Italian Heirloom Tomato Salad (Marinated Tomato Salad)

4.72 from 7 votes
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This simple Italian heirloom tomato salad (Insalata di pomodori) combines ripe tomatoes with basil, oregano, and a simple olive oil and garlic-based dressing, for a simple, flavor-packed appetizer or side. This marinated tomato salad requires just 7 ingredients and is gluten-free, dairy-free, keto, clean-eating, low-calorie, heart-healthy, and naturally vegan!

Simple tomato salad topped with basil in a plate

If you’re looking for the ultimate simple salad to enjoy this summer, then give this Italian heirloom tomato salad a try! In many ways, tomatoes are a strong foundation of Italian cuisine; including in pizza (like this Neapolitan), pasta (pasta alla norma and lasagna), soup, and salads like Caprese salad (or burrata Caprese) or in this, even simpler, marinated Italian tomato salad (aka Insalata di pomodori). Italians certainly know how to make the most of this ingredient!

Meant for summertime, when tomatoes are at their freshest and ripest, this heirloom tomato salad uses a simple combination of juicy tomatoes with basil, oregano, and a garlic olive oil vinaigrette for a simple summer salad that’s bursting with flavor without weighing you down! Even better, it takes just minutes to prepare (just make sure to leave time for it to marinate!).

Simple tomato salad and croutons

During the summer months, I find myself at my local farmer’s market every other day and find it hard to turn down all the fresh, gorgeous-looking ripe tomatoes on display. Of course, this means I’m always finding new ways to enjoy them, including fresh bruschetta, Caprese pasta salad, roasted to top dips like whipped labneh, tomato confit, Italian eggs in purgatory, or even to make fresh tomato juice (and bloody Mary’s!). However, if you want a dish that lets them shine, this heirloom tomato salad is it!

What are heirloom tomatoes?

Heirloom tomatoes aren’t so much a single variety of tomatoes as they are a general category (containing many varieties within). Unlike your generic store-bought tomatoes, which are usually specially bred to grow a specific size or color, etc., heirloom tomatoes are grown naturally.

A tomato on a flat surface

Heirloom tomatoes rely on the classic pollinators (birds, bees, etc.) for natural “un-tainted” tomatoes. The result is gorgeous tomatoes in all kinds of colors, shapes, and sizes. However, along with their good looks, they also have a fresher, juicier, sweeter flavor, which makes them perfect for a simple salad like this Italian tomato salad!

If you want more summer salad inspiration, you might also be interested in this grilled peach burrata Caprese salad, tropical mango salad, watermelon feta salad, or Middle Eastern chickpea salad!

The Marinated Tomato Salad Ingredients

Ingredients for simple tomato salad
  • Tomatoes: I classically make this in summer with ripe in-season heirloom tomatoes. Using a combination of colors (red, orange, green) looks beautiful but isn’t necessary. This tomato salad will work with regular vine-ripened and other ripe tomatoes, too, though.
  • Herbs: I used a combination of fresh basil and oregano, which are the most used herbs for an Italian tomato salad, though you could also use parsley. I don’t recommend substituting dried herbs, as the fresh ingredients are what make this heirloom salad shine! However, if you do use dried oregano, you only need a pinch.
  • Dressing: olive oil (use extra virgin olive oil with a bright, fruity flavor), fresh garlic, vinegar (white wine vinegar is my favorite, though you could sub red wine vinegar or even balsamic vinegar), and lemon (fresh lemon juice) are all you need for a simple salad dressing.
  • Salt & Pepper.
  • Croutons (optional).

Optional add-ins and Variations

Technically, there are tons (and tons) of optional add-ins for this simple Italian tomato salad. However, this salad is all about the simplicity and balance of flavor. For that reason, here is a small list of potential variations.

  • Red onion: finely diced red onion can be added to the marinade for a pop of pungent flavor.
  • Other vegetables: cucumber, corn, and olives are my favorite simple additions to this Italian tomato salad.
  • Avocado: for a creamy element, you could add ½ avocado finely diced/sliced. 
  • Capers: for little flavor bombs of tangy, salty flavor, add a tablespoon of capers.
  • Legumes: legumes like chickpeas or white beans will help to make a heartier dish.
  • Cheese: mozzarella or burrata could both be added to this tomato salad recipe. For a vegan option, use vegan mozzarella. Crumbled feta would also taste delicious.
  • Pine nuts: raw or lightly toasted; add a sprinkle to the top of the prepared marinated tomato salad for a little extra texture.

