Panzanella is an Italian salad that can take on many forms, but almost always contains these 2 ingredients – ripe tomatoes and baked or sauteed bread cubes. From there you can pretty much add whatever you like – a mixture of in-season vegetables, some fresh herbs and occasionally a salty/briny component such as olives or capers. It’s all tossed together with a vinaigrette and put aside for about an hour to allow the flavors to develop, and for the bread cubes to absorb the dressing. The trick is to let it sit long enough for the bread to soften, while still retaining a little bit of crunch.
Panzanella is the quintessential summer salad as it takes full advantage of the array of fresh and beautiful produce that is at its peak right now. I try to incorporate as many different colors as possible and usually add some diced fresh mozzarella. Panzanella can be a meal all on its own or a pretty side dish, accompanying some simply grilled chicken or fish.
I’ve included a recipe for one of my favorite vinaigrettes but feel free to substitute your own. Or make it even easier with a quick drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic.
Mangiare e buon appetito!
For bread cubes:
6 c. 1″ bread cubes (can be stale or fresh)**
¼ c. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 large cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into thick slices
2-3 heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 pint Sungold or teardrop tomatoes, halved if large
½ lb fresh mozzarella, cubed
20 basil leaves, torn or thinly sliced
2 purple peppers, seeded and diced
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
½ t. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 350. In a large bowl or plastic bag combine the bread cubes, olive oil, salt and pepper – toss till bread cubes are evenly coated. Spread in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or till golden brown. Cool completely. While bread cubes are baking, combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.
Make vinaigrette: whisk first 4 ingredients till emulsified – season with salt and pepper to taste.
When bread cubes have cooled, add to salad. Pour vinaigrette over and toss gently but thoroughly to combine. Let sit for no less than 30 minutes and up to an hour to allow flavors to develop and bread cubes to soften slightly. Serve immediately.
** this is a great way to use stale or leftover bread. Cut into 1″ cubes and freeze in single layers in ziploc bags. You don’t need to thaw them if using for croutons or in panzanella.