Panzanella salad is an Italian bread salad made with Italian bread and fresh summer tomatoes tossed in oil and vinegar. A simple dish that is light, bright, and full of flavor!

Panzanella Salad made with fresh garden vegetables and bread on a black platter

Panzanella Salad is made for summer! Originating in Tuscany, it is a delicious, light salad that is simply toasted bread and fresh tomatoes that have been tossed in oil and vinegar.

Traditionalists would stop you there, but panzanella isn’t fussy. You can add anything you’d like! Personally, I like to also add cucumbers, red onion, basil, and a little Parmesan cheese.

Serve it as a side, an appetizer, or add a few more veggies in there and make it your whole meal!

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Panzanella Salad on a platter

What is Panzanella Salad?

Classic Panzanella Salad is a bread salad that was originally created as a way to use up stale bread. Bread has always been a big part of the Mediterranean diet, so many dishes from that area incorporate bread in some form or another as a main ingredient.

What is a bread salad, you may ask? Well, it’s a salad where bread is the main ingredient and is then enhanced by adding vegetables. While this salad is said to originate in Tuscany, there are many types of bread salads from all areas of the Mediterranean.

If your household is like mine, bread doesn’t usually last long enough to get stale. In that case you will want to toast your bread slightly. What you want in the end is dry, crusty bread that will soak up the juice from the fresh tomatoes and soften slightly. Almost like making croutons, but not so crunchy.

This stale/toasted bread is them tossed with the rest of the ingredients of the salad to make a delicious dish perfect for summertime!

ingredients to make Panzanella Salad

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Bread – You can use Italian or French bread for this dish. Cut or tear it into 1-inch cubes and let them get stale or just toast them.
  • Tomatoes – You can use large tomatoes cut into chunks or cherry tomatoes cut in half.
  • Cucumber – If you want a traditional Panzanella experience you can leave these out.
  • Onion – Red onion is perfect for this dish due to its strong flavor.
  • Basil leaves – This herb compliments tomatoes perfectly.
  • Olive oil – Extra virgin olive oil gives the perfect light flavor for this dish.
  • Red wine vinegar – This will provide perfect balance to the light oil with its rich flavor.
  • Kosher Salt – Salt your ingredients to taste.

Feel free to play with this recipe. You may want to try adding black pepper, garlic cloves, fresh mozzarella, feta cheese, or oregano. You also may wish to cook some asparagus, zucchini, bell peppers, corn, squash, or artichokes and adding those in as well.

Best Bread to Use

Italian bread and French bread at the best choices for panzanella. Sourdough bread can work too, but Italian bread and French bread are a little less dense and dry out better. Ciabatta bread is too airy and has too many large holes in it.

You’ll want to lightly toast the bread in the oven to dry it out, similar to a crouton, before adding to your salad. This will allow it to soak up all of the amazing flavors without getting mushy.

It’s All About the Fresh Tomatoes

For this simple dish, fresh summer tomatoes are the key. Nothing is better than a perfectly salted tomato in the summer! Their bright, fresh flavor really makes this bread salad something special.

The slightly bread soaks up the juice from the tomato, oil, and vinegar. To get the best flavor and the juiciest tomatoes, you’ll want to generously salt the chopped tomatoes before adding them to the bread. This will bring out the flavor and make the tomatoes release theirjuices, which in turn gives the bread flavor.

Panzanella Salad on a black platter with fresh basil

Try some of our other Italian salads:

Instructions

Step 1 – Toast bread – Place your cubes of bread in a large bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Lightly salt and toss to coat bread. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for 5-10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Note: If you are using stale bread cubes, you won’t need to toast it and can skip this step.

Step 2 – Salt tomatoes – In a large bowl add your sliced tomatoes and lightly salt.

Step 3 – Add other ingredients – Add cucumbers, onions, basil, and bread.

Step 4 – Make and add dressing – Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle over your salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Panzanella Salad on a fork
What Can I Serve With Panzanella Salad?

This salad is great for summer BBQs or potlucks and goes well alongside grilled beef or chicken. You can also pair it with prosciutto wrapped chicken or some meatballs (Instant Pot, Air Fryer, or baked Turkey) for an easy weeknight dinner.

It also makes a delicious, light dinner all on its own. Add some Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, or crumbled goat cheese and enjoy!

Is Panzanella Good the Next Day?

This is a salad that is best served fresh. While you can certainly store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the bread will gradually become soggy the longer it sits.

However, it’s such an easy dish to prepare you won’t really need to make it ahead of time. Just slice your veggies while your bread toasts, then toss it together for a quick meal!

Panzanella Salad made with crusty bread

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Servings: 6
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 15 mins

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad is an Italian bread salad made with crusty Italian bread and fresh summer tomatoes tossed in oil and vinegar.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces Italian Bread, cubed, about 10 cups
  • 4 Tomatoes, large, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 English Cucumber, sliced
  • 1 cup Red Onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 leaves Basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil, + 2 tablespoons for bread
  • ¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Place cubes of bread in a large bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Lightly salt and toss everything together to coat bread. Place in oven and bake at 350 degree F for 5-10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.
  • In a large bowl add tomatoes and lightly salt.
  • Add cucumbers, onions, basil, and bread.
  • Whisk together olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 612kcal, Carbohydrates: 46g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 44g, Saturated Fat: 17g, Sodium: 287mg, Potassium: 434mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 27g, Vitamin A: 760IU, Vitamin C: 14.1mg, Calcium: 20mg, Iron: 2.1mg
Nutrition Disclaimer: We are not certified nutritionists. Nutrition facts are an estimate and are provided as a courtesy. They are generated by an online API which recognizes ingredient names and amounts and makes calculations based on the serving size. Results may vary.
Author: Kat Jeter & Melinda Caldwell
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: bread, salad, summer vegetables, tomato