I have noticed a trend recently when visiting any Italian themed restaurant or even many casual dining restaurants. They have what they call an Italian Chopped Salad on the menu served as a main course entree. I have nothing against these salads, and in fact, when well made with top quality ingredients, they can be absolutely delicious. I have not ever seen a chopped salad like this one in Italy though, so I imagine it is yet another Italian American invention. If you are unfamiliar with the name, an Italian chopped salad is a combination of many ingredients including some type of meat and cheese that are all chopped and mixed together. This is a great main course salad to serve during the warmer months when it is just too hot to cook as it is very filling and full of flavor.
I was recently able to spend a few days with my ninety-three-year-old mother, my daughter, and granddaughter. We did the usual things that women like to do such as shopping, saw a movie, and ate dinner out at our favorite pizza place. For lunch though, I made a couple of main dish salads for us to enjoy including this one. You can find so many variations of this salad online, that you may get confused and wonder if there is one specific recipe that tastes best. Quite honestly, you can use a variety of ingredients in this dish and can custom make this salad to please your own personal taste. There is no one right way to make it!
Many chopped salads use iceberg lettuce as the base, which is a variety of lettuce that I avoid at all costs. Iceberg lettuce, though crunchy, has no flavor and very little nutritional value. Instead of this bland tasting lettuce, I prefer using a combination of Romaine lettuce, radicchio, and arugula which adds color, texture, and lots of flavor. Some salads include cooked ham along with salami which just isn’t a favorite of mine either, so instead of the ham I use two types of salami, one a little spicy, and one with a milder flavor. I also like to add chickpeas in my salad which adds protein and a pleasing texture variation. When it comes to the variety of cheese, you could use just about any semi-soft cheese. I included small mozzarella pearls along with some semi-soft Asiago cheese. To bring all the flavors together, I like to use a full-bodied red wine vinaigrette. There is just something about this simple dressing that works with this salad.
This recipe is really a suggestion of ingredients for you to start with. You can change the salad greens, the type of meat and cheese, and you can add many other components which just work in this salad including chopped marinated artichoke hearts, diced roasted peppers, and even full flavored olives. This salad packs well for picnics or to take to a friend’s for dinner, but just keep the mixture refrigerated and wait to dress the salad until just before you want to serve it.
Deborah Mele 2018
Italian Chopped Salad Revisited
- 4 Cups Chopped Romaine Lettuce
- 1 Cup Radicchio Cut Into Thin Strips
- 2 Cups Baby Arugula
- 1 Can (15-ounces) Chickpeas, Rinsed and Drained
- 1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Red Onion
- 3/4 Cup Mild Flavored Salami Cut Into Strips
- 1/3 Cup Spicy Salami Cut Into Strips
- 1 Cup Mozzarella Pears, or 1 (8-ounce) Ball Fresh Mozzarella Chopped
- 3/4 Cup Diced Asiago, Fontina, or Young Pecorino, Cut Into 1/2-inch Dice
- 1 1/2 Cups Halved Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 1/2 Cups Diced Cucumber
- 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
- 3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- In a large bowl, toss together all of the salad ingredients.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the salad ingredients until well blended, then pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to coat the ingredients with the dressing.
- Serve immediately.