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Italian Tomato and Bread Salad

Italian Tomato and Bread Salad


This classic Tuscan salad is known as panzanella

If we had to name the top 10 dishes requested by our families, this salad would be high on the list. It’s our version of the classic Tuscan salad known as panzanella, with some celery thrown in for a bit of crunch and lemon zest and mint for a refreshing kick.

It’s common to moisten the bread with water before adding it to the salad, but depending on how stale the bread is and how juicy the tomatoes are, sometimes it’s not necessary. So we hold off, mixing the bread with the rest of the ingredients first. Whether or not you add water, be generous with the salt — the tomatoes and bread soak it right up.

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Notes

If you don’t have any stale bread, you can "cheat" and bake the cubes in a 250-degree oven, stirring once or twice, until dry but not browned, about 25 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Pound tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
  • 3 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 Cup good olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Cups 3/4-inch cubed stale, crusty French or Italian*
  • Handful of basil, torn, for garnish
  • Small handful of mint leaves, torn, for garnish

Italian Tomato Salad Recipe

One of my favorite things about summer is that when everyone gathers for a meal outside around the table. There’s usually pasta, something on the grill, and salad.

Not just any salad, but tomato salad, made with fresh, ripe summer tomatoes. The very best kind of tomatoes.

You can get tomatoes at any time of the year, but nothing, I mean absolutely nothing beats a fresh, ripe tomato picked right off of the vine. The smell of the tomato is so sweet.

This tomato salad recipe comes right from the Mediterranean. I think this was handed down for generations going back to my great-grandparents from Italy.


Bread Salad (Panzanella)

Bread salad, also known as Panzanella, made with toasted day-old sourdough bread, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, basil and an Italian-style salad dressing that is exceptionally tasty and very addictive.

This salad is close relative of our family favorite Italian tomato and cucumber salad. It has the similar fantastic taste and similar summery freshness, only it goes above and beyond that.

What makes this bread salad truly special is the pieces of toasted sourdough bread, or the quick but so good no-knead bread, and the Italian-style salad dressing that is so good that you could just drink it. Both are family favorites and when combined together, they make one ridiculously good bread salad. So good in fact that you just can’t have enough of it.

The salad is also fairly light and you could end up eating quite a bit before you know it. So, be forewarned and think about doubling the recipe.


Tomato Bread Salad

Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 20 min | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 4

2 large tomatoes
½ red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup basil, picked
½ cup cilantro, picked
½ cup parsley, picked
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 baguette
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 heirloom tomatoes, (the more colorful the better!)
1 cup cherry heirloom tomatoes
1 cup arugula
½ cup small basil leaves

For the tomato water, cut the large tomatoes into quarters and add to a blender. Slice the red onion thinly and set half of the slices aside and add the other half to the blender. Add the 1 cup basil, cilantro, and parsley to the blender along with the vinegar and ½ teaspoon of salt and puree the mixture for several minutes.

Place a piece of cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer and set it over a bowl. Pour the mixture into a mesh strainer and press it through until all of the liquid is extracted. Set the bowl of tomato water aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cut the baguette lengthwise and drizzle all sides with olive oil. Then rub the baguette on all sides with garlic. Cut the baguette into cubes and place it into a baking dish. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and toss. Bake for 20 minutes then remove from the oven to let cool.

Slice the heirloom and cherry tomatoes into bite sized pieces. In shallow bowls, combine ½ cup of tomato water with tomatoes, arugula and ½ cup small basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and add a few croutons just before serving. Enjoy!


How to make Panzanella Salad

Once you have the bread toasted and the vinaigrette mixed, making panzanella is as simple as tossing everything together in a big bowl.

Tomatoes are the other star of this recipe: I recommend using super juicy ones. I used cherry tomatoes from my garden, but this is a great opportunity to use any tomatoes that are almost too ripe for any other use.

Toss the tomatoes, along with seeded and sliced cucumber (peeled, if you prefer- I like &ldquohalf peeled&rdquo so some color remains) and some drained and rinsed capers (optional) in a large bowl with the toasted bread and the vinaigrette. And don&rsquot forget the fresh basil- here&rsquos a tutorial on how to cut it into a perfect chiffonade.

