Panzanella is an Italian summer salad made of stale bread (the “pane” part of Panzanella), tomatoes and other in-season vegetables.
It’s as easy as slicing and dicing, and you don’t have to heat up your kitchen. And then… you just set it aside and wait for all those bounty-of-summer flavors to meld together. Mmmh!
To my gluten-free friends: Just omit the bread. I know… it’s called a bread salad. But if you take it out, you’re still left with a peak-of-the-season tomato-based salad. It is worthy all on it’s own!
I call my version of Panzanella “rustic” because I leave the vegetables large and chunky. This helps ensure that you can still taste each individual ingredient while at the same time, the bread has absorbed all the juices from everything.
I prefer to make Panzanella at home because the results are consistent. I’ve ordered it at restaurants many times and I’m often surprised. There’s a Tuscan version where all the ingredients are very finely chopped, including the bread, like large breadcrumbs. This looks more like tabbouleh, although the ingredients are the classic panzanella ingredients that I list in the recipe, below. Instead, let’s keep it simple the way Panzanella was originally meant to be – large, chunky, juicy, and crunchy, and with all the aromas of summer.
Fun fact: The colors in this simple salad also represent the colors of the Italian flag: green, white and red!
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Rustic Panzanella (Bread and Tomato Salad)
- 5 cups 1-inch diced San Marzano or Plum tomatoes (about 12 tomatoes)
- You may use other types of tomatoes but the two I’ve listed have the most flesh
- 4 – 5 cups 1/2-inch diced stale rustic bread (I used old focaccia bread in this recipe)
- 1 large cucumber (more, if you prefer)
- 1/2 of a large red onion (more, if you prefer)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (more to drizzle for serving, if you’d like)
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
- 8 – 10 fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- Optional: to make this Panzanella Salad a full meal, chop and add a large ball of fresh (raw) mozzarella
- Core, de-seed and dice tomatoes. Place in a very large mixing bowl
- Peel, de-seed and dice the cucumber and place it in the mixing bowl with the tomatoes
- Thinly slice the onion and place it in the mixing bowl with the tomatoes and cucumbers
- Add the olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, salt and red chili flakes (if using) to the mixing bowl and mix well
- Dice the stale bread into 1/2-inch cubes and place it in the mixing bowl and mix well
- Let the bowl rest at room temperature for at least four hours before serving. Stir occasionally to rotate the bread so it all absorbs the juices evenly
- Right before serving, tear the basil leaves into little pieces and stir into the salad. Doing this at the last minute ensures that the basil won’t bruise and brown