Since salads have gone from boring side dishes to complex meals, we take our dressings very seriously. Two of our tried-and-true favorites, Italian and Greek, may taste somewhat similar, but they’re actually quite different. To make matters even more complicated, our Americanized bottled versions are completely (and offensively, tbh) dissimilar to what’s served authentically in Europe. We break down the situation below.
What is Italian Dressing?
Despite what its name may suggest, bottled Italian dressing is far from Italian. What we purchase in the grocery store is an American-designed concoction of water, vinegar, lemon juice, vegetable oil, sugar or corn syrup, bell peppers, herbs, and spices. Dressing served in Italy is rarely pre-mixed. Instead, olive oil, red or white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper are served table-side and can be tailored to your preferences. Leaves are also very lightly doused in oil (it’s crucial for them to not overpower the dish) and you never see chopped herbs and cheeses mixed directly into the liquid.
What is Greek Dressing?
In Greece, simplicity is also key. Most salads are drizzled lightly with olive oil and served with lemon wedges. While this may seem plain and boring, its intention is to highlight the plate’s fresh ingredients like cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. It should also not detract from the salad’s stronger flavors, like feta cheese and kalamata olives. If you’re looking for acidity, the addition of red wine vinegar is fairly common, though it’s certainly far more prevalent in America’s bottled varieties. For some added seasoning, try a dash of salt, pepper, and oregano before you go vinegar crazy.
Differences and Similarities Between Italian and Greek Dressings
If we’re talking about authentic Italian and Greek dressings, they’re actually quite similar. Both cultures show restraint when it comes to drowning their greens in liquid, though the Italians are certainly more finicky about the oil content. When it comes to Americanized bottled versions, both suffer at the hands of mass manufacturers. While Italian dressings are full of sugar, bell peppers, and herbs, Greek dressings are pre-mixed with a traditional Greek salad’s most basic ingredients (i.e. olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, and cucumber).
Since we’ve learned that there really is no such thing as authentic Italian and Greek dressings in America, feel free to take a stab at two of these homemade alternatives that may not represent their respective cultures, but are a helluva lot healthier than the bottled counterparts.