Panzanella Toscana is a delicious, filling and rather unique Italian bread salad. It combines the distinct flavours of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and basil with cubes of golden, toasted bread. Dress it in a zesty vinaigrette and you have something truly special.
It's very versatile in what you can add to the salad or what you'd like to top it with. Think roasted peppers, mozzarella, shaved parmesan, nuts etc.
Unlike most salads, Panzanella is at it's best after a few hours, or the next day.
For more unique salad recipes, try this healthy sweet potato and kale salad or this eye-pleasing rainbow salad with Chinese inspired dressing.
What's to love about this salad
- Unique and looks beautiful on the table
- Filling, can be had as a meal on it's own
- Versatile in choice of ingredients
- Great way to use up stale ciabatta or baguette
Key ingredients and substitutions
Bread - We use either ciabatta or baguette for this recipe. Traditionally stale bread is used for Panzanella, but having tried fresh bread too, it does not make a huge difference. Use what's available to you, as long as it's a type of crusty bread.
Garlic - We add garlic to the olive oil used for toasting the bread. The addition of garlic really sets this apart from other Panzanella recipes. In fact, the bits of toasted garlicky bread might just become your favourite thing in the entire salad! You will also need garlic for the dressing.
Olive oil - Use either virgin or extra virgin olive oil.
Tomatoes - Use your favourite tomatoes, there is no hard and fast rule here. We like the small, sweet varieties like Roma and cherry tomatoes. The riper the better.
Roasted peppers - This recipe calls for roasted peppers in a jar, usually preserved in oil. We like these peppers for their sweetness and slight smokiness. You can use fresh peppers instead.
Cucumber - The stalwart of most salads. We like to remove the soft, fleshy inside part of the cucumber with a melon baller before cutting the cucumber into smaller slices.
Fresh basil leaves - Chopped. You can leave a few extra leaves whole for garnishing if you'd like.
Shallots - Shallots are smaller and sweeter in taste than red or brown onions. We also like how delicate they look in the salad. You can of course use any of your favourite onions.
To mellow the strong taste of onions, soak them in vinegar for about 30 minutes. Red wine vinegar will tinge them a light pink colour, which looks great in a salad.
You can also soak them in just plain water.
Red wine vinegar - You can also use sherry vinegar, or balsamic vinegar.
Sugar - To offset the sour components in the salad.
Optional toppings - Mozzarella, parmesan shavings, rocket leaves, chopped nuts, black pepper.
How to make Panzanella salad - Quick summary
- Toss the cubes of bread in olive oil and garlic. Roast on a baking sheet in the oven for about 15 minutes until light golden brown and crispy.
- Slice and salt the tomatoes and leave in a colander for about 30 minutes for some of the juices to drain off. Salting the tomatoes intensifies their flavour.
- Assemble the salad by combining the tomatoes and bread with the sliced cucumber, peppers, shallots and basil in a large bowl.
- Make the dressing by mixing together all the ingredients and drizzling it over the salad. Toss together.
- Top the salad with mozzarella cheese, shavings of parmesan, rocket, black pepper or sliced nuts.
Notable variations and additions
- Feta cheese
- Slices of roast peaches
- Grilled haloumi
- Add ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard to the dressing
- Squeeze over some lemon juice
- Grilled fish
- Chicken dishes
The salad will last for 2-3 days in the fridge. Unlike most salads, Panzanella gets better by the next day and even the day after.
Panzanella is a combination of two words. 'Pane' meaning bread and 'zanella' meaning soup bowl.
Winter Panzanella usually swaps the summery 'cold' veggies for more hearty and 'rooty' winter veg, like beetroot, broccoli, sweet potato cubes and butternut. Chilli and anchovies are usually added too.
For the bread cubes
- 130 grams ciabatta or baguette - sliced or torn into large cubes
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the salad
- 300 grams tomatoes - cherry, roma, heirloom etc
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 60 grams roasted pepper - usually found in jars, preserved in oil
- 60 grams cucumber - sliced
- 50 grams shallots - sliced thinly
- 3 tablespoons chopped basil - about 7g
For the dressing
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sugar
For topping (optional)
- 1 ball of mozzarella - torn into chunks
- few shavings of parmesan
- rocket leaves
- chopped nuts
To toast the bread
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C/392F/gas mark 6. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil
- Place the cubes of bread in a bowl
- Combine the olive oil with the garlic and drizzle across the bread. Toss the bread in the oil until covered
- Spread the bread across the baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turning the cubes halfway through. Keep an eye on the bread, you don't want it too dark, just golden and crispy
For the salad
- Slice the tomatoes. For small tomatoes like cherry and roma tomatoes, just slice them in half.Place the tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle the salt over. Mix well and leave to sit for about 30 minutes. The juices will run out of the tomatoes, making the flavour more intense
- Slice the roasted pepper, cucumber and shallots to your preferred size. Chop the basil
- Combine the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, shallots, basil and bread in a large salad bowl
To make the dressing
- Mix together the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, red wine vinegar and sugar. Pour over the salad and toss through
Finish the salad off
- Add torn pieces of mozzarella and shavings of parmesan. Sprinkle over some rocket, black pepper or add some chopped nuts
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