Grilled Panzanella Salad

This grilled ganzanella is a riff on classic Tuscan bread salad, an Italian staple that tosses day-old bread with tomatoes and olive oil. It tastes spectacularly complex for something so simple. And just wait’ll you try this version with grilled bread. No waiting for bread to go stale. Still frugal. And fabulous.

A large bowl filled with grilled panzanella, with cherry tomatoes, torn bread, and basil leaves.

The panzanella recipe below makes a truly lovely and rustic Tuscan bread salad. Although in the spirit of full disclosure, we confess, it takes a few liberties with tradition. Authentic panzanella relies on day-old bread that’s hard so that it readily soaks up the tomato juices. This panzanella recipe first grills the slices of bread to add a little complexity to things. (Bonus! It also means you don’t have to wait for your loaf to turn hard if you’re the impatient sort.) The recipe strays even further from tradition by tossing in some fresh mozzarella because, well, when is fresh mozzarella ever a bad thing? We don’t think you’ll mind the untraditional tweaks. We certainly don’t.–Renee Schettler

Grilled Panzanella Salad

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 20 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 3 reviews
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In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, basil, olive oil, and salt, and season with a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. Let sit at room temperature until the juices from the tomatoes release and create a kind of dressing, about 30 minutes. (We know. You’re in a rush. But trust us when we tell you waiting a half hour makes quite a difference in terms of allowing the flavors to meld.)

Meanwhile, preheat your grill to medium.

Lightly brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt. Grill the bread, turning once, until slightly toasted and golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the bread from the heat and rub the toasted bread all over with the cut side of the garlic.

Cut the grilled bread into 1/2-inch chunks. You can set the grilled bread aside at room temperature for a while if you’re not eating right away.

When ready to serve, toss the tomato mixture with the mozzarella and grilled bread and divide the panzanella among 4 plates. Taste and adjust the amounts of oil, salt, or pepper accordingly and, if desired, dribble with vinegar and toss again. Serve at once so the bread doesn’t turn soggy. Originally published August 3, 2015.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

This panzanella recipe was one of the most flavorful and fragrant summer recipes I've ever made. The method was so easy and the ingredients easy to come by and cheap, yet this recipe was absolutely fantastic and so much more than the sum of its parts.

I combined the tomato, onion, basil, oil, and salt, added black pepper that I crushed in a mortar and pestle, and let everything sit for 25 minutes at room temperature. It's very fragrant both at this stage and when storing, so any tomato-haters in the vicinity, be warned. Meanwhile, I preheated the grill to medium and brushed each slice of bread with olive oil. I discarded the heels of the bread and used only slices from the middle portions of the loaf. I grilled the bread for about 4 minutes on each side, but the last few pieces took only about 3 minutes. I rubbed the bread on each side with the garlic—this was easiest on the pieces of bread that got a little more charred towards the end of the grilling. I cut the bread into about 1/2-inch chunks and tossed it with the tomato mixture.

At first I was worried about the bread cubes being too large, but after they sat with the tomatoes and soaked up some of the juices, the larger chunks were actually better because they soaked up a lot of juice yet managed to stay crisp. The garlic bread cubes were the real highlight—so tasty and flavorful but not overpowering.

This panzanella recipe was the perfect way to celebrate the first day of summer. Even with regular grocery-store tomatoes, it was delicious, so I imagine that homegrown or heirloom tomatoes would take the dish to another level. It took about 30 minutes to pull together at a very relaxed pace—you could definitely multitask and get another element of the meal done at the same time if you're not serving this on its own. Having said that, I think this would work best on its own, as the portions were large—perhaps as an alfresco lunch?

When I make this again, I might add more basil, but my fellow tester thought it was perfectly balanced as is. My only word of warning is that the garlic bread is powerful— in other words, make sure everyone at the party has a serving of this.


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  1. August in Chicago, tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, and a roasted-garlic-studded sourdough from the farmers market, and here is this perfect lunchtime main or dinnertime side. I must have been feeling big today and I took some indulgent liberties – my version was filled with larger, more, and heavier! My chunks of everything – tomato, mozzarella, and bread were larger. I definitely took the, “or more,” to heart with the basil, and I just might have gone a wee bit heavier on the cheese! Red wine vinegar was offered as an option; I passed initially, and then drizzled it on about halfway through. (I’ll also admit to – and highly recommend — indulging in another generous 1/2” slice of bread and using it to mop up any and all leftover juices on the plate.)

    1. I like the way you’re thinking, Elsa! When it comes to this combination of ingredients, more is definitely better! Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  2. Panzanella is one of the joys of summer. And yours is so attractive. I agree that mozzarella is an excellent addition.

    I put in thinly sliced fennel and pieces of colorful bell peppers as well. Seeded cucumber if I’m in the mood for it too. Other times it’s Niçoise olives.

    But I must say that, as pretty as yours is, I let mine soak up all the tomato juices over the course of a few hours before serving it. I know I give up something in the way of appearance and texture but I’ll trade that for the flavor of fresh summer tomatoes in every bite.

    1. Thanks, rainey. And I agree, sometimes having a wetter panzanella, with all the juices absorbed by the bread, is pretty much the definition of fresh summer!

  3. I had never heard of panzanella before, but I love each and every one of the ingredients in this recipe so trying it was a no-brainer. I adored it, as did my partner! Can’t wait to try it again in the summer, when the tomatoes will be even more delicious.

  4. This is a very tasty version of a salad that is summer staple for me. I have some olive oil that I have infused with garlic which I used to make the toast. I do like to salt the tomato mixture and sometimes add a little red wine or balsamic vinegar. I have only recently found this site and I do love it. Tonight’s dinner with friends includes the panzanella and peach cobbler recipes found here. Hard for me to actually cook a summer peach (sort of like gilding the lily) but am looking forward to serving this to my friends. Thanks again!

    1. Debbie, you’re very welcome. We’re glad that you found us! And many, many thanks for your kind words. Your take on panzanella sounds lovely, and yes, the peach cobbler definitely gilds the lily with gobs of sugar. Like you, I prefer food in its natural state as opposed to all dolled up, although this recipe is something I consider an occasional and worthwhile splurge. Looking forward to hearing what you think of it and learning which recipes you try in the future.

  5. Reading the comments about this salad makes me smile. People! This is a toss together salad of left over bread which originated in Tuscany. Their bread is not salted so you salt the tomatoes and the salad. If you make it with garlic toast or salted bread or any dry bread it doesn’t matter. It also does not matter if you vary the quantity of the ingredients. Just channel an Italian cook putting together a salad with fresh garden tomatoes, basil, some onion, garlic, good olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe a splash of balsamic wouldn’t hurt. Let it sit a while and you end up with a salad worthy of the finest truely authentic Italian restaurant. I just made some with yellow cherry tomatoes, sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes, garden grown basil and garlic and chives. The bread was challah, sliced, buttered, toasted and rubbed with fresh garlic then diced, What could be simpler. What could be better?

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