Got ripe summer tomatoes? Got day-old bread? Make this classic Tuscan Panzanella Salad recipe! This is a great make-ahead recipe for a summer potluck or backyard party, or make it for dinner and serve with grilled chicken.
Photography Credit:Elise Bauer
Oh the joys of summer! On the top of the list is fresh, ripe tomatoes, garden cucumbers, and basil that the more you cut, the more it grows. (Ever notice that basil is like a hydra? Cut one stem and two grow in its place.)
And the tomatoes. Beefsteak tomatoes, early girls, heirlooms, plum tomatoes, not to mention the little ones like sun golds.
Anyway, the heat has come, the garden has finally started to act like summer, and this classic Tuscan bread salad is a perfect thing to make with the bounty.
What Is Panzanella Salad?
Panzanella is really a way to use up crusty bread that has gotten hard and to celebrate perfect summer tomatoes. It is a cooling summertime salad that relies on the bread as the “filler” to soak up the juices of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as the extra virgin olive oil you pour over everything.
Once a poor man’s dish, panzanella has become rather trendy. Once you make it, you’ll see why! It’s a great way to show off wonderful, fresh, summer produce.
Which is why you should only make it in the summer, and only use the best and freshest ingredients. With so few ingredients, you’ll want all of them shine.
The Perfect Make-Ahead Salad
Panzanella is best when it has been allowed to sit for a while (at least 30 minutes) before serving. This gives the bread plenty of time to soak up the juices from the tomatoes and for the flavors in the salad to meld.
You can prepare the salad a couple hours ahead of time, keeping it at room temperature, which makes panzanella an excellent make-ahead salad for outdoor picnics and potlucks.
If you need to make further ahead, refrigerate and let come to room temperature before serving.
What to Serve with Panzanella
Serve panzanella salad as a side dish with your summer favorites — grilled chicken, grilled fish or shrimp, and grilled steak. For a vegetarian version with a little more protein, try folding in some chickpeas, or topping the salad with chopped hard boiled eggs right before serving.
Suggestions and Additions
Here are a few variations on panzanella that you might like to try:
- Add cubes of mozzarella cheese
- Sprinkle with red wine vinegar
- Fold in shredded chicken
- Fold in sliced prosciutto or small chunks of salami
- Add other vegetables such as chopped avocados, bell pepper, or fresh corn kernels
- Top with a fried or poached egg
Note if you add meat, eggs, or cheese to this salad, store chilled if making ahead, and bring to room temp to serve.
Try These Other Summer Salads:
- Caprese Salad with Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella
- Fattoush Bread Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Pasta Salad with Corn, Bacon, and Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
- Tomato, Onion, and Avocado Salad
Updated July 12, 2020 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.
Panzanella Bread Salad Recipe
As you cut the tomatoes, remove some of the seeds and liquid. Your panzanella will be juicy enough. Leave the crusts on the bread chunks; they will stay chewier and give the panzanella more substance.
If you don't have stale bread sitting around, you can take fresh crusty bread, cut it into big cubes, lay the cubes out on a baking sheet, and put in a 300°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until the outer edges have dried out a bit (not toasted, just dried). If you use fresh bread without doing this, the bread may disintegrate into mush in the salad.
- 4 cups tomatoes, cut into large chunks
- 4 cups day old (somewhat dry and hard) crusty bread (Italian or French loaf), cut into chunks the same size as the tomatoes (see Recipe Note)
- 1 cucumber, skinned and seeded, cut into large chunks
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 bunch fresh basil, torn into little pieces
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything together and let marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
If refrigerating, let come to room temperature before serving.
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Tuscan Panzanella by Stephanie Rizzolo
1 stale ciabatta loaf, baguette, or any artisanal crusty bread
3 large heirloom tomatoes
2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1/4 red onion
20 leaves of basil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tear stale bread into bite-sized pieces. If using fresh bread, slice, and drizzle with olive oil. Toast until golden brown and set aside to cool.
Cut heirloom tomatoes into wedges and halve cherry tomatoes.
Stripe and slice the cucumber in half. Remove seeds and slice into half-moon shapes.
Thinly slice the red onion.
Toss the vegetables and bread together in a large bowl. Pour in extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until everything is well combined.
Let sit for at least 30 minutes to let the bread soften and soak up the tomato juices and dressing.
Watch Stephanie Rizzolo making panzanella on our Instagram account @lacucinaitalianausa - Highlights section #HomeCookingLCI
Preheat the oven to 275 F. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, arrange on a baking sheet, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place the pan in the oven for 20-25 minutes to slightly crisp (&ldquostale&rdquo) the bread without toasting it. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine bread, cucumber, tomatoes, and onion. In a small jar, shake together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad ingredients, tossing gently. Add basil and Parmesan shavings and toss again. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour or two before serving.
Sprinkle with more salt and pepper and serve.
I made Panzanella this week for a segment on a future Food Network episode, and I was reminded once again just how much I love and adore it. In a nutshell, Panzanella is tomato-bread salad. I imagine it was originally created as a way to use up old, staling bread, as that is Panzanella&rsquos key component. And I can&rsquot remember the first time I ever tried it, but Panzanella has been one of my favorite delights for years and years. There&rsquos just something special about it.
I happened to have my camera with me the other day when I was making it, so I snapped photos of the Panzanella here and there! The photos aren&rsquot quite complete as they would be if I&rsquod been all by my lonesome, but I think I got enough to illustrate the process.
Make Panzanella soon! With all the tomatoes and basil around, it&rsquos definitely a summertime dish.
Start with an English cucumber and a few assorted tomatoes. These are heirlooms, and I would like to state from the record that they did not come from my garden. They came from the store. I haven&rsquot had much luck growing heirlooms the last couple of years, but I still think they&rsquore so weird and interesting.
