Filled with ripe, juicy tomatoes and crusty bread, this panzanella salad is a delicious summer meal. A shower of fresh basil takes it over the top.
It’s official: I can’t make it through a summer without sharing a new panzanella recipe. To me, this Italian bread salad is the perfect template for turning whatever produce I happen to have on hand into a fresh-yet-satisfying meal. Sweet corn? Peaches? Peppers? Yep, I’ve panzanella-ed them all.
Of course, traditionally, panzanella isn’t an any-vegetable-goes kind of salad. It originated in Tuscany as a way to use up stale bread, and tomatoes were always a key ingredient. Their juices soak into the bread, softening it and giving it flavor. Onions, basil, and a tangy vinaigrette round out the dish.
Earlier this summer, I realized that I’d never shared a classic panzanella salad on the blog. So, finally, here one is! This recipe is meant for this time of year, when ripe, juicy tomatoes and fresh basil are at their best. Zingy, aromatic, and bright, it’s a delicious side dish or light meal. I hope you love it as much as I do.
Panzanella Salad Recipe Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this panzanella salad recipe:
- Crusty bread – Great bread is essential for making great panzanella. Steer clear of soft, flimsy sandwich bread and instead opt for a good crusty loaf. I like ciabatta or sourdough.
- Ripe tomatoes – Use the best ones you can find. I like to use a mix of heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.
- English cucumber – For crunch!
- Red onion – It gives the salad a nice bite.
- Fresh mozzarella – I love how its creamy texture plays off the fresh veggies and hearty bread. For a vegan version of this panzanella recipe, go ahead and skip the cheese! The salad is still great without it.
- Basil – Its aromatic flavor takes the salad over the top!
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
You’ll also make a homemade dressing using these simple ingredients:
- Extra-virgin olive oil – It gives the dressing body and richness.
- Sherry or red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard – They add tang.
- Garlic – For a garlicky kick.
- And salt and pepper – To make all the flavors pop!
The dressing will taste sharp on its own, but that’s a good thing! The bread can soak up quite a bit of flavor, so we want the dressing to have a nice punch.
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
Panzanella Recipe Tips
- Dry out the bread in the oven. Traditionally, panzanella is made with stale bread, but I like my panzanella best when I start with fresh bread cubes and toast them in the oven before adding them to the salad. This way, you’re able to control the bread’s texture. It should be crisp around the edges and slightly soft in the middle. Plus, before you toast the bread, you’ll season it with olive oil and sea salt, which only makes the panzanella better. (Of course, you can start with stale bread too – just adjust the bake time as necessary to reach the right texture!)
- Serve it within a couple of hours. This panzanella is great right after you toss it together, and it’s even better when you let it sit for 30 minutes or so before serving, giving the toasted bread a chance to soak up more of the flavorful dressing and tomato juices. Beyond an hour or two, though, the bread starts to get soggy. I don’t recommend making it more than a couple of hours in advance.
What to Serve with Panzanella
Thanks to the hearty bread and mozzarella, this panzanella salad is a great lunch or light dinner on its own. If you’re looking for something to pair with it, I recommend grilled eggplant or zucchini to round out the meal. It would also go nicely with any protein you like.
More Favorite Summer Salads
If you love this panzanella recipe, try one of these fresh summer salads next:
This panzanella salad is a delicious summer meal or side dish! My biggest tip for this recipe is to use great tomatoes and great bread. There are only a few ingredients here, so the quality of each one counts.
- ½ pound ciabatta or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1½ pounds tomatoes, sliced into wedges or halved
- ½ English cucumber, sliced into half moons
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn (optional)
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for garnish
- Sea salt
For the dressing
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 3 garlic cloves, grated
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Heaping ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the bread on the baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat and spread evenly on the sheet. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until crisp around the edges.
Make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and several grinds of pepper.
Add the onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and bread to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat. Add the cheese, if using, and the basil and gently toss. Season to taste and serve with more fresh basil on top.
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