Panzanella, also known as Italian bread salad, is a Tuscan classic and a bona fide can’t-stop eating it experience that showcases the perfect harmony of flavors between crusty, day old bread and juicy, summer tomatoes.
Panzanella Salad Recipe
Panzanella never fails to surprise me with its sheer brilliance in taste. This classic Italian salad appears deceptively simple, even too good to be true. Combining day-old bread (or bread you stale yourself in the oven), succulent ripe tomatoes, and any leftover veggies, all tossed in a light vinaigrette. These simple ingredients transform into a truly satisfying, side dish salad.
Most notably, Panzanella surpasses the label of a mere tomato salad with croutons. After allowing all the ingredients to mingle and mix for about half an hour, this bread salad transcends from “pretty good” to absolutely extraordinary.
It’s the bread salad that’s more than just crumbs of joy, Panzanella is one you’ll fall in-loaf with. Buon appetito.
The Vibrant Ingredients of Panzanella Salad
When combined, these ingredients result in the best medley of textures, colors, and flavors. The bread soaks up the vinaigrette along with the juiciness of the tomatoes and the interplay of flavors is nothing shy of perfection. The full recipe can be found at the end of the post.
- Italian bread or rustic bread: The foundation of the salad, providing texture and absorbs the vinaigrette.
- Tomatoes: The star ingredient, their vibrant color, sweetness, and tanginess are the refreshing burst of flavor for this salad.
- Red onion: Adds a sharp and pungent kick to balance the sweetness of the tomatoes. When thinly sliced, it blends in harmoniously.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Rich and fruity olive oil is the base for the vinaigrette. It coats the bread, vegetables, and herbs, enhancing the mouthfeel of the final dish.
- Red wine vinegar: The tangy acidity of red wine complements the sweetness of the tomatoes, adding brightness and depth to the overall flavor.
- Salt and pepper: Essential for seasoning as a flavor enhancer.
- Yellow bell peppers: Adds vibrant color, a subtly sweet flavor and crunchy texture with contrast to the other ingredients.
- Seedless cucumber: Mild and refreshing taste, with a crisp texture and a touch of coolness to the salad, while helping to balance the flavors.
- Parsley: The fresh, herbal aroma of parsley adds another layer of freshness to the salad. Parsley has a delicate earthiness I sometimes prefer over basil when it comes to this salad.
Bread and Tomatoes: The Dynamic Duo of Panzanella Perfection
When gathering your ingredients for this dish, remember, the bread and tomatoes take center stage. For the bet outcome, opt for hearty artisan bread with a crunchy crust, I think ciabatta or a chewy pugliese round works well.
For the bread, it’s crucial to avoid any other type that might turn soggy and disappointing in the salad. If you don’t want to turn on the oven to stale the bread, you can achieve the ideal texture by cutting the bread into chunks and leaving it on a baking sheet overnight to naturally harden and stale. This technique goes back to Panzanella’s traditional roots, where it was a clever way to use up leftover hardened ends of bread. However, if time is limited, follow the oven instructions in the recipe to toast the bread cubes in the oven.
When it comes to the tomatoes, you want them to be vibrant and beautiful. If you have access, hued heirloom varieties will steal the show. Opt for juicy tomatoes, as they blend wonderfully with the vinaigrette, introducing an extra layer of flavor that enhances the entire dish.
And while this bread salad is perfectly delicious as written, there should be nothing stopping you from adding things like tomatillos, green beans, fresh corn, or anything else from your farmers market haul or garden. I myself have a weakness for tossing in burrata or chunks of fresh mozzarella with each serving.
Enhancing Panzanella Flavor: Allowing Time to Work its Magic
The crucial finishing touch for this dish is granting it a bit of time to rest before serving – this is where the true magic unfolds. Panzanella reaches its full potential when given a good half hour, for the bread to absorb the tomato juices and for all the vegetable flavors to intermingle. In every batch, there’s a sweet spot where the bread achieves a softness, while retaining a crunch near the crust. It strikes the perfect balance – not overly soggy, but perfectly chewy.
It’s essential not to refrigerate the salad before serving, as doing so might cause the tomatoes to lose their flavor. For the best experience, indulge in the salad on the same day it’s prepared.
More Recipes To Show Off Your Summer Tomatoes
Sun-kissed tomatoes are one of summer’s sweetest pleasures. Use your harvest to make one these delicious recipes.
- This tomato gratin is packed with ingredients that truly enhance the end of summers best gift.
- This cucumber tomato summer salad is a classic ensemble of crisp cucumbers and juicy tomatoes.
- This Mediterranean-inspired tomato cucumber feta salad is a refreshing, healthy and delicious side dish to serve alongside any meal.
- The perfect starter to any meal, these puff pastry tomato tartlets are so delicious and couldn’t be easier to make.
Making Panzanella is never a toss-up, it’s always a winner, so don’t forget to snap a photo and tag @NOBLEPIG and #noblepig on INSTAGRAM. I can’t wait to see your bread salad creations.
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How To Make Panzanella
- 6 cups cubed Italian bread or rustic bread (fresh or stale)
- 3 lbs. ripe tomatoes (about 3 lbs.), cut in chunks
- 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsps. red wine vinegar
- 2 tsps. minced garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 2 medium yellow bell peppers, seeded and cubed
- 1 large seedless cucumber, quartered lengthwise, cut into 1″ pieces
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley or basil
- Preheat oven to 400 °F. (If your bread is already stale you can skip the oven step to stale your bread.)
- Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment. Arrange bread cubes in a single-layer on pan. Toast in oven 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once, until evenly browned.6 cups cubed Italian bread or rustic bread (fresh or stale)
- Meanwhile, put tomatoes, onion, oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes or until tomatoes release their juices. Toss occasionally.3 lbs. ripe tomatoes (about 3 lbs.), cut in chunks, 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tbsps. red wine vinegar, 2 tsps. minced garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- Add peppers, cucumber and parsley to tomatoes. Let stand at least 15 minutes for flavors to blend. Just before serving, add bread cubes; toss to blend thoroughly.2 medium yellow bell peppers, seeded and cubed, 1 large seedless cucumber, quartered lengthwise, cut into 1″ pieces, 1/3 cup chopped parsley or basil
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