Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Panzanella – The classic Italian salad is a bread salad flavored with vegetables. This classic bread and tomato salad manages to be fresh and summery, but still hearty enough to eat as lunch or a light supper. This flavorful salad can also be served as a starter or as part of your Italian dinner night with things like Pesto Pasta, Eggplant Parmesan!

The most important players in this dish are the bread and the tomatoes.

You can add any other fresh vegetables you have on hand along with tomatoes. Red onions, cucumbers, carrots, celery and peppers are top choices, but there’s nothing stopping you from adding things like tomatillos, green beans, fresh corn, or anything else from your farmers market.

Notes:

  • Use a rustic loaf of bread with a crunchy crust. Tuscan country bread or artisan kind with a crunchy crust or Ciabatta or Italian bread or sour dough bread is typically recommended – any other breads will become soggy and disappointing in the salad.
  • Toast the bread. This is important to avoiding terribly soggy panzanella. Even though day-old bread hardens on its own, cut it up into cubes, toss it in extra virgin olive oil, then toast it in the oven or an air fryer for a few minutes–just enough for the edges to get crusty, while the inside gets firm but remains chewy.
    • If you don’t have an oven, you can also pan fry the bread cubes with little olive oil until it is crusty on the outside.
  • What kind of tomatoes to use?  You can use beautiful, vibrantly hued heirloom tomatoes. Go for a mix of colors because that’s what will be the most beautiful on the plate. I used cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes in different colors in this recipe.
  • Use the juice of your tomatoes as the base for the dressing. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Once you cut the tomatoes, you can put them in a colander over your mixing bowl or can just keep them in bowl like me. Allow the tomatoes to release their juices in the bowl for a few minutes, then use the tomato juice to get your dressing going.
    • The tomato juices will blend with the vinaigrette, adding another layer of flavor to the whole dish.
  • Let panzanella salad sit for a bit before serving. The final important step is giving it a little time to sit before serving – this is where the magic happens. Panzanella needs a good half hour, or up to 2-3 hours, for the bread to absorb the tomato juices and for the flavors of all the vegetables to mingle. but how long you allow your panzanella salad to sit before serving depends on how you like it. I don’t like my panzanella to get too soggy.
    • Refrigerate if you are also using mozzarella cheese and keeping the salad more than 2 hours on the counter.

How to make Panzanella

PREP TIME: 15MINS  COOK TIME: 5 MINS  SOAK TIME: 30 MIN – 1 HR TOTAL TIME: 50 MINS  COURSE: SALADS, SIDES, MAIN COURSE  CUISINE:ITALIAN SERVINGS : 2

Ingredients

  • rusty Italian bread or baguette – 3-4 cups, cubed
  • cherry tomatoes – 16 oz and 2 vine tomatoes
  • carrot – 1 sm
  • cucumber – 1/2
  • celery – 1 or 2 stalks
  • onion – 1/2 md
  • salt – 1-2 tsp or to taste
  • pepper – 1 tsp
  • olive oil – 3 tbsp
  • vinegar – 3 or 4 tsp

Instructions

  1. Veggies: Place chopped tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, celery and onion in a bowl (or a colander set over a bowl to collect liquid from tomatoes) and season with 2 teaspoons (8g) kosher salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature at least 15 mins to ooze out water. Drain the water, collected at the bottom of the bowl into a cup.
  2. Bread: Meanwhile, slice your bread into 1″ cubes, place the bread in air fryer container, spray with oil or drizzle with little olive oil, bake them in air fryer at 375 F for 5-6 mins or until crisp and firm but not browned. Remove from oven and let cool.
    • With Oven: If using oven, preheat oven to 400 F, place them on the baking sheet. Drizzle the cubes with the olive oil, and toss until thoroughly combined. Bake until golden, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
    • Pan Fry: If using pan, heat the pan with little olive oil, add bread cubes, toast the bread on medium until crisp and firm on the out side.
  3. Dressing: Add 3 tsp vinegar, 3 tbsp olive oil into tomato liquid. Whisk well.
  4. Making Salad: Combine toasted bread, tomatoes, and dressing in a large bowl. Can add basil leaves. Toss everything to coat, taste and adjust the seasoning. Let it rest 30 minutes-1 hour before serving, tossing occasionally until the dressing is absorbed by the bread.

Tips

  1. Use only crusty bread like Italian bread.
  2. You can also add small cubes or balls of mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and olives.
  3. Some people find it tasty by keeping this salad refrigerated for 1 day, then eat it the next day.
  4. Cucumber gives the nice crunch to the salad.
  5. You can substitute white onions with red onion.
  6. Let the salad rest for at least 30 minutes before serving to mingle all the flavors.
  7. If you don’t have cherry tomatoes, you can use regular tomatoes, cut them into cubes.

Step by step photo instructions

Veggies: Place chopped tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, celery and onion in a bowl (or a colander set over a bowl to collect liquid from tomatoes) and season with 2 teaspoons (8g) kosher salt and 1.5 tsp pepper. Toss to coat.

Set aside at room temperature at least 15 mins to ooze out water. Drain the water, collected at the bottom of the bowl into a cup.

Bread: Meanwhile, slice your bread into 1″ cubes, place the bread in air fryer container, spray with oil or drizzle with little olive oil, bake them in air fryer at 375 F for 5-6 mins or until crisp and firm but not browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

With Oven: If using oven, preheat oven to 400 F, place them on the baking sheet. Drizzle the cubes with the olive oil, and toss until thoroughly combined. Bake until golden, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Pan Fry: If using pan, heat the pan with little olive oil, add bread cubes, toast the bread on medium until crisp and firm on the out side.

Dressing: Add 3 tsp vinegar, 3 tbsp olive oil into tomato liquid. Whisk well.

Pour the dressing in the veggies.

6. Making Salad: Combine toasted bread, tomatoes with dressing in a large bowl. Can add basil leaves. Toss everything to coat, taste and adjust the seasoning.

7. Let it rest 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving, tossing occasionally until the dressing is absorbed by the bread.

8. Serve the colorful filling yummy salad as a main dish or as a side.

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