Panzanella – Tomatoes and Stale Bread

PanzanellaI’m back! This week has been waaaaaay more manageable than last week and I’ve actually been cooking dinners again. So happy. It has also gotten very warm and feels more like it should be for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer. For us, summer brings salads and this panzanella is just the ticket for your cookouts or even weeknight dinners.

Yes, it’s not lost on me how I used pasta salad last week as a metaphor for the way I was feeling and am now saying everything is all panzanella. Or should I say PANZANELLA!!! See? Way more exciting and positive. Ha! Actually, I was going to go back to my current Spain kick and do pan tomate but realized I had everything I needed for panzanella so why not make this instead. I think it’s more filling and a better accompaniment to whatever you’re grilling. And it sounds like a party. PANZANELLA!

At its most basic, panzanella is a stale bread and tomato salad. Use up your old bread by mixing in some tomatoes, season with salt, drizzle with oil and vinegar, toss. Your stale bread softens and you have a very summery side dish. Personally I like to put some red onions or shallots in along with some basil. Classic combination and one you can’t go wrong with. Ideally you want to keep the bread to tomato ratio fairly equal but if you want more tomatoes or more bread then have at it.

I first made this for Cheryl a few years ago and it turned into one of her favorites. If you want to jazz it up there are some simple ways to do so.  For example, instead of using plain bread you could use an herb bread or a cheese bread; or speaking of cheese, shave some parmiggiano reggiano on top and toss into the salad. There are some pretty elaborate recipes out there, like ones with cucumbers and capers in them, but I’m not much of a fan. I mean come on, cucumbers? No no no. I think this is one dish you need to keep rather simple, especially later in the summer when tomatoes are fresh from the garden. You want the tomato to be the star of the show, so only add peripheral flavors which won’t overshadow it much.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend! PANZANELLA!

Panzanella

  • ½ loaf of crusty stale bread, cubed
  • 2-3 tomatoes, cut into chunks similar sized as the bread
  • 4 shallots, sliced thin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Basil, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbs good olive oil
  • 2-3 Tbs red wine vinegar or ‘balsamic’

Place the cubed bread in the bottom of a large bowl. Layer the tomatoes on top and season with a couple three finger pinches of salt. Layer the shallots on top of the tomatoes.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the bowl stand for 30-45 minutes. The salt will draw out some liquid from the tomatoes and make its way into the stale bread.

Add the chopped basil to the salad. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar on top, and stir everything in. Season with salt and pepper. Shave parmigianno over the finished salad and serve.

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8 comments

  1. Made my first stop at the farm last weekend baby turnips, greens, Egyptian walking onions! Yes indeed summer is finally at hand!

  2. Perfection! Glad you used basil – it’s just such an integral part or panzanella, I think. I still remember the first time I tasted it! It’s such a brilliant peasant dish!

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