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 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, and it was delicious. It was mom’s salad. Eventually, extended family members would get a taste of the salad at a family party or something of the like, and suddenly mom become “the salad lady”. Everyone loved her 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 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 with Jess. 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
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
Yield: A generous ½ cup dressing
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
My mom is famous in our family and among friends for her thrown-together Italian salad dressing!
⅓ cup olive oil
3½ 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 salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1. 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.