Panzanella Salad (Italian Bread Salad)

This classic Italian bread-and-tomato salad manages to be refreshing and perfect for a summer snack or starter, but still hearty enough to eat as a light supper or lunch.

Tomatoes is one of the most loved fruits in Calabria (all Italians like them) and making a tomato salad is one of my favourite dishes. This is an authentic example of “cucina povera” when nothing was going to be wasted and the stale bread was used to make other dishes (from meatballs, stuffing, ribollita soup, dumplings, etc).

Here you can find the Tuscan Panzanella Salad recipe, but if you visit Calabria you will be having a crunchy “fresa di pane” instead of stale bread: this is the beauty of the Italian cuisine that links the Italina regional cuisine with amazing and delicious variations.

Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼  loaf artisan bread (2 cups diced)
  • 2  large heirloom tomatoes ( 2 cups chopped)
  • 1/3 large cucumber
  • 1/3 medium red or yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 medium red onion
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced basil

EQUIPMENT

  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Mixing bowl
  • Jam jar, or a small bowl and whisk
  1. Slice the bread into 1-inch cubes: Slice or tear the bread into roughly 1-inch cubes. I usually leave the crusts on, but you can remove them if you prefer. You should have about 10 overflowing cups of bread.
  2. Dry the bread: Spread the bread cubes over a baking sheet. Leave uncovered overnight to stale and harden. Alternatively, bake in a 300°F oven until hardened on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking.
  3. Chop the vegetables: Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. Slice the onion into thin slices and soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 to 15 minutes while assembling the rest of the salad.
  4. Make the dressing: Combine the olive oil, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a jam jar. Shake vigorously. Alternatively, combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
  5. Combine the salad in a bowl: Combine the bread and chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and use a spatula to thoroughly combine.
  6. Let the salad sit for 1/2 hour: Let the salad sit at least half an hour before serving, or up to 2 hours. Stir occasionally.
  7. Add basil and serve: Just before serving, stir in the basil. This salad is best eaten the day it’s made.