Italian Arugula Salad

The easiest salad recipe you’ll ever make. Loaded with flavor from just three ingredients, Italian Arugula Salad is quick side dish for pasta, pizza, chicken, fish and more.

overhead of white bowl of arugula, parmesan and lemon slices on a green and white floral napkin and white wooden background with bowl of parmesan and white olive oil bottle

Many times, it’s the simple things that end up being the most memorable, satisfying, and reliable. Like this Italian Arugula salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. Once you learn how to make it, you’ll want to eat it with everything from chicken and fish to pizza and pasta.

loose arugula greens with a white bottle of olive oil, wedge of parmesan cheese, bowls of salt and pepper and a wooden board with a knife and lemon wedges

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What does arugula taste like?

  • Peppery. 
  • Spicy. 
  • Bitter.

These are the words you’ll typically see or hear when describing arugula. And don’t let the possible negative connotations throw you off. The dressing for this salad will mellow each of those tastes while bringing out the best in the arugula.


If you get a chance to go to Italy (and if you do, call me so I can make sure I’m free), you might sit down to order and see rucola on the menu. Or you might see rocket. Either way, I suggest you order it because you’ll be ordering arugula. In Italy, you’ll often see arugula with lemon and olive oil or sometimes topped with pine nuts and always parmesan cheese.

a wooden board with a knife and lemon wedges and a measuring cup of olive oil on a white wooden background

Two ingredient salad dressing

What?!? A 2 ingredient salad dressing?

Yup. And you’ll be amazed at the amount of flavor. 

  1. Lemon  juice
  2. Olive oil.

That’s it.

The lemon brings zippy tartness and bright flavor while the olive oil mellows it all out with earthy flavor and silky texture. And the best part? No measuring – but don’t worry, there’s measurements in the recipe below but you’re going to be eating this so much that you’re going to get really good at making this and knowing the proportions you like.

Btw – I might have fibbed. I don’t count salt and pepper as ingredients in the dressing because it goes without saying that you need both. A big sprinkle of each right on the salad before tossing will do it. 

Assembling the Salad

two images split with a hand pouring olive oil on a bowl of greens and another hand squeezing a lemon the the bowl of greens

Time to make the salad. 

  1. Place the washed arugula (prewashed is great too!) in a nice wide bowl which makes for easy tossing.
  2. Assemble your salad dressing ingredients including the zested and halved lemons, good quality olive oil, and grated parmesan cheese.
  3. Have some salt and pepper available for seasoning.
  4. Drizzle the olive oil over the greens counting to 8 as you zig zag across the bowl.
  5. Squeeze both halves of the lemon over the greens and oil. Sprinkle the zest over the lettuce.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Gently toss the greens with tongs and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  8. Using a vegetable peeler, shave parmesan cheese over top along with some grated parmesan.
white bowl of arugula, parmesan and lemon slices on a green and white floral napkin and white wooden background with bowl of parmesan,white olive oil bottle and salt and pepper shakers

Arugula Salad Pairings

Ok – here’s the thing. I am a huge fan of simple ingredients that work well in lots of different ways. I think of recipes like this arugula parmesan salad as building blocks to make other dishes a full and even better meal. Some of my favorite recipes to pair with it are:

Mom’s Chicken Parmesan– slice up some of this juicy chicken for an easy chicken salad. And the chicken can even be served cold topped with the salad for an easy sandwich for lunch.

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza – Salad pizza is a thing. Layer some of the arugula salad with lemon right over this pizza for a fresh spin on a classic.

Homemade Italian Meatballs – Who doesn’t love a meatball sub? And some arugula lemon salad would be a bright zippy side dish to balance out the richer flavors in the meatball sandwich. Win win!

Read on for more info on washing, storing and even freezing greens so you can make this salad anytime.

How to clean salad greens

arugula in sink of water
  1. Fill a sink with fresh clean water, drop in your arugula and agitate the water a bit and let your greens take a little swim. This will remove any of the sand or dirt clinging to your leaves. 
  2. Remove the greens from the sink to a salad spinner or a baking sheet lined with a double layer of paper towels. 
  3. Spin the greens gently a few times to remove all the water. 
  4. If hand drying, lay a second layer of paper towels over the greens and pat them dry with a few rounds of paper towels until the paper towels are almost dry when blotting.

Storing fresh arugula

Once you’ve washed the arugula, I find it best to wrap it in paper towels placed in ziploc bags. It’ll keep for approximately 5 days.

arugula on a sheet pan with parchment

Can I Freeze Greens?

While some sites recommend blanching greens like arugula before freezing, I have had great luck with par-freezing. Plus, it’s less work. To do this:

  1. Lay greens in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  2. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for around 2 hours. Go read a book or catch up on a show.
  3. Then remove greens to a freezer safe ziploc bag and lay flat to freeze.
  4. Use as needed.


If the arugula tastes a little bitter, you can let it sit a bit in the dressing (about 30 minutes) and that’ll take some of the bitterness out.

-Josie + Nina

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!

white bowl of arugula, parmesan and lemon slices on a green and white floral napkin.
5 from 4 votes

Italian Arugula Salad

An easy fresh salad that pairs with chicken, fish, pizza and pasta
Prep Time:5 minutes
Total Time:5 minutes



  • Wash and dry arugula either by rinsing and spinning in a salad spinner. Or wash leaves in a sink of cold water agitating slightly to remove sand or dirt. Remove the greens from the sink to a double layer of paper towel. Cover with more paper towels, patting until the excess water is removed.
  • Remove greens to a wide shallow salad bowl.
  • If using an olive oil bottle with an attached pourer/stopper, drizzle the olive oil in a back and forth motion across the bowl counting to 8 with each pass.
  • Conversely, use a tablespoon to drizzle the oil across the salad in a light stream counting the same way as above.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice quarters across the salad. Sprinkle with the zest.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Top with parmesan cheese shards and grated parmesan [see notes].


  • Adjust proportions for larger quantities
  • Serve with grilled chicken, fish or over pizza.
  • To make shards of parmesan, use a vegetable peeler and run it across the long edge of the wedge.
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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  1. This salad is always a winner. It’s easy to make, and it looks and tastes authentic Italian. Bellissima!5 stars

  2. Tank you for tis amazzing salda recippe!!! it helped me for my work-lace xMas parrty.
    my inlaws alos wer their. thank you again1 gutentag!5 stars