Italian Country Salad with Poached Pears

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Poached Pear Salad with blue cheese, glazed walnuts, blue cheese, and a creamy sherry dressing is easy, fresh, and delicious. A lighter restaurant copycat of an Italian Country Salad, this recipe can be an elegant and simple side dish. But you can also add your favorite protein to make it a satisfying dinner salad.

Poached Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Glazed Walnuts Recipe Image with title

I love my husband, and we had some pretty fun dates back in the day. But I cannot tell a lie, there’s someone else with whom I used to go out for date nights pretty regularly, and we always had a blast. And this person is actually still a huge part of my life.

It’s my mom!

After I graduated from college, I moved back home since my job was nearby and rent for apartments in New Jersey is ridiculous. In the years I was living at home, my sister was in the teenage stage of being too cool for school and little miss social butterfly. So whether it was hanging out with friends, cheerleading, or whatever teenagers did back in the early 2000’s, she didn’t want to be with her mom and much older sister on Friday nights. My stepfather was working nights at that time. And, well, I was 21 going on 40, and working a job that at times was exhausting.

So after a long, hard week, mom and I often had a date night on Fridays. We would go to lots of different places, but we had two staples. One was a Mexican restaurant where we would split a small pitcher of sangria and a Mexican pizza.

But when we were feeling really tired and lazy, we went to our favorite restaurant down the road, ordered a glass of Riesling, and the Italian Country Salad from Old Man Rafferty’s. Well, I always ordered it. And she sometimes ordered it. But it might just be my favorite salad ever.

Two side salads with poached pears and blue cheese

Italian Country Salad

The original Italian Country Salad stars with a base of mixed baby greens. It is topped with tender poached pears, candied walnuts, and blue cheese. Everything is tossed in a light sherry vinaigrette. While amazing in its original form, I had to put my own spin on it. Some of these twists make it a little healthier, others are just easier based on the ingredients I often have on hand, and a few tweaks might actually personalize it a bit and make it even better.

Despite the changes, every time I eat it I feel like I am back home in New Jersey, sitting on the patio of my favorite restaurant, a glass of Riesling in hand, eating my favorite salad, with one of my favorite people – my mom!

Poached Pears

I’m not sure how they make their poached pears, but I poached them in White Zinfandel, which is my mom’s favorite, with just a bit of honey for some sweetness. You could also use a Riesling or another sweeter wine. I do lighten up on the sweetener compared to many poached pear recipes since this is a salad, not a dessert.

Honey Glazed Walnuts

The walnuts on the restaurant salad have a super thick, super sweet coating of sugar. I went with just some honey and a touch of cinnamon, and it still adds plenty of sweetness and crunch, plus the toasty walnut flavor. 

Blue Cheese

For the Italian country touch, Old Man Rafferty’s uses Gorgonzola. However, any blue cheese will do, whether is a classic Wisconsin Maytag or a French Roquefort or a British Stilton.

Sherry Vinaigrette

I used a light Creamy Sherry Greek Yogurt Dressing versus the sherry vinaigrette on the original salad because I just love using Greek yogurt to make my salad dressing creamy and smooth.

plates of mixed greens with poached pears, glazed walnuts, and blue cheese plus a jar of dressing

Poached Pear Salad Recipe

Now that we’ve talked about what is in the salad, let’s break down the components to make it. It may look like a lot, but each part of the salad can be prepared ahead of time, then just assembled right before serving.

Here is a brief overview so you can see just how easy it is to make. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for the full quantities and details.
But don’t skip my PRO TIPS below!

What You’ll Need

For the poached pears

  • White Zinfandel – you can also use Riesling or another sweet white wine
  • Honey
  • Lemon juice
  • Pears – peeled, halved, stems removed, and cored

For the honey glazed walnuts

  • Walnuts – halves or large pieces
  • Honey
  • Ground cinnamon

For the dressing

  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper

For the salad

  • Mixed greens – baby greens, spring mix, or your favorite tender salad grees
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola – or your favorite blue cheese
Drizzling creamy sherry dressing onto a salad from a spoon

Directions

  1. Poached pears – bring the white wine, honey, and lemon juice to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add the pear halves and poach, uncovered, for about 10-12 minutes, until they turn tender. Cool completely while still in the poaching liquid.
  2. Honey glazed walnuts – toast the walnuts in a skillet for 2 or 3 minutes, add the honey and cinnamon, and stir to coat. Cook for 5 minutes until coated and toasted. Cool on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or a silicone baking mat.
  3. Sherry dressing – combine the ingredients in a bowl or jar and whisk or shake vigorously until combined and smooth.
  4. Assemble the salad – divide the mixed greens between the plates, slice the pears and place on top, sprinkle with walnuts and blue cheese, and drizzle with dressing.