How to Make Italian Heirloom Tomato Salad

Step 1: Chop the tomatoes

First, cut the tomatoes into slices – around ¼ to ⅓ inch is my preferred thickness. Alternatively, you could cut the tomatoes into small ½ inch wedges. You can do this with a sharp knife or a mandoline for even slices.

Steps for slicing tomatoes

Then transfer the slices to a large platter and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Leave to rest.

During this time, the salt will draw out excess liquid from the tomatoes, which will mix with the simple dressing for more of a marinade.

Salting sliced tomatoes

Step 2: Prepare the dressing

First, mince the garlic. Then combine it in a small bowl with the lemon juice, vinegar, and oil and whisk.

A bowl with salad dressing

Step 3: Assemble the heirloom tomato salad

Pour the dressing over the salted tomatoes (do this slowly and make sure they’re well coated). Then add the fresh basil and oregano. I added the leaves whole. However, you could also finely chiffonade (ribbon-cut) the basil. Then set aside to marinate for 15-30 minutes.

Make sure to taste the Italian tomato salad before serving to adjust any of the seasonings if necessary.

Optionally, if you want to add croutons, first cut some day-old bread into cubes/chunks, lightly spray with oil, and bake at 375ºF/170ºC until golden and crispy – check the full recipe method here.

Once crispy, sprinkle the croutons over the salad right before serving – then enjoy!

Steps for making croutons

How to Store?

Make ahead: you can prepare the dressing and croutons for this salad 1-2 days in advance. Store the dressing, covered, in the fridge and the croutons in an airtight container at room temperature.

Storing: I recommend enjoying this heirloom salad within 10 hours for the very best texture. However, technically, you could keep any leftovers in the fridge for a day or two. The tomatoes will soften over time, though.

A serving of tomato salad with croutons

How to Serve Italian Tomato Salad?

You can enjoy this Italian tomato salad alone or with a side of bread (like this crusty loaf or pita) to mop up the dressing.

Plus, since this Italian tomato salad recipe is so simple, it also pairs wonderfully as a side salad to all sorts of meals, including:

Simple tomato salad in a plate

Recipe Notes and Top Tips

  • Use the freshest ingredients: this heirloom tomato salad is best during tomato season when they’re at their very best flavor-wise! Though, in Italy, I’ve heard that many Italians use tomatoes that are also just slightly under-ripe (with a bit of green in them still) for a great combination of sweetness and acidity/tartness.
  • Finding heirloom tomatoes: you’re most likely to find heirloom tomatoes at farmers’ markets over grocery stores. Or at least that’s the case here in the UK.
  • Making this out of season: I recommend using vine tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (halved) when making this out of tomato season. These tomatoes tend to taste best out of season.
  • Ensure you marinate: at a minimum leave it to marinate for 15 minutes, but I recommend 30 minutes for the best results.
  • Don’t remove the salted tomato juice: this will combine with the dressing to add more flavor.
  • Don’t omit the salt: not only does it enhance the flavor, but it encourages the tomatoes to release extra juices, which combine with the other marinade ingredients for delicious results.
  • Store your tomatoes correctly: Don’t be tempted to store them in the fridge. Instead, store your tomatoes at room temperature for the best texture and flavor!
Adding extra dressing to a serving of tomato salad

Related Healthy Salad Recipes

If you try this Italian heirloom tomato salad recipe (Insalata di pomodori), I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Italian Heirloom Tomato Salad (Marinated Tomato Salad)

4.72 from 7 votes
By: Samira
This simple Italian heirloom tomato salad (Insalata di pomodori) combines ripe tomatoes with basil, oregano, and a simple olive oil and garlic-based dressing, for a simple, flavor-packed appetizer or side. This marinated tomato salad requires just 7 ingredients and is gluten-free, dairy-free, keto, clean-eating, low-calorie, heart-healthy, and naturally vegan.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 3

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 lb heirloom tomatoes or other in-season, ripe, colorful if wanted
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar/balsamic
  • 1 lemon or 3 Tbsp juice
  • 1 large garlic clove or 2 small – adjust to personal preference
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 0.25 oz fresh basil a few leaves
  • 0.25 oz fresh oregano a couple of sprigs; or parsley

Instructions 

Step 1: Chop the tomatoes

  • Cut the tomatoes into slices – around ¼ to ⅓ inch is my preferred thickness. Alternatively, you could cut the tomatoes into small ½ inch wedges. You can do this with a sharp knife or a mandoline for even slices.
  • Transfer the slices to a large platter and sprinkle with the salt. Leave to rest.
    During this time, the salt will draw out excess liquid from the tomatoes, which will mix with the simple dressing for more of a marinade.

