Panzanella is a classic tomato and bread salad from Tuscany. Bursting with ripe tomatoes, cucumber and basil, it's hard to think of a salad that screams "summer" any louder. Chunks of lightly toasted bread meanwhile bring delicious texture and some heft to the salad, making it filling enough for lunch or a light meal.Be warned, this salad demands the very best tomatoes! If you don't have juicy tomatoes, don't make this. Make another salad instead!And though some Italians may tell you toasting bread is not the traditional way to make Panzanella, don't skip it. That is, unless you WANT unidentifiable white mush in your bowl within minutes of making this!
Prep Time10 minutesmins
Cook Time15 minutesmins
Sweating tomato, resting and cooling25 minutesmins
Total Time50 minutesmins
Course: Side Salad
Keyword: bread salad, italian bread salad, italian tomato salad, Panzanella, stale bread recipe
Servings: 4- 5 people as a side
4 - 5 cups(loosely packed)stale bread, torn into 2.5cm/1” chunks (~180g/6 oz, depending on bread used)
1tbspextra virgin olive oil
4medium tomatoes(Note 1)
1tspcooking/kosher salt(or 3/4 tsp table salt)
2Lebanese cucumbers(or 1 long telegraph/English cucumber), peeled (optional) (Note 3)
1cupbasil leaves, loosely packed
2tbspred or white wine vinegar(Note 4 for other options)
8tbspextra virgin olive oil, the best you can afford
1 1/2tspgarlic, finely minced (~1 large or 2 small)
Toss bread chunks with 1 tbsp olive oil in a bowl.
Toast: Spread bread on a a tray and toast for about 15 minutes, until the outside is becoming golden and crunchy but the inside is still a little soft, like toast. Remove and leave to cool.
Cut tomato into 8 wedges each. Cut some of these wedges into half (I like irregular shapes for this rustic salad).
Sweat tomato with salt: Put tomatoes into a colander over a large bowl. Season with the salt, toss and set aside for 10 minutes to draw out the juices. RESERVE the tomato juice in the bowl for the dressing.
Cut cucumber into any shaped chunks aroun 2.5cm / 1" pieces. Again, I like to do irregular but even-sized shapes.
Toss veg: Place tomato sweating in colander into large bowl. Add cucumber and basil, toss gently.
Tomato Dressing: Add Dressing ingredients into bowl holding the tomato juice, whisk well.
Dress salad: Add bread to salad, pour over dressing. Give it a light toss.
Rest then serve: Leave for 5 minutes to let the juices soak into the bread, tossing once or twice. Toss once more just before serving!
1. Juicy and ripe tomatoes! You need to use the absolute best quality tomatoes you can find. They must be juicy and ripe, so they drop plenty of tomato juices when salted. Use all the tomato juice you catch for the dressing!2. Bread - You want a 1:2 ratio of bread to vegetables by volume, ie. twice the amount of vegetables as bread.Breads that sit in the middle of the spectrum of denseness work best. We want a bread with an open crumb, but still some heft. Best breads (in order of preference): ciabatta, pane di casa / artisan loaf, open-crumbed sourdough (ie. hole-y, not dense), Turkish bread.Toasting bread is not strictly traditional. But unless you toast, it turns into unidentifiable soggy mush within minutes of dressing!Don’t use baguettes or dinner rolls (too light) nor use bread that’s too dense.3. Cucumber peeling - Recommended for telegraph/English cucumbers which can have tougher skin. Optional for other softer skin cucumbers - I do it for visual interest.4. Other vinegar options: cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar or white balsamic.5. References – Thanks to Kenji from Serious Eats for the panzanella trick of salting the tomatoes and using the juices as part of the dressing.