Panzanella Salad is a Italian bread salad that traditionally uses stale bread, tomatoes, onions with a tangy vinaigrette and lots of fresh basil.
On hot summer days, I find myself craving cold, juicy salads that require little to no cooking. This Panzanella salad uses the best summer produce and is a satisfying light meal on a hot summer evening. It also makes a wonderful side dish at a picnic or cookout.
What is Panzanella made of?
Panzanella is traditionally made with stale bread and tomatoes, along with other ingredients such as cucumbers, basil, bell pepper, and onion. In this recipe I’ve used:
- Ciabatta bread
- Heirloom tomatoes
- English cucumber
- yellow bell pepper
- red onion
- fresh basil leaves
- extra-virgin olive oil
- red wine vinegar
- Dijon mustard
What bread is best for Panzanella?
Ina Garten says to use French bread and Marcella Hazen just says to use firm, good bread. I decided to use ciabatta and it was wonderful. Whatever bread you use, be sure it is a good, crusty bread. French bread, Pugliese, or even sourdough bread are all options.
Stale Bread or Toasted bread?
Panzanella is a salad that traditionally uses stale bread – no doubt it was originally conceived in order to use up stale bread instead of letting it go to waste. However, I have found that using fresh bread that has been toasted in the oven will give better results than using stale bread. This is the same method I use for making my Thanksgiving stuffing.
I cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, toss them with olive oil and toast them in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes.
Ingredients for Vinaigrette
Serious Eats recommends using the leftover juice from the tomatoes in the dressing, and it is such a fabulous idea. It really punches up that tomato flavor. You should have about 1/2 a cup of juice. If you have much more, you might want to save it for another use or you will have too much liquid in the vinaigrette.
Along with the tomato juice, you will also need:
- extra-virgin olive oil
- red wine vinegar
- dijon mustard
Is panzanella good the next day?
Panzanella is really best the day it is made. The bread will continue to soften and soak in the liquids, so it may be too soggy the next day. That being said, my husband (a bread lover) had no problem eating leftovers the next day! If you are making this for a party or to serve to guests, I recommend making it the same day it is served, preferably within a few hours.
How do you store panzanella leftovers?
As mentioned above, Panzanella is best served the same day it is made. But if you find yourself with leftovers, they can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for 1-2 days. Keep in mind the bread will start to get soggy so it is best eaten within a few hours of being made.
What to serve with Panzanella
Panzanella is hearty enough to make a light meal itself, especially if you added some fresh mozzarella cheese or burrata to it. However, it would also make a great side dish for grilled meat or fish.
More Summer Salad Recipes
- 2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning use half the amount if using regular table salt
- 1 yellow bell pepper diced
- 1/2 English cucumber sliced in half and cut into half moons
- 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup basil leaves roughly chopped
- 12 oz ciabatta bread cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup juice drained from tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Place chopped tomatoes in a strainer set over a bowl and season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt (if using regular table salt, use half that amount). Toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature to drain for at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp starting to turn golden.
- Remove strainer with tomatoes from bowl. Measure tomato juice. You can strain it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any seeds or pulp if you want.
- Add garlic, mustard, and vinegar to bowl with about 1/2 cup tomato juice to a large bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper if needed.
- Into the same bowl with the dressing, add the tomatoes, cucumber, yellow pepper, red onion, basil. Add the bread cubes and toss until everything is covered in the dressing. Taste before seasoning, season with more salt and pepper only if needed. Allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.