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What is Italian Dressing?

Amber Karlins
Amber Karlins

Italian dressing is a vinaigrette style dressing that is most frequently used on salads, but can also be a valuable addition to a variety of recipes and cooking techniques. Vinaigrettes are typically made by combining three parts oil to one part vinegar and flavoring it with various seasonings. In an Italian style dressing, the vinaigrette is flavored with a number of fresh or dry herbs. While there are no strict rules regarding which herbs must be used, oregano, basil and dill are popular ingredients in this style of dressing.

In addition to fresh herbs, garlic and onion are both frequently used to add an additionally depth of flavor to an Italian dressing. Red pepper, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes can also be added to increase the spicy heat of the dressing. Lemon juice can also be added to the dressing in conjunction with, or in place of, the vinegar.

Dill weed is often in Italian dressing.
Dill weed is often in Italian dressing.

Italian dressing can be purchased in most grocery stores and is generally available in reduced fat and reduced sodium versions. Regular Italian dressing has approximately 70 calories per tablespoon (about 14 ml) and accounts for about five percent of the daily allotment of fat and six percent of the daily allotment of sodium. Reduced fat and reduced sodium versions, however, may decrease the amounts to two percent and zero percent, respectively. It is important to note that when made with olive oil, the fat is a monounsaturated fat and, as such, actually has many added health benefits.

Red wine vinegar, which can be used to make an Italian dressing.
Red wine vinegar, which can be used to make an Italian dressing.

Italian dressing can also be made quickly and easily at home, often in less than five minutes. Though many recipes call for white wine vinegar and olive oil, the type of oil and vinegar used can vary based on individual taste. Replacing the white wine vinegar with red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar can significantly alter the flavor, and replacing the olive oil with a lower calorie oil, such as vegetable or canola oil, can reduce the fat and calories. Dairy products such as mayonnaise or buttermilk can be added to create a creamy Italian dressing with a richer texture and consistency as well. This tends to increase the fat and calories, however.

White wine vinegar, which is sometimes used to make Italian dressing.
White wine vinegar, which is sometimes used to make Italian dressing.

Though most frequently used on salads, Italian dressing can also make an excellent sauce or marinade for meats. Additionally, it can be used to moisten and flavor a burger when preparing it for the grill. It is also a delicious addition to a stir-fry and can be brushed on bread to add a unique flair and flavor to sandwiches. It can also be an excellent addition to a pasta salad.

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Discussion Comments

andee

Any kind of pasta salad would be my favorite kind of salad. Today there are so many different kinds of pasta you can use to make many types of salad. I will usually always use Kraft Zesty Italian dressing when serving my pasta salads.

The shaker tops make it easy to pour so you don't get too much and they have just the right amount of seasoning in them to really stand out. Making a vinaigrette Italian dressing at home is very easy too, and it is fun to experiment with different spices and herbs.

julies

Italian dressing is my favorite kind of salad dressing. I like both the vinaigrette and the creamy, but usually choose the creamy. Seven Seas makes a wonderful creamy Italian dressing that I have a hard time finding anymore. After trying several other brands, I have bought the Wishbone Italian dressing, but still keep my eye out for the other brand.

It is not hard to make salad dressing at home and then you can add the herbs and spices you want. For me, I just don't take the time and find it easier to grab a bottle at the store.

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    • Dill weed is often in Italian dressing.
      By: Viktor
      Dill weed is often in Italian dressing.
    • Red wine vinegar, which can be used to make an Italian dressing.
      By: Roman Ivaschenko
      Red wine vinegar, which can be used to make an Italian dressing.
    • White wine vinegar, which is sometimes used to make Italian dressing.
      By: Roman Ivaschenko
      White wine vinegar, which is sometimes used to make Italian dressing.
    • Basil is a common ingredient in Italian dressing.
      By: Barbara Pheby
      Basil is a common ingredient in Italian dressing.
    • Red pepper flakes can spice up Italian dressing.
      By: Brent Hofacker
      Red pepper flakes can spice up Italian dressing.
    • Olive oil, a staple for Italian dressing, contains a high level of monounsaturated fat and antioxidants.
      By: margo555
      Olive oil, a staple for Italian dressing, contains a high level of monounsaturated fat and antioxidants.
    • Italian dressing usually includes oregano.
      By: Taiga
      Italian dressing usually includes oregano.
    • Italian dressings can be used on salads or as a marinade.
      By: SunnyS
      Italian dressings can be used on salads or as a marinade.
    • Black pepper is usually added to Italian dressing.
      By: kellyschulz
      Black pepper is usually added to Italian dressing.
    • Italian dressings can spice up the flavor of a simple garden salad.
      By: valery121283
      Italian dressings can spice up the flavor of a simple garden salad.