Then, season to taste with more salt and pepper. THAT&rsquoS IT! Told you it was easy.

It&rsquos best served within 20 minutes or so. Any longer than that and the bread will become soggy. See recipe notes below for how to prep this in advance.


Salad recipes

A salad is always a welcome addition to a dinner table, whether served on the side, at the start or as part of the main event itself. With such an abundance of beautiful countryside and its glorious Mediterranean climate it's no surprise Italy has an enormous supply of enviable fresh produce, and their plentiful supply of vibrant herbs and greens, plump courgettes and numerous varieties of world famous tomatoes make an excellent starting point for delicious salad dishes.

This collection of colourful salad recipes contains inspiration from some of Italy's best chefs. Fabrizio Marino's Butterfly salad is a visually stunning healthy recipe which would prove a talking point at any dinner party, and Norbert Niederkofler's Sweet and sour vegetable salad is similarly striking with a colourful mix of radish, beetroot and carrots. Salvatore Elefante's seafood salad recipe matches the sweet flavour of lobster with pepper rocket and marinated spring onion, while Cristina Bowerman combines agretti, iceberg lettuce and peas to form a salad bed for her tender veal fillet.


Panzanella Salad

This panzanella salad recipe is the ultimate showcase for late summer bounty. A tangy dressing perfectly accents fresh tomatoes, peaches & corn.

If I had to choose one ingredient that best represents summer, it would have to be the tomato! Everyone loves perfect bright, juicy summer tomatoes, and in my opinion, there’s no better way to celebrate them then with panzanella!

This recipe has been a fan favorite (and one of our favorites) for awhile, so I thought I’d share it again now that all of these ingredients are in peak season. If you look closely, you’ll see that there are more than just tomatoes in this panzanella. I call this one my “everything summer” panzanella because I took the liberty of tossing in a few sweet peaches and some fresh corn, in addition to a plethora of colorful heirloom and cherry tomatoes. It’s basically the salad you want to make for dinner the day you come home from the farmers market with all kinds of good stuff.

What is Panzanella?

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad. Traditional panzanella features cubes of stale bread, plenty of ripe tomatoes, onion, vinegar, and olive oil. I keep the vinegar, oil, onion, and tomatoes in this variation, but as you can see, my “everything summer” twist is wholly unconventional. With the sweet, juicy peaches, crisp corn, and chewy chickpeas, it’s a delectable showcase for late summer produce.

How to Make This Panzanella Salad

First, gather all of the best tomatoes, peaches, corn, and basil that you can find.

Second, find some good bread! I nabbed a gorgeous round of sourdough at my farmers market. You’re ready to cook!

Did I mention that this is a one bowl recipe? The dressing gets stirred at the bottom of a large bowl, before everything else gets added. It couldn’t be easier!

Next, add “everything summer” to the bowl – the tomatoes, peaches, corn, basil & some shaved red onion. Stir to let the peach and tomato juices mingle together.

Fold in some crusty day-old bread. Let it sit for a few minutes so that the bread can soak up some of the juices. Top with roasted chickpeas (optional for a little protein!) and plenty of sliced basil leaves.

Panzanella Salad Recipe Variations

This salad is flexible, so make it to your liking! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • If you don’t like corn, skip it.
  • Replace the peaches with extra tomatoes, or with half tomatoes and half sliced English cucumber.
  • Add grilled or roasted red bell pepper.
  • Top it with shaved Parmesan.
  • Stir in some mini fresh mozzarella balls.
  • Add dollops of fresh pesto at the end.
  • If you have extra time, toss your bread cubes with a bit of olive oil and bake in a 425-degree oven until they’re nicely golden, about 10 minutes. The stale bread will really soak up the salad’s tangy dressing, and it will hold its shape better if you want to make this salad ahead!

Let me know what variations you try!

What to Serve with Panzanella Salad

Enjoy the panzanella on its own or serve it as a side dish. It would be excellent with classic summer picnic fare like portobello burgers, black bean burgers, veggie burgers, or BBQ sandwiches. It would also be a good starter for a light summer lasagna or roasted vegetable pasta.

