Tomato Panzanella

5 from 5 votes

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This resourceful Tuscan salad, originally created to use up stale bread, is composed of juicy tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and basil dressed with a zingy olive oil-based vinaigrette.

Tomato Panzanella in a white baking dish.

With crispy chunks of bread soaking up all of those glorious juices from ripe tomatoes, this is one of my favorite late-summer dishes ever. The colors, the textures, the flavors; Tomato Panzaella is like a little trip to Tuscany in a bowl. And please don’t feel tethered to the exact measurements or ingredients suggested here — you can play around with the components of Panzanella to your heart’s content.

I could eat a few servings of this and feel completely happy, but if you wanted to pair it with another dish for a full summer meal, think about Grilled Chicken Breasts with Lime, Roasted Garlic and Fresh Herb Marinade or Grilled Marinated NY Strip Steak or for a vegan meal, serve this with a big platter of grilled vegetables and a chickpea salad.

Tomato Panzanella in a serving bowl with a pink napkin tucked underneath.

Tomato Panzanella: This resourceful Tuscan salad, created to use up stale bread, is composed of juicy tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and basil and a zingy olive oil-based vinaigrette.

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FAQs

What is Panzanella?

Panzanella is a Tuscan salad, created to use up stale bread because Italians are smart and don’t like to throw away food. This classic salad includes some sort of vinaigrette, which soaks into the stale bread (or, in this case, baked croutons), as well as tomatoes which lend their juices to the mix. Onions, cucumbers, and basil are often a part of the mix, as they are in this recipe.

What type of bread should you use for Panzanella?

Most of the time, Panzanella is made from stale, dry white bread of some sort, which allows it to soak up the juices without falling apart into a soggy mess. In this case, we dry out the bread in the oven, if it’s not already fairly dry.

You can make Panzanella with everything from Italian bread to ciabatta to a Pullman loaf. However, there are no rules about this, and you might try making this salad with anything from sourdough to an olive bread.

Do I need to remove the crust of the bread for Panzanella?

Up to you! I happen to love the crust of the bread, and like the difference in texture between the softer inside of the bread and the crunchier crust.

Choose a firm loaf without an overly thick or hard crust, but feel free to leave the crust on. If you prefer to cut off the crusts, go for it, but since the whole point of Panzanella was originally to use up stale bread, it seems a shame to throw away any part of the loaf.

Ingredients

  • Loaf of country or other rustic white bread – Choose a bread without a super heavy crust if possible.
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar – I love the combo of vinegars, but you can use just red wine vinegar if you like. All balsamic would be a little overpowering.
  • Shallots – You can substitute onions if you prefer.
  • Finely minced garlic – Please use fresh, not jarred, for this recipe!
  • Red onion – Halved and very thinly sliced; use a different color onion if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes – Halved or quartered if large.
  • Cucumbers – Halved and sliced ½-inch thick.
  • Fresh basil – Chopped or cut into chiffonade
Woman slicing cherry tomatoes on a wooden cutting board.

Tips, Variations, and Substitutions

  • If you can’t find baby cucumbers, just use one whole seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, and then cut into half-moon slices.
  • If you have stale bread and want to use it instead of making croutons, then you are really making classic Panzanella.
  • I used cherry tomatoes here and halved them, but if you have some big ripe tomatoes to cube up and use instead, definitely do that. Mixing different colored tomatoes gives this dish even more gorgeousness.
  • If your bread is already fairly stale/dry, you can skip the crouton-making part.
  • When you are toasting the bread, you don’t have to let it get completely crispy in the oven; it will continue to harden up as it cools, so take it out when it’s slightly soft in the middle of the pieces.
  • I want to try this sometime with these Parmesan Croutons — I think that would be something pretty amazing, a whole other level of Panzanella.

How to Make Tomato Panzanella

  1. Toast the bread: Place torn chunks of bread on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss, spread them out on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Cool.
Croutons cooling on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  1. Make the vinaigrette: Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, shallots, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Woman mixing vinaigrette in glass bowl.
  1. Combine the Panzanella: Place the red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil in a bowl. Pour over the dressing, toss, then add the croutons and toss again until everything is well combined.
  2. Let sit and serve: Allow the Panzanella to sit for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the croutons to soak up the dressing a bit and soften.
Tomato Panzanella in a serving bowl.

Make Ahead and Storage

Panzanella is best the day it’s made, but after it sits for at least 20 minutes. I love these croutons, which are made with either garlic oil (if you have time to make it or have it on hand), or plain old olive oil.

Tomato Panzanella and sliced pork chops on a gray plate with a serving bowl of panzanella nearby.

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5 from 5 votes

Tomato Panzanella

This resourceful Tuscan salad, originally created to use up stale bread, is composed of juicy tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and basil dressed with a zingy olive oil-based vinaigrette.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 People
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Ingredients 

For the Ciabatta Croutons

  • 1 1-pound loaf of country or other rustic white bread
  • cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt (to taste)

For the Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • ½ teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup halved and very thinly sliced red onion
  • 3 pints cherry or grape tomatoes (halved or quartered if large)
  • 5 baby or Persian cucumbers (halved and sliced ½-inch thick)
  • ¼ cup chopped or thinly sliced fresh basil

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Tear the ciabatta into big rough chunks, about 1 1/2 inches large. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1/3 cup olive oil. Toss them to combine, then spread them out on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes, until the bread starts to brown at the edges but are still tender. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool and harden up on the baking sheet.
  • Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or container, combine ½ cup olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, shallots, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  • Place the red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers and basil in a bowl. Shake or stir the vinaigrette to re-combine then pour it over the salad and toss gently. Add the croutons and toss again until everything is well combined. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the croutons to soak up the dressing a bit and soften, then serve.

Notes

  • If you can’t find baby cucumbers just use one whole seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and then cut into half-moon slices.
  • If you have stale bread, and want to use it instead of making croutons, then you are really making classic panzanella.
  • I used cherry tomatoes here, and halved them but if you have some big ripe tomatoes to cube up and use instead, definitely do that. Mixing different colored tomatoes gives this dish even more gorgeousness.
  • If your bread is already fairly stale/dry, you can skip the crouton-making part.
  • When you are toasting the bread you don’t have to let it get completely crispy in the oven; it will continue to harden up as it cools, so take it out when it’s slightly soft in the middle of the pieces.
  • I want to try this sometime with these Parmesan Croutons – I think that would be something pretty amazing, a whole other level of panzanella.

Nutrition

Calories: 567.5kcal, Carbohydrates: 41.02g, Protein: 6.8g, Fat: 42.78g, Saturated Fat: 14.04g, Sodium: 233.75mg, Potassium: 597.23mg, Fiber: 3.74g, Sugar: 24.3g, Vitamin A: 944IU, Vitamin C: 43.05mg, Calcium: 32.67mg, Iron: 2.76mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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