I simply stick to using garlic powder for this dressing. And I still try and use it within 2 days.
So if fresh garlic is what you want to use, just make sure you use it all quickly. If you have any left after 2 days, it’s best to pitch it, don’t risk it. 😉 And keep it refrigerated, don’t let it sit out and get warm.
The last of the key ingredients, in my opinion, are the herbs. You can use fresh or dried, but since it’s the beginning of summer, and not everyone has access to fresh herbs, I decided to just figure the amounts for you using dried herbs. There’s nothing wrong with them, and everyone usually has them all on hand. But if you want to use fresh, go for it! (Chop them well before adding to the blender).
There’s just enough sugar in this to tame the vinegar a little, but you can add more or less to suit your own palate. You can also use honey, which I sometimes do, but I happened to be out at the moment. If using honey, the amount is the same, and you might want to warm it a little in the microwave and stream in before adding the oil to make sure it gets incorporated evenly.
There’s one secret ingredient that I always sneak in that I personally think just makes this dressing a tad bit better than most…and that’s one to two peperoncini peppers! Just slice off the stem end(s) ( 1 or 2 peppers depending on size), slice open lengthwise, pull out the seeds and membranes, and chop before adding to the blender! It really does just add that “little extra” that people can’t figure out. 😉
After blending everything first to get it started, you simply SLOWLY stream in the oil with the motor running. This will help emulsify the dressing, so that it won’t completely separate after it sits. It always does a little, but not drastically. Just give it a little shake before serving, and what little has separated, will come right back together. (*The mustard in this also helps emulsify, so be sure to add it).
And that’s all there is to making a good, classic-style, italian salad dressing that costs PENNIES compared to store-bought dressings! I hope that this recipe helps you out this summer, and you find many wonderful ways to use it! Enjoy!!
- ¼ cup + ⅛ cup apple cider vinegar
- ⅛ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbl. water, optional (*for consistency)
- 2 Tbl. finely chopped red onion
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1½ Tbl. sugar, or to taste
- 1 tsp. regular yellow table mustard
- ¾ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. coarse ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp. white pepper
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried parsley
- ½ tsp. dried basil
- ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 jarred pickled peperoncini pepper, (stem, seeds and membrane removed), chopped
- 3 Tbl. finely grated parmesan or romano cheese
- 1½ cups canola or vegetable oil, (an ⅛ to a ¼ cup more for less zesty - to taste)
- Add all ingredients into blender except oil. Blend on Low until chopped and mixed.
- With motor running on Low, slowly stream in oil.
- Pour into pint jar and let chill for several hours or overnight to let flavors marry.
- Shake well before serving.
- Keep leftovers refrigerated.