Panzanella Salad (with the Best Dressing!)
Panzanella Salad with crusty bread, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, and the best homemade vinaigrette dressing. Try this bread salad once and it will become an instant favorite. Tomato Panzanella is right up there with our popular Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad.
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Why we Love this Salad:
Our garden produces so many tomatoes and tons of basil in summer and we love creative and delicious ways to take advantage of them at their peak of freshness before we start freezing batches of Roasted Salsa and Canning Tomatoes. My whole family loves this tomato salad, even my 11-year old son who otherwise doesn’t like tomatoes, but went back for refills.
What is Panzanella?
Panzanella is a Tuscan Salad that is popular throughout Italy. It is a chopped salad with toasted bread, tomatoes, onions, and fresh basil. The salad is soaked in a simple vinaigrette dressing that makes every bite mouthwatering and delicious.
What is the Best Bread for Panzanella?
Stale Bread works best and is less likely to become soggy from the dressing, which makes this a brilliant way to use up leftover bread. These are the best bread varieties for Panzanella:
- Crusty French Bread (with a spongy center) – not the cotton candy soft french bread.
- Ciabatta Bread – with a thick crust and alveolar holes that keep it from getting soggy
- Baguette – also crusty on the outside, spongy inside, similar to our Wreath Bread.
- Rustic Sourdough Bread – this has a different flavor profile that you’ll love
- French Style Country Bread – crusty stale country bread works well
How to Make Panzanella Salad:
1. Toast the Bread: slice your stale crusty bread into 1-inch pieces. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt. Scatter on a baking sheet and bake at 400˚F for 9-11 minutes then set aside to cool. Note: Edges should be golden brown and crisp and the centers should be chewy. Remember, we aren’t making croutons.
2. Make the Dressing: combine vinaigrette dressing ingredients (extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, grated garlic, salt, and pepper) and whisk to combine.
3. Toss Salad: Place remaining Panzanella salad ingredients into the same mixing bowl you used for the bread. Add the cooled bread. Drizzle on the dressing 15-20 minutes before serving and toss gently to combine. Garnish with more basil.
What Else Can I Add to this Italian Salad?
We love changing up this salad based on what we have on hand. Some of our favorites are:
- Cheese – adding fresh mozzarella or feta cheese adds protein and add a little salty bite
- Chicken – add diced Rotisserie Chicken to make this a Chicken Panzanella
- Salami – adds that salty bite that we find irresistible, like in our Pasta Salad.
- Colorful Tomatoes – use a variety of heirloom or cherry tomatoes or both. The more colorful, the better!
- Cucumbers – delicious, but they tend to get juicy so consider seeding them.
- Olives – add your favorite olives to turn this into a Greek Panzanella
What to Serve with Panzanella Salad?
This salad can be served as a side salad or as a light and satisfying lunch. The addition of toasted bread and mozzarella cheese makes it hearty and satisfying. We love to pair it with these Italian Dishes:
- Chicken Parmesan – Crispy chicken cutlets smothered in marinara and a cheesy crust
- Lemon Chicken Pasta – in a creamy alfredo sauce
- Eggplant Parmesan – you’ll love this spin on an Italian classic
- Shrimp Scampi – a side of shrimp is all you need to make this a meal
- Zuppa Toscana – soup and salad is a perfect match for lunch or dinner
For the Tomato Panzanella Salad:
- 6oz Crusty Bread (1/2 loaf) cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 2 lbs ripe tomatoes cut into small wedges or bite-sized pieces
- 4 oz fresh mozzarella halved mozzarella pearls
- 1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup basil leaves (about 22 leaves), coarsely chopped, plus more to garnish
For the Vinaigrette Dressing:
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves grated
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Place bread in a mixing bowl, drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bake for 9-11 minutes until toasted then set aside to cool. Edges should be golden brown and crisp and the centers should be slighly chewy.
In a small bowl, combine vinaigrette dressing ingredients and whisk to combine.
Place remaining Panzanella salad ingredients into the same mixing bowl you used for the bread. Add the cooled bread. About 15-20 minutes before serving, drizzle on the dressing and toss the salad gently to combine. Garnish with more chopped basil to serve.
If you make this recipe, I’d love to see pics of your creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Hashtag them #natashaskitchen