Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (2024)


Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (1)

Tomatoes didn’t originally come from Italy, but they’ve certainly made up for lost time. Now it’s hard to think of Italian cuisine without them, from classic dishes, from Pasta all’Arrabiata and Salade Caprese, to Pizza Margherita and Panzanella, a bread and tomato salad that’s one of my favorite things to make, and eat.

This summer salad gets tossed with basil, which boosts its appeal (at least in my book…), as my summer trilogy has traditionally been tomatoes, basil, and fresh corn. But since fresh corn isn’t widely available here, I have to make do with something that is: Bread. And that’s fine by me.

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (2)

Many, um, interpretations of Panzanella exist, often with toasted bread cubes, which are sometimes tossed in olive oil and garlic before toasting. I like that too. I mean, what’s not to like about tomatoes and toasted bread, with olive oil and garlic? But Panzanella is meant to be made with stale bread that’s crumbled or torn.

There’s no shortage of leftover bread in France (and for people who say, “What’s leftover bread?” I applaud you for being able to eat an entire loaf of bread in one go – although some bread is so good, I agree that it’s hard to stop) as it’s a ritual to get fresh bread daily. I, too, like any excuse to visit a boulangerie, so it’s great to have a way to use up the pain d’hier.

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (3)

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (4)

Proof that just because you’re from a country means you follow the rules, some Italian websites veer from tradition and list Dijon mustard as an ingredient in Panzanella. And esteemed cooking teacher and author, Marcella Hazan, used anchovies, garlic, and capers in her Panzanella. And pedants may want to avert your eyes here, but I’ve even read some Italian recipes that say you can “enrich” the salad with shrimp, olives, tuna, beans, or hard-cooked eggs.

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (5)

One rule that’s hard to follow is that unsalted bread is supposed to be used in Panzanella. I don’t buy unsalted bread – and to be honest, I don’t know even know where to find it – so I use regular levain (sourdough bread.) Like the tomatoes, the quality is the bread is surprisingly important, as is the olive oil and vinegar. As my Italian-based friends say, “Olive oil isn’t just to keep things from sticking to the pan, it’s a flavor.” So give yourself permission to keep a good bottle on hand for drizzling and using on salads.

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (6)

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (7)

And spring for good vinegar, too. Marcella Hazan used to get bonkers about that. And I agree. Good vinegar is just a few bucks more than the bottle-shelf stuff, and it makes a world of difference in your salads. Since it’s used by the spoonful, good vinegar is one of the world’s great bargains.

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (8)

Ideally, you want to make this salad when tomatoes are at their peak. If only “okay” tomatoes are available, you can put the cut pieces in a colander, sprinkle them with a little salt, and let them stand for 15 to 20 minutes, which’ll improve their flavor. When I made this, my Parisian guests politely pushed the raw onions to the sides of their plate, but otherwise, everyone really loved this Panzanella. I was expecting to have leftovers the next day, but that didn’t happen.

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (9)


Panzanella: Bread and Tomato Salad

If your tomatoes are not exceptional, you can toss them in a little salt and drain them in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes before using. Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan also adds anchovies and capers to Panzanella. Although not traditional, they are worthwhile additions and I sometimes sneak them in, too. If you want to add them, use 1 tablespoon of capers, rinsed, drained and minced, and 3 to 4 anchovy filets, minced, to the dressing in step #3.

Servings 4 servings

  • 3-4 slices (4 ounces, 115g) hearty, country-style bread, (stale)
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus extra for soaking the bread and onions
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons best-quality olive oil
  • 3 medium tomatoes, (1 3/4 pounds, 800g), diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeds scraped away, diced
  • handful fresh basil leaves, about 15 to 20, torn into pieces
  • Soak the bread in cold water with a splash of vinegar in it, until soft. (Depending on the bread, it can take between 2 and 10 minutes.) Remove the bread slices and squeeze them very dry with your hands. Set aside.

  • Add the onions to the cold water with another splash of vinegar, and let stand for 1 hour. Place the cucumbers in a mesh strainer and sprinkle with a little salt. Let drain for 20 minutes. (Or longer.)

  • In a large bowl, mix together the vinegar, garlic, and salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Stir in the olive oil.

  • Add the tomatoes to the bowl with the dressing. Tear the bread into bite-size pieces into the bowl. Drain the onions and add them to the bowl along with the cucumbers. Mix well and let stand at least 15 minutes. Add the basil leaves and mix again. Taste, and add additional salt and vinegar, if desired.


Note: Panzanella can be served soon after it's made but it's also fine to keep it at room temperature for several hours, making it a perfect do-ahead dish.

