When we’re heading out to dinner or a leisurely weekend lunch with my friend William, we don’t even have to ask him where he wants to go. His first choice is always a locally-owned and run Italian restaurant with dynamite food.
Not your typical Italian-American joint, this place puts its signature touch on every dish, from straightforward pizzas to complex pasta dishes. But I suspect that part of the reason we all like this place so much is their house salad dressing. Creamy, pink, garlicky – it elevates even the simple side salad to a toothsome mini-meal. We always order extra so we can dip our ciabatta bread or pizza crusts in it.
A while back, my husband and I started talking about that dressing. How its pungency is so well balanced with its smooth sweetness. Then we started guessing what’s in it. Come on, you’ve done it. Taste, guess. Taste, guess.
Monday, as I stared at yet another salad for lunch, I longed for some of that dressing just to make things interesting. So, I decided to try to make a close copy of it. I started by pulling familiar Italian ingredients out of the fridge and cabinets – olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, and then shutting my eyes, I thought and added some paprika, anchovy paste, finely grated Parmesan – and to lighten things up – plain yogurt in place of half the mayonnaise.
While the result may not be an exact copy of the bistro’s dressing, it is definitely a keeper. But that doesn’t mean we won’t still head over there for the real thing from time to time.
This dressing won’t keep long, so don’t make a big batch, unless you can eat it up in two days. It would make a great dip for vegetables or pita chips, in case you need other ways to eat it – other than with a spoon.
Italian Dressing de la casa
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1 Tbsp. concentrated tomato paste
1 Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients except the olive oil. Whisk the olive oil into the mixture. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.