Making homemade Italian dressing is easy, and it only takes a few minutes to prepare. This tangy emulsified vinaigrette is excellent with crisp greens for a healthy appetizer, works well as a marinade, or toss it with noodles for a pasta salad.
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Skip the store-bought bottled Italian dressing and pop open the pantry as you should have all that you need to create your own. Grab the pungent vinegar, dried herbs, and spices to achieve that tangy herbaceous taste. The key to success is paying attention to how you add the olive oil to ensure a more stable dressing. I never shake it in a mason jar.
This dressing recipe is not only used for fresh greens salads but is versatile in many ways. I use it for marinating proteins like chicken and shrimp to boost flavor in a short period. Also, when I need a quick side dish, I boil some rotini and toss it with this bold vinaigrette to make an Italian pasta salad.
Red wine vinegar provides a fermented acidic flavor. It has a bold taste and provides a lot of depth. Other types of vinegar, like white wine vinegar, will work well as any grape base pairs nicely in Italian cuisine. If a sweeter-aged balsamic vinegar is what you prefer, try this homemade vinaigrette.
Use herbs and spices to boost the flavor
An oil and vinegar-based dressing can taste pretty sharp and greasy without a few ingredients to add some dimension. Dried Italian seasonings, typically a blend of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and sage, provide a mix of concentrated herbal notes.
I also like to mince fresh garlic for a bite to the dressing, but you can use dried garlic powder. And for a hint of lingering spice, I add red pepper flakes.
How to make Italian dressing from scratch
A well-balanced homemade salad dressing has a sharp upfront pungency that’s softened with the richness of the oil. The flavor may seem strong if tasted alone. However, the flavor slightly dilutes as it mixes with the food. Therefore, it should be more potent to start.
To make the dressing, start by whisking together the vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, honey, garlic, spices, and seasonings. This mixture gives the lecithin in the mayonnaise, an emulsifying agent that attracts oil and water to make a more stable suspension, a chance to disperse before adding in the oil. Slowly drizzle extra-virgin olive oil into the vinegar mixture and constantly whisk to create a thick emulsified dressing.
Ways to use this dressing
- Pick your favorite type of lettuce to make a fresh green salad.
- Toss with noodles and chopped vegetables for a pasta salad.
- Marinate with chicken, shrimp, or pork chops for 15 to 20 minutes for quick flavor.
Gradually whisk in the oil
The best way to make a uniform oil-in-water suspension in a salad dressing is to gradually add the oil to the vinegar, while constantly whisking. This breaks the fat into small droplets, for even delivery of flavor and increased thickness. I never take the shortcut of just shaking the ingredients together in a jar. It may appear to temporarily mix, however, if you let it sit for a few minutes the layers will separate with oil sitting on top. If you add that to the salad, the taste will be greasy and pungent.
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Homemade Italian Dressing
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, honey, mustard, Italian seasoning, mayonnaise, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, vigorously whisking until a thickened emulsified dressing is formed. Taste dressing and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Recipe Yield: 1 cup
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon (15 ml)
- Store: In an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Whisk before serving.
- Mayonnaise can be omitted from the recipe. However, it helps to keep the dressing emulsified longer.
- MAKE IT VEGAN: Substitute the mayonnaise with vegan mayonnaise or omit.
- MAKE IT PALEO: Make sure that the mayonnaise is made with olive oil (most store-bought is made with soybean or canola oil), or omit. Substitute maple syrup for honey.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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