Panzanella is a hearty Tuscan chopped bread salad made with tomatoes, onions, basil garlic, vinaigrette, and just about anything else you’d like to add. Most recipes for panzanella call for cucumber, but I’m not fond of cucumber so I leave it out. You could also add cheese such as mozzarella or feta. Panzanella can serve as a meatless main course or as a side or starter salad. The exact quantities for making panzanella aren’t important. If you want to feed more people, just add more ingredients. This recipe serves 3-4 generously as an appetizer or side salad.
- 1/2 loaf of crusty bread such as rustic Italian or a French baguette, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- Olive oil for drizzling on the bread
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2-3 cups diced ripe grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1-2 shallots, peeled and minced
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded or chopped
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the bread cubes in a bowl and drizzle generously with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper). Bake the bread cubes until crunchy and golden, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the bread cubes from the oven and set aside.
- Make a simple vinaigrette by whisking together the shallot, garlic, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Note: This vinaigrette is made with more than the standard ratio of vinegar to olive oil. That’s because I want the extra tang of the larger amount of vinegar to give the bread cubes a zippy flavor.
- In a large serving bowl, toss the tomatoes, red onion and the vinaigrette and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the vinaigrette to permeate the tomatoes. I usually do this a couple hours ahead of time so I can focus on the rest of the meal.
- About 15 minutes before serving, add the bread cubes to the serving bowl with the tomatoes and toss lightly. Allow the panzanella to sit for 15 minutes to soften the bread a little.
- Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, if necessary. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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