No matter what, pair it with some crisp white wine and savor the last bits of summer!


How to Make Panzanella

Tuscan bread at a farmer’s market in Chianti, Tuscany.

Panzanella Bread

While I picked up all the ingredients for panzanella at the farmers market in Tuscany, you can find them at any grocery store. You’ll want to use a rustic bread, not sliced sandwich bread. I like sourdough, ciabatta, or baguette best, if you can’t find Tuscan pane.

Cut the bread up into 1-inch cubes, then either toast in in a pan on the stove with some olive oil and a pinch of salt or bake in the oven until golden. I’ve found most American recipes, like one in Ina Garten’s cookbook, prepare the bread this way, while the recipes I found in Italy soaked the bread in water.

Beautiful produce at the Greve in Chianti farmer’s market.

Other Ingredients

The key to really delicious panzanella is using the best ripe juicy summer tomatoes you can find. I like to use a combination of red and yellow tomatoes and lots of fresh basil. Onions and either olives or capers add tons of flavor.

Panzanella Dressing

Like most Italian salads, this one is dressed with a light olive oil and red wine (or champagne) vinaigrette. A little Dijon mustard helps emulsify and add flavor to the dressing.


Why make homemade croutons?

Not everyone has time for homemade croutons. But they only take a few minutes of hands on time, and take this Italian salad to the next level! It’s a great way to use up bread that’s starting to get stale. All you’ll need is 15 minutes to bake (and the oven preheat time). The garlic flavor and the massive crunch is absolutely worth the time. Another reason to make homemade? They have no preservatives, and they don’t overdo it on the salt.

You can also make the croutons in advance. Just store them in a sealed container at room temperature until serving. They last for about 1 week, but are best when fresh. You can absolutely omit for a gluten-free salad and it still tastes great.


Italian Tomato and Bread Salad Recipe

Italian Tomato and Bread Salad gives off the refreshing aroma and crunchy flavor that reminds one of summer. The colorful ingredients of this salad do not require any specific garnishing but you can serve it on the bed of some fresh and green herbs to give it more uplifting finishing touch.

Make an Italian Tomato and Bread Salad at home and enjoy it with your much loved meals or serve alone for a light lunch or dinner.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Serving size: 04
Utensils needed: food steamer, frying pan, spoon or fork, mixing bowl, large serving bowl

Ingredients:

– 4 slices of ciabatta or sourdough bread – torn into bite-sized pieces
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
-10 asparagus spears – woody ends trimmed
-1 punnet of red cherry tomatoes – halved
-1 punnet of small yellow tomatoes – halved
-1 yellow capsicum – sliced with seeds and white membrane discarded
– ½ Spanish onion – thinly sliced
– 8 marinated white anchovies – chopped
– 1/3 cup loosely packed coriander (cilantro) leaves

Dressing’s Ingredients

– 60ml extra virgin olive oil
– 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
– 1 garlic clove – finely chopped
– Salt & freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

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Instructions

Pour the olive oil into a frying pan and set it on your stove with medium heat. Add in the bread pieces once the oil is warm and fry them gently, quivering the frying pan around in order to brown the breads on both sides until lightly toasted.

Note: Fry the bread pieces one by one.

Remove the bread slices once toasted well, place them on a plate and set aside.

Place the asparagus spears in a food steamer and steam them for around 4 to 5 minutes or until soft but lightly firm. Cool the steamed asparagus spears under cold running water and then drain them properly. Now, cut them into fine segments (slices).

Place the asparagus slices in a large mixing bowl and top with tomatoes, capsicum, onion slices, anchovies, croutons, and coriander. Toss the mixture and set aside.

Prepare the dressing by adding the red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and the finely chopped garlic clove into another mixing bowl. Take a fork or spoon and whisk the dressing’s ingredients until smooth. Now, pour the dressing all over the previously mixed ingredients in the large serving bowl and toss them well to coat.

Season the salad with salt and ground black pepper. Toss gently to until the salt dissolves.


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