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This no-wilt Italian chopped salad is the make-ahead lunch you need

This no-wilt Italian chopped salad is the make-ahead lunch you need

From the 5 easy spring recipes to check out this week series
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The whole salad comes together fast, and you can prep it in advance.

Chopped salads have been my lunch M.O. for well over a year now, seamlessly transitioning from packable office lunch to hearty work-from-home one. Their make-ahead quality means I’m not scrambling every day as soon as I get hangry, and they satisfy my desire for crunch and lots of veggies.

My idea to make an Italian-inspired version came after devouring one from Pizza Moto, my favorite Brooklyn pizza joint. Their Pizza Shop Chopped Salad is packed with crisp lettuce, bitter radicchio, pickled peppers, chickpeas, red onion, fontina, and mortadella (which I omitted), all tossed in a “zesty” Italian vinaigrette. It was so good and filling I almost didn’t have room for the pizza, which made me realize two things: Italian chopped salads are just as good without the meat, and they’re absolutely hearty enough to be eaten as a main.

The version I’m sharing here boasts my version of that zesty dressing, complete with garlic, oregano, and an oil-to-vinegar ratio that highly favors the punchy red wine vinegar. I’ve also added celery for crunch and cherry tomatoes for their sweet, juicy flavor. If you can’t find a block of provolone, opt for mozzarella — it’s just as tasty.

The whole salad comes together fast, and you can prep it in advance. Simply toss everything but the lettuces in the vinaigrette, then let it hang out in the fridge (where it will soak in all that herby, garlicky flavor) until you’re ready to eat. Enjoy as written with the romaine and radicchio, or pile it onto a hummus bowl or into a pita pocket. To make it even heartier, add a cooked grain like farro, or double the chickpeas. If you’re not a vegetarian, top with tuna salad or chicken. And of course, you can always serve it with pizza.

Vegetarian Italian Chopped Salad

Serves 4 to 6

For the dressing (yields about 1/2 cup):

  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • 5 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large or 4 small stalks celery
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 6 small pickled pepperoncini
  • 4 ounces unsliced provolone cheese
  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can chickpeas
  • 1 medium romaine lettuce heart
  • 1/2 medium head radicchio
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Make the vinaigrette

1. Mince 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves and place in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and several grinds black pepper and whisk to combine.

2. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and continue whisking until emulsified. Pour half into an airtight container and refrigerate.

Make the salad

1. Prep the following ingredients, adding each one to the bowl of vinaigrette as you complete it: Halve 5 ounces cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup). Dice 2 large or 4 small celery stalks (about 1 cup). Thinly slice 1/2 small red onion into half-moons (about 3/4 cup). Slice 6 small pepperoncini (about 1/4 cup). Cut 4 ounces provolone cheese into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1 cup). Drain and rinse 1 can chickpeas. Toss to coat everything in the vinaigrette. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.

2. When you’re ready to eat, core and chop 1 head romaine lettuce crosswise into thin strips (5 to 6 packed cups). Core and chop 1/2 head radicchio crosswise into thin strips (2 packed cups). Add to the bowl with the vegetables and vinaigrette and toss to coat. Drizzle with the desired amount of reserved vinaigrette. Taste and season with more salt as needed (likely about 1/4 teaspoon). Finish with several grinds black pepper.

Recipe notes

  • The veggie mixture, reserved dressing, and greens can be refrigerated separately up to five days.
  • If you can’t find a block of provolone, you can substitute bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls), torn fresh mozzarella or diced low-moisture mozzarella cubes.

(Grace Elkus is deputy food director at, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to

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