This easy Italian tomato salad is made with just a few ingredients and contains no oil (trust me, you will NOT miss it) – we made this salad years ago in a little Italian restaurant in Philadelphia. All these years later, I still think about and enjoy this salad – that’s when you know it’s really really good!
I LOVE a recipe like this because it checks all the boxes: easy, healthy, and delicious! ❤️
This recipe comes from a time when I worked in a restaurant called Emilio’s – it was a small neighborhood Italian restaurant that served dishes like chicken marsala (one of my favs!), chicken piccata, and veal saltimbocca. I learned a lot and tasted a lot of great food – I miss that little restaurant!!
We’d prep these Italian tomato salads about 3 or 4 hours before dinner service to allow time for them to marinate and the tomatoes to spill their juices, which makes the most delicious “dressing”. Many patrons would enjoy these salads with some crusty bread. Sooo good!
The Best Tomato Varieties for Salads
So you may be wondering what kind of tomatoes make for the best tomato salad. Because, let’s face it – when the tomatoes are flavorless and bland, the salad is just not good!
I’m a big fan of Campari tomatoes, which are known for their low acidity, high sweetness, and lack of mealiness. They are often sold as tomatoes on the vine in markets and are great for snacking or for salads.
Beefsteak tomatoes are also great in salad. Avoid plum tomatoes, which are better for making sauce and cooking since they are not very juicy.
Marinating the Tomatoes: The Salad Dressing
One of the things that makes this Italian tomato salad unique is that it contains no oil, and no cheese. I don’t totally avoid either of those ingredients but if a recipe is good without those extras, I say why not?
When you leave this salad marinate over a few hours, the salt acts via osmosis to extract/release the natural juices in the tomatoes. When this juice is mixed with the vinegar and added to the aromatics and herbs (ie, garlic, onion, and basil) the result is absolutely phenomenal!
Salting tomatoes is one of the best ways to improve (intensify their flavor)! And it makes a darn good salad dressing too!
Serving and Storage
Store this salad in the refrigerator immediately after making it and if you have any leftovers. Generally, the salad is good for 1 to 2 days afterwards, depending on how ripe your tomatoes are to start.
Best served cold or at room temperature with some hearty bread for sopping up the natural juices that will collect at the bottom of the bowl.
Other Italian Vegetables to Try
- Neopolitan ciambotta
- Italian minestrone
- Italian-style escarole (Utica Greens)
- Spicy Swiss chard with potatoes
- Roasted red peppers
- 2 pounds (907.18 g) fresh tomatoes (8 small tomatoes per pound)
- 1 medium red onion sliced thinly
- fresh basil large handful, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup (79.67 g) red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup (59.15 g) water
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Add all ingredients to a large bowl and toss so that everything is well distributed and evenly seasoned.
- Taste, and add more salt if needed.
- Cover, place in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 3 hours.