Panzanella is a Tuscan salad made of chunks of stale bread and the wonderful juicy tomatoes and fresh vegetables that the Mediterranean is known for. The bread soaks up the dressing and the juices from the tomatoes to become a delicious, refreshing salad. What once originated as a poor man’s way to use up left-over bread has now become so trendy that it can be found on even the swankiest of restaurant menus.
Though it really is a great way to use up stale, left-over bread, it’s so good that I’ve been known to make it with a fresh loaf when I just can’t wait for the bread to go stale. If you want, you could toast the fresh bread cubes in the oven to dry it out a little and you’ll be all set. You’ll want to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil for this recipe and make it fairly early on to give the flavors a chance to meld by the time you’re ready to sit down and eat. The salad only gets better the longer it sits. It makes a great accompaniment to serve with meat or fish, but can also be served for a nice lunch on it’s own with a good bottle of Chianti. Mangiamo!
Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad)
(Serves 4 to 6)
- 1/2 loaf sturdy Italian or French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
- 1 red bell pepper, raw or roasted, cut into short, 1/4-inch strips
- 1 green or yellow bell pepper, raw or roasted, cut into short, 1/4-inch strips
- 3/4 lb. cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, left whole or cut in half
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed, Spanish-style green olives, whole or cut in half
- 1 medium scallion, sliced thin, including white part
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
- 1/2 small red onion, quartered and sliced thin
- In a large salad bowl, mix olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic, oregano and red onion. Set aside.
- Prepare bread cubes and veggies as directed in ingredients list. If desired, you could toast the bread cubes in a 400° oven until golden and let cool completely.
- Add prepared veggies to dressing in bowl and toss together well.
- Let stand about 10 minutes for flavors to develop.
- Add bread cubes and toss to combine. If bread seems too dry, sprinkle in 1 or 2 tablespoons water to moisten a bit.
NOTE: You need a sturdy peasant bread for this salad. Light, airy bread will become soggy pretty quick and turn to mush.