Make-ahead tips

Poached Pears – can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight. Once cooled, remove from the poaching liquid to an airtight container so they don’t get mushy.

Honey Glazed Walnuts – once cool, store in a plastic storage bag or airtight container at room temperature.

Sherry Dressing – store in the refrigerator in a jar or other container for up to 3 to 4 days.

Italian Country Salad with pears and blue cheese drizzled with a creamy dressing

Make it a Meal

From this recipe, you can make eight side salads or four dinner salads. It can be satisfying on its own, but it’s also a fabulous base if you want to add your favorite protein, such as…

It also makes a lovely light side dish for…

Italian Country Salad with poached pears, walnuts, and blu cheese on a decorative plate

More salad recipes

Two side salads with poached pears and blue cheese

Italian Country Salad

This delicious salad is topped with poached pears, blue cheese, honey glazed walnuts, and a light and creamy sherry dressing. Also perfect for a light meatless dinner or side salad.
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 15 mins
chilling 2 hrs
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients

For the poached pears:

  • 1 cup white zinfandel wine or other sweet white wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 pears peeled, halved, stems removed, and cored

For the honey glazed walnuts:

  • 1 cup walnuts halves or large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the creamy sherry Greek yogurt dressing:

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 4 cups Mixed greens
  • 4 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese about 1 cup

Instructions

For the poached pears:

  • Stir together the white wine, honey, and lemon juice in a large saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat and add the pear halves.
  • Poach the pears, uncovered, for about 10-12 minutes, until they turn tender, but not mushy.
  • Remove from the heat and cool completely while still in the poaching liquid. Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight.

For the honey glazed walnuts:

  • Line a baking sheet with wax paper or a silicone baking sheet. Set aside.
  • Heat a small skillet over medium heat, then add the walnuts and toast for 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Add the honey and cinnamon and stir to coat evenly.
  • Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often until coated and toasted.
  • Pour the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet and quickly separate the nuts. Let cool completely.

For the creamy sherry Greek yogurt dressing:

  • Combine the ingredients in a bowl or jar and whisk or shake vigorously until combined and smooth.
  • You will probably have more than you need. Save it for another use. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

For the salad:

  • Thinly slice the poached pears.
  • Divide the mixed greens between eight side salad plates or four entree plates. Then top with pear slices, honey glazed walnuts, and blue cheese, and drizzle with the dressing.

Notes

This recipe will yield 8 side salads or 4 entree salads. Nutritional information is calculated based on side salad portions.
Nutrition Facts
Italian Country Salad
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 275 Calories from Fat 153
% Daily Value*
Fat 17g26%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Cholesterol 11mg4%
Sodium 233mg10%
Potassium 208mg6%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 14g16%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 355IU7%
Vitamin C 7.5mg9%
Calcium 115mg12%
Iron 0.8mg4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Enjoy!

More of mom’s favorite recipes from other bloggers.

Starters (Appetizers, Beverages, Breakfast):

Salads, Side Dishes, and Sauces:

Main Dishes:

Desserts:

Plus What Mom Really Wants for Mother’s Day plus Mom’s Favorite from Sunday Supper Movement

22 Comments
  1. This salad looks so good! AND I’m a Jersey girl too and love Old Man Rafferty’s salads. Have been there several times and always order one of their salads

  2. What a beautiful salad and story!! Date nights with Mom are so fantastic.. I only wish I lived closer to my Mom to enjoy nights out more often. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Loving participating in #SundaySupper and getting all these great recipe ideas 🙂

  3. This is one of my favorite combos, too—pears, walnuts, blue cheese and greens! I loved hearing about your wondeful mother-daughter times 🙂

  4. Kristen

    First of all, stunning salad! And secondly, I love date nights with my mom 🙂 I hope my daughter one days looks forward to a few Friday nights with me too!

  5. Date night with Mom is priceless. You made me remember the weekend trips I took with my adventurous mother. I really enjoyed reading through your post. Very touching and heart warming. Your salad is classic delicious! Thank you.

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