Panzanella, a classic Italian tomato-and-bread salad with all the essentials of a healthy Mediterranean diet yet hearty enough to eat as a light dinner or lunch.
You only have to look at the colours in this salad to know its origins – the green of the basil, the white of the bread and the red tomato all epitomise the colours and flavours of Italy.
A frugal salad that originated in Tuscany and was a way to use up stale bread and summer tomatoes that were overripe and oozing.
Traditional Panzanella is made with stale, dried bread, that has been rehydrated, tomatoes and basil. Our version also includes crisp cucumbers, pungent onions and our bread has been toasted for extra crunch.
Can you make Panzanella ahead?
You need to get the timing of Panzanella just right, the veggies need enough time to soak up the flavourful dressing but not too long that they turn soggy.
I would make it anywhere from fifteen minutes up to one hour in advance to allow the flavours to mingle and I would leave the toasted bread to add to the salad just before serving so that it retains its crunch.
How to make your Panzanella…
1Start with the bread…
Heat your grill then cut your bread into medium-sized cubes (3cm – 1.2 inches). Place your bread cubes on an oven tray, drizzle with some olive oil and dried oregano. Grill for 5 minutes or until golden brown, turning when needed.
2Salt your tomatoes…
While your bread is toasting, wash your truss tomatoes, trim the ends and core, then cut into wedges.
Salt your tomatoes in a colander for 5-10 minutes with a bowl underneath to capture the juices so that you can add it back to your vinaigrette for some additional tomatoey goodness.
CUT YOUR RIPE TOMATOES INTO WEDGES
3The rest of your salad…
While you are waiting for the tomatoes to salt, rinse your cucumber, peel and trim the ends then cut into thick rounds. Remove the papery skin from your onion, trim the ends, cut in half then slice into thin slices.
Wash your basil, shake to remove excess water, pick the leaves (reserve a few for a garnish) then tear them roughly.
Add everything to a large mixing bowl.
CUT CUCUMBER INTO ROUNDS
THINLY SLICE ONION
TEAR YOUR BASIL LEAVES
4Putting it together…
In a glass jar add the reserved tomato juices, the olive oil and red wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper.
Add all your tomatoes to your mixing bowl, pour over your dressing, season with salt and pepper. Toss them all together until well combined, taste and adjust seasonings according to your taste.
Arrange your Panzanella in a salad bowl, and chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve, then garnish with the reserved basil leaves and bread. Serve and enjoy!
What to serve with your Panzanella…
This is a firm family favourite that we make all the time and that has been served in a dozen different ways in our house.
Personally, I love this salad just on its own during the summer and will quite often make it as a quick lunch and I will occasionally add some cheese.
We have served Panzanella countless of times at barbecues as it partners perfectly with grilled meats.
It is also great with…
- A whole roast chicken
- Chicken or prawn skewers
- Grilled fish such as barramundi, salmon and even tuna steaks
- Or even with a vegan creamy mushroom risotto
Try some more of tomato salad recipes…
Panzanella – Italian Bread Salad
- 2 pieces of stale bread (ciabatta or sourdough bread)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 4 truss tomatoes 1 (medium-sized) (approximately 500 grams)
- 1 Lebanese cucumber (approximately 130 grams)
- 1 small red onion
- ½ bunch basil (fresh)
- 4 tbsps olive oil 1 (good quality)
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Grill your bread with some olive oil and dried oregano until golden brown.
- Wash and trim your tomatoes, cut into wedges and salt for 5-10 minutes in a colander, catching the juices in a bowl.
- Wash, trim and peel your cucumber and onion, cut the cucumber into thick rounds and the onion into thin slices.
- Wash your basil, shake to remove excess water, pick the leaves (reserve a few for a garnish) then tear them roughly. Add them all to a large mixing bowl.
- Place the reserved tomato juices, the olive oil and red wine vinegar in a glass jar, season and shake.
- Add all your tomatoes to the mixing bowl, pour over your dressing, season with salt and pepper. Toss them all together until well combined, taste and adjust seasonings according to your taste.
- Arrange in a salad bowl, and chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve, then garnish with the reserved basil leaves and bread. Serve and enjoy!
- This is such a simple salad so it is important that you use good quality ingredients. It is best made when tomatoes are in season with super-ripe tomatoes that have wonderful rich tomatoey aroma and a good quality olive oil.