Italian Salad with Olives, Parmesan and Basil

I make this salad a lot.  The basil, parmesan  and olives infuse into the balsamic and olive oil in a way that brings everything alive, and every mouthful you take gives different little flavour explosions depending on how much of which ingredient you have scooped up on your fork.  It’s brilliant with so many things such as the Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb with Potatoes, Thyme and Garlic in my last post but also alongside any simply cooked main such as steak (cauliflower steak included), chicken, fish, pies etc etc.  I even love it alongside a bolognese, vegan or otherwise.   Actually, if I am honest, I just like this salad – a lot!  I think it’s all those Unami flavours.

I guess part of its charm for me is that it’s packed full of flavour in a way which sometimes salads just aren’t.  The dressing can be made, and indeed should be made, in advance so the flavours can mingle.  Whether this is 10 mins in advance or several hours is up to you, but it certainly does save too much last minute flapping around which is always good.    If you want to make this vegan then use  vegan “Parmesan/Italian hard cheese” and of course if you are strictly vegetarian make sure the parmesan you use isn’t made with animal rennet.   But that’s as hard as making the salad gets.   When you’ve made the dressing and you are ready to serve just add the bag (or selection) of mixed leaves to the bowl and toss through so every leaf glistens in the dressing and is punctuated by the olives, parmesan  and basil .  The recipe, such as it is, is really straightforward and it’s one you’ll want to use again and again

The dressing


Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 9tbsp olive/rapeseed oil (no need to use extra virgin here)
  • 3tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 25g Parmesan (or equiv)
  • small bunch basil
  • 15-20 pitted black olives
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • mixed salad leaves (I use a mixed salad bag including some peppery leaves such as rocket approx 140g but any washed mixed leaves will do)


  1. Mix oil and balsamic together in serving bowl until combined
  2. Using a vegetable peeler of sharp knife, flake the parmesan into the bowl
  3. Cut the olives in half and add
  4. Tear the basil leaves into pieces (or chop if you prefer) and put in as well
  5. Mix the dressing together well, adding lots of ground black pepper but hold off on the salt till later
  6. Leave dressing to marinate for at least 10 mins but up to several hours
  7. When read to serve, add salad leaves, toss together and add salt to taste remembering that the parmesan is already quite salty!

TIP  For added texture you can sprinkle over toasted pine nuts or if you want even more flavour thin slices of garlic can be a nice addition   



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