Let’s set the stage. Your friends are coming over for dinner. You want to impress them, of course, but you don’t have all day to spend in the kitchen preparing an extravagant meal. I mean, we all love our friends, but hours upon hours of dinner party prep is a tall order.
Luckily, everybody will be just as excited when you tell them that you’re calling in delivery pizzas as they would be if you ticked off a multi-course menu. And if they’re not excited, well, they probably shouldn’t be on your invite list, should they?
Just because you’re ordering takeout doesn’t mean you can’t offer your friends a thoughtful dinner at home. If you’re treating your guests to a couple of delivery pies, I highly recommend whipping up one epic salad to enjoy with the cheesy slices. This way, there is some homemade component to your dinner party. I don’t make the rules, but I firmly believe that every pizza party needs a hearty salad.
The Best Salad for Pizza
When it comes to making a salad that complements pizza, I feel very strongly that it should be crunchy, bright, acidic, and as simple as possible. No matter what you put in this salad, it’s going to be the sidekick to the star of the event, which is, of course, pizza.
The base has got to be romaine lettuce. Nothing light or wispy will do in this scenario—we need a green with some serious crunch to be the anchor of this salad. As far as mix-ins go, I like to stick to basic Italian-inspired mix-ins: olives, pepperoncini peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, artichokes, and roasted red peppers. We’re looking for pickley, crunchy, and vegetal ingredients. Use what you have and if you don’t have it all, that’s totally fine.
As far as the dressing goes, stick to a classic Italian-inspired vinaigrette. A heavy spoonful of dried oregano and a little bit of freshly grated garlic makes anything taste like a pizza party, amiright? I like to use the pickling liquid from the pepperoncini as one of the acidic components of the dressing because that stuff is too tasty to be pouring down the drain.
Would cubed salami, pepperoni, provolone cheese, Swiss, or mozzarella be good in this salad? Of course. But remember, this salad isn’t the whole meal. We’ve also got a selection of pizzas, so the salad shouldn’t overpower. That said, serve it with freshly grated Parmesan because it’s a pizza party and a little extra Parm never hurt anyone.
Epic Pizza Party Salad
This is what you need to make a large salad that will feed 10 to 12 people:
For the dressing:
- 1/2 medium shallot, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons pepperoncini pickling liquid
- 1 large garlic clove, grated
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
For the salad:
- 2 large heads romaine lettuce, washed and finely chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 cup black kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- 1/2 cup Castevetrano olives, pitted and chopped
- 1/2 cup pepperoncini peppers, drained
- 1 (7-ounce) jar marinated and quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- 1 (4-ounce) jar roasted red pepper strips, drained
- 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
- 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
Make the dressing: In a tight-sealing, medium jar, add all dressing ingredients and shake until creamy. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Make the salad: In a large bowl, add all salad ingredients and toss to combine with dressing. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve in a large bowl or on a deep platter with freshly grated Parmesan on top.