What is Panzanella?
Panzanella is a simple Italian summer salad traditionally made with chunks of stale bread, tomatoes, onions, basil and oil and vinegar. Traditionalists stick with those basic ingredients and insist on using stale bread and never baking croutons (like I did because I didn’t feel like waiting for my bread to get stale). Apparently, no self-respecting Italian turns on an oven to make this salad. :-/ Don’t tell my family…
3 tips for making a delicious panzanella:
- Use good quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Use a loaf of day-old (good) Italian bread. Unless, of course, you are feeling feverishly impatient or if you could care less about the thousands of Italian grandmothers giving you the evil eye as you pre-heat your oven, then by all means, make the croutons.
- Use tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. I like cherry tomatoes, but plum tomatoes would work well.
What other ingredients could I add?
I added capers, green olives, garlic and mozzarella cheese to this traditional recipe but bell peppers, parsley, anchovies or tuna, lemon juice, shredded carrots, cucumbers or sliced hard boiled eggs would also taste great!
This recipe has been adapted from a recipe that I found in a magazine or newspaper at my Mom’s house. I don’t remember which one.
- If you are making croutons: pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place bread chunks on baking sheet lined with foil and spray lightly with olive oil. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, garlic and capers. Stir to combine flavors. Add bread, tomatoes, red onion, basil, cheese (optional) and olives.
- Stir to incorporate all flavors. Allow salad to sit for 30 minutes before serving or place in refrigerator and serve 2-3 hours later.