Panzanella is an Italian tomato and bread salad originally made from leftovers. This simple tomato panzanella salad is made from a base of crusty sourdough or ciabatta bread, a mix of fresh diced tomatoes, red wine vinaigrette, and fresh basil.
What is Panzanella?
Panzanella [noun] [Italian 'Pane' meaning â€˜bread' & 'zanella' meaning 'small basket']
Traditional Panzanella, originating from Italy, uses anchovies, a mix of fresh chopped tomatoes, basil and crunchy (stale) bread cubes to soak up a gorgeous red wine vinaigrette. It is a perfect recipe for warm weather because it's simple to make and full of summer flavours.
This simple tomato Panzanella salad includes all of the above (minus the anchovies) and is a perfect recipe to enjoy the freshest flavours of the season. My preference is to use fresh ciabatta bread and toast it either in the oven, skillet or toaster.
What you'll need
The full list of ingredients including quantities and proportion can be found in the recipe card below. For this recipe, you will need:
- a variety of fresh tomatoes
- ciabatta or sourdough bread
- sea salt
- extra virgin olive oil
- red wine vinegar
- dijon mustard
- fresh cracked pepper
- fresh basil leaves
How to make this recipe
The first step is to make sure you wash all the tomatoes and basil. Chop the tomatoes into bit sized pieces and add them to a large bowl. Then, sprinkle with sea salt and let them sit for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the bread slices and then tear into small pieces. Next, gently strain the tomatoes and reserve the juice (the juice is part of the dressing). Then, add the tomatoes to a large bowl.
In another large bowl, whisk together the, tomato juice, shallot, garlic, dijon, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Then, add the toasted bread cubes and chopped tomatoes to the dressing mixture. Toss is all together, season with fresh cracked pepper and chopped basil and serve.
Tips for this recipe
- Use any tomato variety you like. Just make sure the ones you select are ripe, fresh and blemish free.
- A variety of tomato sizes adds texture, flavour and appealing array of colours.
- Reserve the tomato juices. These are used to form part of the dressing.
- Finely dice the shallot. This is what really set the dressing apart from other panzanella variations. It adds a nice hit of heat without having huge pieces of onion to bite into.
- Toast the bread in a toaster - this keeps it easy and means you don't need to turn on the oven in the heat of summer. If you prefer to toast the bread in the oven, directions can be found in the recipe notes.
- You can also toast the cubed bread in a large skillet with a small amount of olive oil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Use any bread you like, however, ciabatta or sourdough adds such a great flavour!
Add-ons and variations
- Add about ½ cup of corn kernels
- Diced red pepper (about ½ cup) adds flavour and crunch to this recipe
- Top is with a few tablespoons of vegan almond parmesan
- Add about ½ cup of diced, or shaved cucumbers
- If you don't have red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar will also work.
Panzanella will last covered in the fridge for up to 2 days, however, the bread will have absorbed all the vinaigrette and will be quite soft. This salad is best served and eaten in the same day.
A brief ode to heirloom tomatoes
Any tomato variety will work for this recipe, however, I highly recommend sourcing heritage or heirloom varieties. Heirloom tomatoes, in particular, can be so unbelievably juicy and sweet.
There are hundreds of tomato species, however, society is only custom to ~22Â as a result of modern agriculture. An eye-opening book I read many years ago, The End of Food by Thomas Pawlick, sparked my initial interest in preserving heirlooms and organic fruits and vegetables.
If you've been following me on Instagram, you know tomatoes take up alot of our backyard growing space. While they are worth the extra effort, heirlooms are more susceptible to disease various pother problems and as a result of less hybridization over the years. Regardless, I love ending the season with a varied bonanza of several heritage varieties.
Purple, yellow, orange, green, speckled, striped and ombre, all with charming names like 'Dwarf Emerald', 'Ferris Wheel' and 'Rosella'. They're beautiful and strange to look at with their oblong, rippled shapes.Â
So, if you can, source heirlooms for this recipe; they are usually available at local farmers markets from small scale growers.
If you love this simple tomato panzanella salad, you may also enjoy these favourites.
If you made this recipe, don't forget to leave me a comment below! You can also share with me by taking a snap of your creation and tagging me on Instagram @the_simple_green or Facebook @thesimplegreen.
Simple Panzanella Salad
Panzanella is an Italian bread salad traditionally made up of leftovers. This simple panzanella salad is made with a base of toasted sourdough or ciabatta bread, fresh diced tomatoes, and a red wine & olive oil vinaigrette. Topped with fresh basil, this Panzanella is a perfect way to enjoy the fresh flavours of summer.
- 2 lbs heirloom tomatoes or your favourite variety
- 6-8 slices of ciabatta bread about 4 cups cubed
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 medium shallot finely diced
- 1 clove garlic finely diced
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- fresh cracked pepper
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves roughly chopped
Chop the tomatoes into bit sized pieces and add to a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of sea salt, toss to combine and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread slices (I use a toaster) and then tear into small 1" pieces. Set aside.
Gently strain and reserve the juice from the salted tomatoes into a measuring cup (you need the juice for the dresing). Then add the tomatoes to a large bowl. Set aside. In large bowl, whisk together the, tomato juice, shallot, garlic, dijon, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.
Add the toasted bread cubes and chopped tomatoes to the dressing mixture, then toss to combine. Season with fresh cracked pepper and chopped basil. Serve immediately.
*For toasting in an oven: cut it into cubes, give it a light coating of olive oil and bake in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet for 20 minutes at 250'F, shaking the pan halfway through the cooking time. You can also toast the cubed bread in a large skillet with a small amount of olive oil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Panzanella will last covered in the fridge for up to 2 days, however, the bread will have absorbed all the vinaigrette and will be quite soft. This salad is best served and eaten in the same day.