Basically, you can use any tomato combination you want! Even if you just do a mix of red and yellow, it&rsquoll still be lovely.
ITALIAN PANZANELLA AND INTERNATIONAL VARIATIONS
The traditional Italian Panzanella is made with stale bread, soaked, then squeezed and finally coarsely crumbled.
To make this, you want to use water and flour bread made without fats like Tuscan bread or Ciabatta.
The International Panzanella is often made with previously diced and toasted bread. It is delicious, but honestly, compared to the Traditional Panzanella is totally another recipe.
- 6 cups day old Italian bread, torn into bite-size pieces
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
- ¾ cup sliced red onion
- 10 basil leaves, shredded
- ½ cup pitted and halved green olives
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
In a large bowl, toss bread with 1/3 cup olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Lay bread on a baking sheet, and toast in the preheated oven until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes allow to cool slightly.
While the bread is in the oven, whisk together 1/4 cup of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Gently toss together the bread, tomatoes, onion, basil, olives, and mozzarella cheese. Toss with the vinaigrette and let stand for 20 minutes before serving.
Panzanella (bread salad)
Nothing is wasted in an Italian kitchen. This salad recipe uses stale bread, which soaks up the flavours of the dressing while retaining a slightly crunchy texture – it is incredibly yummy, especially if you use a good loaf of bread. Proper ciabatta should be crusty on the outside and not too doughy or airy inside.
- 1 day-old ciabatta loaf, crusts cut off, cut into cubes
- 300 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 100 ml balsamic vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 5 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- ½ bunch basil
- salt and pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Bake the bread in a warm oven until golden brown and dry. Leave to cool.
Place the oil, vinegar and garlic in a bowl, add the bread and toss together. Add the tomato and onion and tear in the basil leaves. Toss again, season to taste and serve immediately.
Bread Salad (Panzanella)
Bread salad, also known as Panzanella, made with toasted day-old sourdough bread, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, basil and an Italian-style salad dressing that is exceptionally tasty and very addictive.
This salad is close relative of our family favorite Italian tomato and cucumber salad. It has the similar fantastic taste and similar summery freshness, only it goes above and beyond that.
What makes this bread salad truly special is the pieces of toasted sourdough bread, or the quick but so good no-knead bread, and the Italian-style salad dressing that is so good that you could just drink it. Both are family favorites and when combined together, they make one ridiculously good bread salad. So good in fact that you just can’t have enough of it.
The salad is also fairly light and you could end up eating quite a bit before you know it. So, be forewarned and think about doubling the recipe.
Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad)
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This salad is a great way to use up leftover or slightly stale bread. The original is typically made with red wine vinegar and the saltless bread found throughout Tuscany. Our version has a light lemon vinaigrette and cucumbers for an added dimension and some crunch.
What to buy: Pull out your best extra-virgin olive oil for this recipe, as the quality becomes apparent after the first bite.
Game plan: This dish gets better the longer the flavors are allowed to infuse, so you can make it up to a day in advance.
- 1 Place all of the ingredients except the oil in a medium nonreactive bowl, stir to combine, and let sit for 15 minutes. Then, while whisking continuously, add the oil in a slow, steady stream until it’s fully incorporated.
For the salad:
- 1 Place the bread in a large bowl and add half of the vinaigrette. Toss to coat well, then set aside at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
- 2 Meanwhile, place the tomatoes, onions, and cucumber in a separate large bowl and add the remaining vinaigrette. Toss to coat well, then set aside at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
- 3 Add the vegetables and the basil to the bread and mix until evenly combined. Taste and season salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, then serve at room temperature.
Beverage pairing: Fernleaf Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand. The brisk lime, lemon, and grassy herbaceousness of this Sauvignon Blanc are a good match with the sharp notes of lemon, basil, onion, and tomato in the salad, while the wine’s lively acidity and energy will favorably contrast with the soft bread.
About the Recipe
As I mentioned above, the key ingredient that sets this salad apart is day-old bread. That does not mean stale, hard as a rock bread. I use about half of a nice hearty baguette from one of my favorite local bakers, most often sourdough. I first cut or tear the bread into cube-ish shapes and then add them back to the paper bag they came in to sit and harden for a day or so.
Once the salad all comes together, the juices from the tomatoes and the dressing soak into those delicious bread chunks to soften them, creating bold bites of bread with no need for dipping.
The salad dressing is a simple one, with just 5 ingredients. See, you only need 5 ingredients because so much flavor is packed into the dressing thanks to the savory blend of herbs added to it.
I use McCormick’s Gourmet™ Organic Italian Seasoning with Flaxseed to infuse the dressing with tons of flavor. There’s nothing else to add in the herb department because this blend contains all the zest I need: Flaxseed, marjoram, basil, savory, more garlic, onion, red bell pepper, and rosemary extract.
Sure, it says “Italian” on the label, but the flavor profile is right in line with the other Greek flavors I’ve added to create the perfect complement to the dish.
One of my tips in making this salad is to cut your bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, and roasted red bell pepper all the same size—or as close as you can. That way the bread doesn’t take over and dominate the chunks of cucumber, roasted bell peppers and tomato.
And, to my husband’s liking, you then get HUGE CHUNKS of cucumber, his favorite fruit/veg ever. I seeded my cucumber but if you’re feeling lazy and don’t mind the seeds, this is a totally skippable step.
But don’t skip this salad. It’s just like dessert in every sweet tomato bursting bite.
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove and discard crust from ciabatta cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread bread cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes or until toasted and golden.
Combine toasted bread, tomatoes, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, feta, onion, and basil in a large bowl.
In a separate smaller bowl, combine oil, vinegar, oregano, pepper, and salt. Stir with a whisk. Pour over salad toss to combine. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.