Panzanella: Tomato, Bread and Basil Salad recipe (2024)


What are the ingredients in a panzanella salad? ›

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

What does panzanella mean in english? ›

Meaning of panzanella in English

an Italian salad made with stale (= not fresh) bread in oil and tomatoes, and often other vegetables: Stale bread can be used in panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad.

What do you eat with panzanella? ›

It's also a great starter to a fun Italian menu with anything including sundried tomato pasta, eggplant parmesan, chicken pesto, or Fish of your choice. Panzanella can also be the perfect summer salad for your next BBQ with things like chicken kabobs, lamb burgers, or grilled shrimp.

What does panzanella taste like? ›

Earthy beets, vibrant orange, and fresh herbs like dill, parsley, tarragon, and mint add depth to the entire dish. Food and Wine's roundup of eighteen amazing Italian salads including a panzanella recipe is a great place to start. The options are endless and will leave your mouth watering.

What part of Italy is Panzanella from? ›

Panzanella comes from the regions of central Italy: Toscana, Lazio, Umbria, Marche and Abruzzo, but the Tuscan one is perhaps the most famous. At its most basic, it is a mix of old, dry bread, soaked, squeezed and crumbled, tomatoes, red onions and basil, dressed with oil and vinegar and eaten slightly chilled.

What country is panzanella from? ›

Panzanella originated in the central Italian countryside, where farmers combined surplus vegetables with old bread to cut down on waste. They soaked the bread in cold water to give it a chewy texture, then tossed it with vinegar, herbs, and onions for a wonderfully tangy bite.

Why is it called panzanella? ›

The word Panzanella is thought to be a combination of two words: Pane, which is the Italian word for bread, and Zanella, the word for a soup tureen.

Why is it called Israeli salad? ›

It was adopted by Jewish immigrants to the Levant in the late 19th century, who found the locally grown Kirby cucumbers and tomatoes in popular local salad. It was popularized in the kibbutzim, where the Jewish farmers had local fresh produce at hand. The name Israeli Salad is used mainly outside of Israel.

What can I do with stale bread? ›

And while you can freshen up stale bread in a few simple steps, it's actually the perfect candidate for a number of delicious upgrades. Use it to make budget-friendly breadcrumbs, soak it in custard for bread pudding or strata or make the absolute best French toast.

How do you eat garlic bread loaf? ›

Get a loaf of your favorite bread and cut it in half lengthwise. Mince as much garlic as you like and stir it into the softened butter, along with grated parmesan cheese. Season the butter with salt and pepper and smear it heavily onto the cut sides of the bread.

How do you say panzanella? ›

  1. Phonetic spelling of Panzanella. Pan-zanella. pan-zanel-la. ...
  2. Meanings for Panzanella. A traditional Italian Salad. The main ingredients include onions and it is also seasoned with vinegar.
  3. Examples of in a sentence. Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad) ...
  4. Translations of Panzanella. Chinese : 面包

When was panzanella invented? ›

It is believed that panzanella was invented out of necessity, as a means to utilize unwanted ingredients, such as stale bread. The salad was first described in the 1500s, in a poem by a famous artist and poet named Bronzino. The name of the dish comes from two words: pane, meaning bread, and zanella, meaning soup bowl.

What are the best tomatoes for salads? ›

Cherry tomatoes are small, round tomatoes that are perfect for snacking and salads. As their namesake suggests, they are about the same size and shape as a cherry. Most cherry tomatoes are red, but they do come in other colors like yellow and orange.

How do you eat sardinian bread? ›

The bread can be eaten either dry or wet with water, wine, broth or a variety of sauces. It's perfect for brunch or as a nibble. We call it the Sardinian cracker for its crispy thin texture, that works really well on its own or paired with cheese and salami.

How do you eat Greek bread? ›

You can cut it into triangles, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with sumac or za'atar and toast them in the oven, to dip in babaganoush or hummus or tzatziki. You can use it to make a wrap. You can even eat it just by itself, warm from the oven.

What is the main ingredient of bound salad? ›

Bound salad: ingredients such as meat, poultry, fish, egg, or starch such as potato, pasta, or rice and bound with mayo. Vegetable salad: cooked and/or raw vegetables (coleslaw); can be bound with mayo or mixed with vinegar/oil dressing.

What is a common ingredient in most bound salads? ›

Bound salads are probably not the healthiest option in the land of salads, but they are so delicious! The reason they are a less-healthy option is that the binding agents are typically mayonnaise-based. Some of the most popular bound salads are egg and tuna.

What does the perfect salad contain? ›

My preferred combinations usually involve a variety of vegetables, nuts, occasionally a whole grain (like quinoa or farro), and cheese. Adding fresh or dried fruit can be fun as well! And, if you are making a salad that will serve as a full meal, adding in some extra protein will help to make it much heartier.

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