As Ina Garten explains, this salad was invented by Italians to use up leftover bread. It’s just sorta a lovely act of fate that the experience of sorta chewy bread being saturated with vinaigrette and jumbled with other vegetables is one that’s intensely satisfying.
Although, unlike the classic, we don’t limit ourselves to summer when it comes to panzanella. Because our craving for it knows no season. Which means we’ve dreamt up all manner of equivalents for fall, winter, and spring. Enter your imagination.
For an autumn rendition, we tend to fancy something along the lines of this mushroom, herb, and bread concoction. For winter, there’s a roasted winter squash and red onions and whatever other vegetables you have languishing in your veggie bin. As for spring, we’re thinking asparagus and tender baby greens. But go on, surprise us with your interpretation. And let us know in a comment below.–Renee Schettler Rossi
For the vinaigrette
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
- 1/2 cup really good extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the panzanella
- 3 tablespoons really good extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small French bread or boule, preferably a day old, cut into 1-inch (25-mm) cubes (6 cups)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch (25-mm) cubes
- 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch (25-mm) cubes
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch (25-mm) cubes
- 1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 handful parsley leaves, (optional)
Make the vinaigrette
- Whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper.
Make the panzanella
- Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt and cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. Remove from the heat.
- In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, capers, and, if desired, parsley. Add the bread cubes and the vinaigrette and toss to coat.
- Season the bread salad liberally with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or let the salad sit for half an hour to allow the flavors to blend before serving.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
The perfect summer salad…light, refreshing, and delicious. The bread didn’t make the dish heavy, and the combination of peppers, tomatoes, red onion, and cucumber made this the perfect salad for dinner on a hot summer night. Preparation was incredibly easy…another positive point for summer meals is when the heat is high, and the energy is low.
The bread cubes browned easily in around 11 – 12 minutes with no need for any additional oil. I let the salad sit for about 20 minutes while completing the rest of dinner to let the flavors blend and allow the bread to absorb more of the dressing. If we had any complaint at all, it would be to scoff at the notion that this recipe serves 12. Maybe 6 or 7, but even with a spicy orange chicken dish on the menu, we couldn’t stop spooning more and more onto our plates.
As a personal chef, I have made Panzanella Salad for clients numerous times, but never tried it myself. I would taste the dressing to make sure it was seasoned properly, but I never had the salad when it was all put together. Honestly, I wasn’t sure about the bread in the salad with the veggies. Sure, I love croutons, but this is different since there is no lettuce at all. I thought they would get soggy and unappealing. I was wrong and a fool! I could have been enjoying this for years!
This recipe takes only 30 minutes to get it on the table. I cut up the vegetables while the croutons were cooking. By the way, they are the star of the dish, and 10 minutes is all it takes to produce these perfectly crunchy gems. The dressing brings everything together, and the dish is light and refreshing, and delicious. I made this twice this week, the second time, I used cherry tomatoes that I sliced in half. I totally prefer this method over larger tomatoes cut up, mostly because of their uniformity and how they stay intact. I also chose to use an orange and yellow pepper, mainly because the tomatoes are already red, and I wanted it to be more even colorful. Don’t skimp on the basil. This puts it over the top!
We really enjoyed the freshness and flavors of this classic Italian salad. It makes for a perfect summer meal, whether it’s lunch or dinner. When I saw that the recipe said it served 12, I decided to halve the recipe as I was only planning to serve the dish for lunch and didn’t think the salad would hold up well as a leftover. As I studied the recipe, I realized that the ingredients would not produce enough for anywhere close to 12 servings, so I proceeded to make half of the recipe, which served the two of us (quite generously) for lunch. The salad will be even better if you let it rest for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
I LOVE Panzanella! There is no point in making it until the very best tomatoes start to appear at the market. When I saw fat, local, beefsteak tomatoes that felt like they weighed WAY more than they should, I knew a Panzanella was in my future.
This salad was a HUGE hit. I think tomatoes get a bad reputation in my part of the world because when they’re sad… they’re REALLY sad. This salad caused a self-professed tomato hater to go back for seconds, and what better compliment is there than that?!
This was part of a super simple dinner of grilled wings and this salad. Four of us finished off half of this recipe, but I think with another side, it would have been closer to five servings. I’ve made a lot of panzanella’s and normally just throw it together based on what I have on hand, and I’ve never included dijon in the dressing, and wow, it was all just so good!! I will definitely do it again – as long as the tomatoes are ripe!
Panzanella is such a wonderful alternative to standard leaf-based salads. They’re hearty, nutritious, and very delicious. I didn’t eat this salad as a side to my main meal. I ate it AS my main meal. It served as a great departure from the heavy, hot meals I often eat on a cold January night. The bright notes in this salad really awakened my palate and convinced me that it can be eaten any time of the year. Here’s why:
Flavors: What is so pleasing about this salad is that it is filled with a medley of garden flavors that really play well off one another. The understated tomato and cool cucumbers and peppers are given a little zip and zing with help from red onions and capers. All of these vegetables also accept the tart flavors of the dressing (which was not oily or overpowering) easily. My favorite ingredient in the salad was, of course, basil. I liked how it bridged all the flavors in the salad together while still allowing the vegetables a chance to show off their true identity.
Color and Texture: Bright and colorful are just a few words to describe this salad. Its stunning presentation allows you to appreciate all of its shapes and colors: cubes of red and orange peppers, rings of purple onions, and pieces of green cucumber and basil. This lively display combined with the texture from toasted cubes of bread and crisp vegetables contrasts well against the soft tomatoes.
Timing: This salad is easy to make. Cutting and chopping the vegetables takes a little bit of time, but not too much.
The dressing is also a cinch to make. Just put the ingredients in a bowl, whisk them together, and you’re done.
Other Comments: I used some homemade French bread in this salad. First, I cut it up into hearty cubes, sautéed them in a large skillet coated with olive oil, and let them cook until they were evenly toasted. This took about 10 minutes as the recipe suggested. This plain-tasting but sturdy bread really stood up well in this salad: it helped mop and soak up the flavors from the vegetables and dressing without becoming too soggy.
Side note: Even though French bread is commonly used in bread salads, I think that olive bread would work equally well. After all, olives are indigenous to the Mediterranean region, and would, therefore, complement all of the ingredients used in this recipe. You could even add hot peppers, anchovies, and cubes of meat and cheese like ham and mozzarella for variety.