Panzanella salad is a rustic Tuscan salad made from chunks of day old fresh bread and a variety of vegetables soaked in a tangy vinaigrette. It can sound mundane, but it is anything but mundane.
Are you looking for a salad with a little more pizzazz? Me too, that’s why I LOVE this Panzanella salad. It is ridiculously good.
What Is Panzanella Salad?
First of all, what even IS Panzanella Salad? To be totally honest, I had never heard of it until I went over a friends house about 7 years ago and she served this. I was instantly in love! And I mean “IN LOVE” with this salad.
It is basically an Italian inspired salad (with no lettuce btw) that has huge chunks of soaked stale bread (another word for crouton), onions and tomatoes, cucumbers, sometimes basil, and is dressed with a tangy olive oil and vinegar dressing.
I know, it can sound of ‘eh’, but you have to trust me on this, it is so amazingly mind blowing good! I’ll show you how to make it.
The basics of Panzanella salad
To make a delicious Panzanella salad, it is CRUCIALLY important to start with the right bread! I mean, let’s be real, this is basically a bread lovers dream, so get a loaf that’s at least a day or two old so it can absorb the flavors of the dressing without falling apart.
However, not any type of bread can work – crusty sourdough bread, ciabatta or homemade Artisan bread will work the best.
To prepare the bread, simply tear it into bite-sized pieces and toss with olive oil and salt. Then, bake in the oven on a baking sheet until golden brown and crispy. You can also use a grill or stovetop for a slightly different flavor.
Mixing and matching vegetables
Once you’ve selected the bread and turned it into basically very large croutons, it’s time to focus on the vegetables. The beauty of this dish is that it can be completely customizable based on what you have on hand or what is in season. The classic Panzanella options are diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and bell peppers, but, don’t be afraid to experiment with different vegetables.
Once you’ve selected your vegetables, chop them into bite-sized pieces and toss them together with the bread and the dressing in a very large bowl.
Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the vegetables to marinate and soak up the flavors.
So there you have it, the delicious and versatile world of Panzanella salad! It’s just that easy and it seems like it’s TOO easy, but you have to trust me on this, it is just sooo good.
What to serve with Panzanella salad
- The bread in this salad can be quite filling, which is why I like serving it with something like like Grilled Chicken or Salmon for a dinner option.
- For lunch, this salad goes so well with any soup. The options are endless, but my favorite by far is Butternut Squash Soup.
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Panzanella Bread Salad
For the Toasted Bread:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small boule loaf of bread cut into 1-inch cubes (make them twice the size of crutons)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Vinaigrette:
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons champagne (or white wine) vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Salad:
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and cubed
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 20 Kalamata olives
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 10 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
To Toast the Bread:
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and then add the bread cubes. Sprinkle with salt and cook over medium heat, tossing frequently, until the bread is toasted and golden brown (about 7-10 minutes.) Remove from the heat and let cool. Alternatively, you can start the croutons in the pan and finish them in the oven at 350°F for 8-10 minutes.
To make the Vinaigrette:
- In a small bowl, add all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette and whisk together until well blended.
- To finish the Salad In a large salad bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber slices, red and yellow peppers, onion, basil and capers and olives
- Add the bread cubes and vinaigrette and toss to coat.
- Allow the bread to sit for 30 minutes before serving for the best flavor.
Would any kind of bread work?
Hi Shelly – you want a bread that is hearty and can hold up to having a dressing put over it even though it is toasted. A loaf of Italian or Sourdough would work well. Thanks for your comment!