Spring Panzanella

Spring panzanella. When you just can’t wait until midsummer for your favorite traditional Italian bread salad, try this rendition with spears of spring asparagus. You can thank us later.

A white plate topped with a spring panzanella made with tomatoes, bread, asparagus, and Parmesan. A small plate of additional shaved Parmesan sits beside it.

Spring panzanella is essentially a springtime riff on the traditional Italian peasant dish made from stale bread. The combination of bread soaked in vinaigrette, fresh tomatoes, roasted peppers, asparagus, and Parmesan is so spectacular you’ll forget that you’re actually eating salad. It makes a lovely light lunch or side dish or can be made into a more substantial meal by adding chicken. The choice is yours. So is the pleasure.–Angie Zoobkoff

Can I add chicken to this?

To make chicken panzanella, substitute grilled chicken breasts in place of the asparagus and Parmesan in the above recipe. You can use any grilled, seared, roasted, or rotisserie chicken. Or you can place 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and flatten with a meat mallet or a rolling pin until about 5/8-inch (1.5-cm) thick. In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil with 2 teaspoons (4 g) dried oregano and 1 teaspoon (2 g) paprika. Season with salt and pepper, add the chicken, and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and cook the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Slice and serve on top of the salad.

Spring Panzanella

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 30 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 3 to 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the The Part-Time Vegetarian cookbook

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In a strainer placed over a bowl, toss the tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt and crush the tomatoes slightly with the back of a fork and let them rest in the strainer for about 15 minutes so the juices drain into the bowl. You should end up with 2 to 4 tablespoons tomato juice.

Meanwhile, reach for a large serving bowl. If desired, rub the inside of the bowl with the cut side of the garlic. [Editor’s Note: It’s sorta tradition to do this. To be frank, we usually can’t detect the garlic, although it’s quite possible it lends a subtle underlying something to the finished dish. Suit yourself.] Add the bread and pour in the vinegar and water. Toss the bread until coated in the vinegar mixture.

Hold the bell pepper with tongs over the flame of a stovetop gas burner or place it on a baking sheet under the broiler or place it on the grill, turning it occasionally, until charred all over, 5 to 15 minutes. (If using a broiler, go ahead and halve the pepper and place it flat on the baking sheet, cut side down.) Toss the pepper into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 5 minutes to make the skin easier to peel. Rub the blackened skin off the pepper, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and chop the pepper into bite-size chunks the same size as the tomatoes.

Add the onion, capers, basil, tomatoes and their juices, and roasted bell pepper to the bowl with the bread. Add the oil and season the salad with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine and then let stand for at least 15 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavors to mingle.

While the panzanella is resting, heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the asparagus with a little oil and cook, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the spears, until the asparagus is tender and blackened in places, 3 to 5 minutes. If desired, cut the asparagus into bite-size lengths.

Divide the panzanella among shallow serving bowls and then top with the asparagus and the Parmesan shavings. Originally published May 29, 2017.

Print RecipeBuy the The Part-Time Vegetarian cookbook

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

I liked this spring panzanella enough to buy more bread the next day so that I could make the salad again. That’s high praise. I’m very fond of panzanella salads, and have made many variations, which have included other vegetables such as cucumbers and artichokes. Winter panzanellas at our house have even included cubes of roasted butternut squash. The addition of fresh asparagus, which is very much in season here, was a very pleasant surprise. I am a big fan of the tang the vinegar gives the bread. The combination of the vegetables in this salad with the bread is a win/win. This particular salad, with these vegetables, is very fresh, very light, and very easy to eat.

This spring panzanella recipe was perfect for lunch. All the vegetables made it feel like a healthy, light lunch while the bread and cheese indulged my need for something fun. I'd definitely make this over and over. The next time I make this, I will probably try grilling the bread to see how it changes things up.

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