Easy Panzanella Salad

How to Make PANZANELLA SALAD Easy Tomato and Bread Salad from Tuscany

When Summer is near, cravings for refreshing dishes start to kick in. This recipe is a Mediterranean delight called: Easy Panzanella Salad, and it is known for its simple ingredients and maximum flavor.

Panzanella, originated as a clever way for Tuscan farmers to use up stale bread during hot summer months. By transforming something as humble as leftover bread into a dish that bursts with fresh flavors, it’s basically magic in a bowl! This salad recipe combines ripe, juicy tomatoes and fresh cucumber with hearty chunks of bread, which soak up all the vibrant dressings and seasonings.

The secret? Using stale bread. Don’t worry if that sounds less than appetizing! Drying out the bread and giving it a quick toast transforms it into the perfect sponge for all the delicious juices.

I was lucky enough to learn this recipe from a charming family in Tuscany. A nonna shared her age-old recipe with me so I took down notes to make sure I could bring this little piece of Italy to you. We mainly love enjoying it during Summer so you can choose from the best selection of in-season tomatoes.

Watch the Easy Panzanella Salad Recipe

How to Make a Panzanella Salad Like an Italian Chef

Vincenzo proudly holding his freshly prepared Easy Tomato and Bread Salad, embodying the essence of simple and delicious cuisine.

Vincenzo’s Plate Tips

White Vinegar Is a Must

Using white vinegar maintains the authentic Tuscan flavor, while other vinegars like apple cider can overpower the delicate balance of the salad.

Go for stale

The secret to this Easy Panzanella Salad is using stale bread. Stale bread absorbs dressings better without becoming too soggy, giving your salad a surprisingly delightful texture.

Soak the onions

Soaking red onions in water before adding them to your Easy Panzanella Salad can soften their sharpness, making them blend slightly better with other ingredients.

Rest is best

Resting your Panzanella in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and ideally 2-3 hours, before serving allows the bread to fully soak up the vibrant flavors. If you’re leaving it out of the fridge, don’t go past 2 hours to ensure it all remains fresh and tasty.

A close-up of a finished Easy Tomato and Bread Salad, vibrant with fresh vegetables and herbs.

How to serve Easy Panzanella Salad

Once you’ve followed the recipe steps to prepare the Easy Panzanella Salad, garnish generously with fresh basil leaves for a nice, fresh aroma. Also, consider offering additional EVOO and vinegar on the side so everyone can add more if they like.

For an extra crunch, sprinkle some toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds over the salad just before serving. This adds texture and a nutty flavor that compliments the other ingredients well.

Some guests might enjoy a bit of cheese with their Easy Panzanella Salad. Offer small bowls of grated Parmigiano or shaved Pecorino on the side, so guests can add it according to their taste.

A beautifully assembled Easy Tomato and Bread Salad, ready to delight any palate.

A colorful Easy Panzanella Salad served in a rustic bowl, perfect for a refreshing meal.

Easy Panzanella Salad Recipe

Ready for a taste of Tuscany? My easy Panzanella Salad Recipe brings together crispy bread, juicy tomatoes, and crunchy cucumbers in a refreshingly simple dish. We toast the bread to golden perfection, toss it with fresh veggies and a dash of vinegar, then let it chill to soak up the flavors.
5 from 1 vote

Equipment

  • knife
  • 2 Mixing bowls
  • Chopping-board
  • Salad bowl for serving
  • Spoon

Ingredients
  

  • 400 g/14.1oz sourdough bread stale
  • 400 g/14.1oz tomatoes
  • 2-3 cucumbers
  • 1 red onion
  • A fresh bunch of basil
  • 300 ml/10.01oz water
  • 2-3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions
 

  • Start by preparing your salad's base: crispy toasted bread. First, slice the bread into 2cm cubes and dry it in the oven at 130°C/ 266°F until it becomes crispy.
  • While the bread is drying,remove the green stem from each tomato and chop the tomatoes into small pieces over a mixing bowl, catching the juices inside.
  • Trim both ends off the cucumber and slice it into rounds, not too thin. Then, cut each round in half. Peeling is optional—keeping the skin on can enhance the flavor depending on the variety available.
  • Add the halved cucumber slices to the bowl with the tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves by hand and add them to the mixing bowl.
  • Mix everything gently with your hands, then let the mixture rest to blend the flavors.
  • Meanwhile, thinly slice the onion into half-circles and separate the pieces. Soak the onion slices in a bowl filled with water and a bit of white wine vinegar to mellow their sharpness; set aside to rest.
  • Once the bread is toasted, transfer the cubes to your serving bowl. Sprinkle a little water over the bread to moisten it, aiming for a balance between soft and crunchy, and mix with your hands to ensure the bread absorbs the water evenly.
  • Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar evenly over the bread, ensuring it spreads across all pieces.
  • Add some torn basil leaves over the bread and toss everything together gently with your hands, then let it rest for half an hour.
  • Check the onions for flavor; if you’re happy with them, squeeze out excess water and add them to the tomato and cucumber mix, otherwise allow to soak longer.
  • Gradually mix half of the vegetable mixture into the bread using a spoon, reserving the other half for garnish.
  • Pour any leftover tomato juice from the mixing bowl over the salad.
  • Season with cracked salt and pepper to taste. Let it rest in the fridge. Ideally, chill the salad for at least 1-2 hours before serving; this helps the flavors meld together.
  • After resting, add approximately 4-5 tablespoons of EVOO to both the salad and the reserved tomato mix. Then, give the tomatoes a gentle toss by shaking it lightly. This helps to revive the ingredients and evenly distribute the EVOO.
  • Pile the remaining tomato mixture on top of the salad in the bowl for a finishing touch.

Video

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

E ora si mangia, Vincenzo’s Plate…Enjoy!

Vincenzo holding a bowl of Easy Panzanella Salad, featuring fresh tomatoes and crusty bread mixed together.

Want to know other creative ways you can use stale bread in delicious dishes? Check out these tasty recipes:

 

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4 Responses to Easy Panzanella Salad

  1. Ádám July 16, 2024 at 5:02 PM #

    5 stars
    I’ve tried this recipe, and I became a fan of it right away! Cheap but very rich in flavours! Soaking the onions in the water+vinegar mixture overnight is a really clever idea. Both me and my wife loved this recipe and it became one of our favourites during the very hot summers.

    • Vincenzo's Plate July 16, 2024 at 9:28 PM #

      Ciao Ádám! Thank you so much for your lovely feedback! I’m thrilled to hear that you and your wife enjoyed the Panzanella salad. Soaking the onions really does make a difference, doesn’t it? It’s wonderful to know that it’s become a favorite for those hot summer days. Happy cooking! 😊

      • sophie July 18, 2024 at 4:43 PM #

        Hi Vincenzo!
        I would love to make this salad for my family next weekend, but I wonder if it’s possible to leave the salad overnight in a wooden bowl as well? Or must it be a bowl made of steel/glass?
        Seems like a silly question, but don’t want to waste the delicious taste of all these nice and fresh ingredients! 🙂
        Thank youuu anyway, love cooking with your videos!

        • Vincenzo's Plate July 19, 2024 at 11:01 AM #

          Ciao Sophie! Wooden bowls can sometimes absorb flavors, especially if they’re new , but for a short overnight period, it shouldn’t significantly affect the taste of the salad. I hope this helps!

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