Fave Salads: Italian Chopped Salad

This Italian chopped salad is another one of my go-to salad recipes for a quick and easy dinner.  Like the Greek steak salad I shared in my last Fave Salads post, this salad is OVERFLOWING with delicious ingredients.  Salami, pancetta, pepperoni, italian cheeses, garlic croutons, tons of veggies, and cheese tortellini all atop fresh salad greens and drizzled with a homemade Italian dressing.  The best part is there very little prep work for this salad and you really can just throw everything together in a bowl and have a quick dinner in under 15 minutes!  All the hearty ingredients definitely make it filling enough for a dinner, and you can even eat your leftovers for lunch the next day!

Here's what you will need:

Salad-

16 ounces of spring salad mix or salad greens of your choice

2 oz shaved Parmesan cheese

2 oz grated Romano cheese or any Italian cheese of your choice (I used Boone Creek Creamery's "Mamma Mia")

1 1/2 cups croutons (I always use Texas Toast garlic and butter flavor- the BEST)

3 oz salami (chopped)

3 oz pepperoni (chopped)

4 oz diced pancetta (+ 1 tablespoon olive oil for cooking)

1 pint grape tomatoes (halved)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup Italian giardiniera (chopped)

1/4 cup sliced mild pepper rings (chopped)

1/4 cup sliced olives

8 oz cheese tortellini 

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper (optional)

Dressing-

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.  Add your tortellini to the boiling water, reduce heat to boil gently, and cook for 7 to 9 minutes until tender.  Drain your tortellini and set aside.

Pour your salad greens into a large bowl.  Add your dry ingredients to your salad first: croutons and both cheeses.  Let me add a little PSA about my all-time favorite croutons: Texas Toast- Garlic and Butter.  They are delicious, super cheap, and the best store-bought crouton out there.  I always have at least two bags in my house and am known to cause a scene in the grocery when they don't have my croutons.  Meijer pretty much never has them, but overall most Kroger and Walmart stores always carry them.

Chop your salami and pepperoni (or you can just tear it into small pieces with your hands) and add it to your salad.  Saute your pancetta in a skillet on low heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Cook about 5 minutes or until crispy.  Drain the oil/fat from your skillet and place pancetta on a paper towel to pat dry.  After it has cooled a bit, add pancetta to the salad.

Now chop all your veggies: grape tomatoes, onion, olives, pepper rings, and giardiniera.  I bought a few items in packages that were already chopped to make it a little easier.  The giardiniera, pepper, rings, and olives all come in jars and don't really need to be chopped unless you want them in smaller pieces.  I like to toss all the veggies together with a little salt and pepper before adding them to the rest of the salad.

Your last step is to make your super easy and delicious Italian dressing.  All you have to do is whisk together all your ingredients (olive oil, red wine vinegar, parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic powder) in a bowl.  After I mix it up, I liked to pour it into a mason jar or bottle that I can shake it up in and serve out of.  

Now you can add your final topping ,your cooked tortellini, to your salad.  Top your salad with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper (optional) and toss well.  When you are ready to serve, drizzle your dressing over your salad and toss everything together thoroughly. 

The crunch of the pancetta and croutons contrasts perfectly with the warm, soft cheese tortellini and chewy salami and pepperoni.  The veggies add just the right amount of brightness and tang, while your simple dressing pulls everything together.  If you want to make this recipe even easier, just use a store-bought Italian dressing and cut out that prep work completely!  You can also feel free to switch out, eliminate, or add different Italian meats, cheeses, or veggies!  One of the many perks of salad recipes is that changing a few ingredients or directions will not ruin the whole recipe- so don't be afraid to customize it to your own tastes and preferences!