Step 2: Prepare the dressing

  • Mince the garlic.
  • Combine it in a small bowl with the lemon juice, vinegar, oil, and pepper. Whisk well.

Step 3: Assemble the heirloom tomato salad

  • Pour the dressing over the salted tomatoes (do this slowly and make sure they're well coated).
  • Add the fresh basil and oregano. I added the leaves whole. However, you could also finely chiffonade (ribbon-cut) the basil.
    Then set aside to marinate for 15-30 minutes.
    Make sure to taste the Italian tomato salad before serving to adjust any of the seasonings if necessary.
  • Optionally, if you want to add croutons, first cut some day-old bread into cubes/chunks, lightly spray with oil, and bake at 375ºF/170ºC until golden and crispy – check the full recipe method here.
    Once crispy, sprinkle the croutons over the salad right before serving- then enjoy!

How to Store?

  • Make ahead: you can prepare the dressing and croutons for this salad 1-2 days in advance. Store the dressing, covered, in the fridge and the croutons in an airtight container at room temperature.
    Storing: I recommend enjoying this heirloom salad within 10 hours for the very best texture. However, technically, you could keep any leftovers in the fridge for a day or two. The tomatoes will soften over time, though.

Notes

  • Use the freshest ingredients: this salad is best during tomato season when they’re at their very best flavor-wise! Though, in Italy, I’ve heard that many Italians use tomatoes that are also just slightly underripe (with a bit of green in them still) for a great combination of sweetness and acidity/tartness.
  • Finding heirloom tomatoes: you’re most likely to find heirloom tomatoes at farmers’ markets over grocery stores. Or at least that’s the case here in the UK.
  • Making this out of season: I recommend using vine tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (halved) when making this out of tomato season. These tomatoes tend to taste best out of season.
  • Ensure you marinate: for 15 minutes will do, but I recommend 30 minutes!
  • Don’t remove the salted tomato juice: this will combine with the dressing to add more flavor.
  • Don’t omit the salt: not only does it enhance the flavor, but it encourages the tomatoes to release extra juices, which combine with the other marinade ingredients for delicious results.
  • Store your tomatoes correctly: don’t be tempted to store them in the fridge. Instead, store your tomatoes at room temperature for the best texture and flavor!
 
Optional add-ins and Variations:
Technically, there are tons (and tons) of optional add-ins for this simple tomato salad. However, this salad is all about the simplicity and balance of flavor. For that reason, here is a small list of potential variations.
  • Red onion: finely diced red onion can be added to the marinade for a pop of pungent flavor.
  • Other vegetables: cucumber, corn, and olives are my favorite simple additions.
  • Avocado: for a creamy element, you could add ½ avocado finely diced/sliced. 
  • Capers: for little flavor bombs of tangy, salty flavor, add a tablespoon of capers.
  • Legumes: legumes like chickpeas or white beans will help to make a heartier dish.
  • Cheese: mozzarella or burrata could both be added to this tomato salad recipe. For a vegan option, use vegan mozzarella. Crumbled feta would also taste delicious.
  • Pine nuts: raw or lightly toasted; add a sprinkle to the top of the prepared marinated tomato salad for a little extra texture.
Check the blog post for lots of serving suggestions.
Course: Appetizer, Side
Cuisine: Italian
Freezer friendly: No
Shelf life: 1-2 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 204kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Sodium: 407mg, Potassium: 868mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 2586IU, Vitamin C: 61mg, Calcium: 134mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

    1. Hi Isha,
      I very often add Burrata cheese to this salad – maybe this is what you’ve seen on my social media 🙂 Fresh Mozzarella will also work. I hope this helps.

  1. 3 stars
    Sounds great, making it tomorrow. However…is the salt AND pepper supposed to be sprinkled on the tomatoes or is the pepper supposed to go in the Dressing? Says sprinkle tomatoes with a Bit of salt. So is that the amount specified in the recipe? Would be nice to include instructions for the ingredients listed so we are clear on what is the best way to make this salad. Please and thank you 🙂

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Use all salt on the tomatoes. The pepper is supposed to be added to the dressing. The steps are now updated to reflect this exactly.