For an easy summer salad look no further than Panzanella. This is a Tuscan-style salad where the main ingredient is bread! My take on this rustic summer classic features toasty bread, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and basil, plus mini fresh mozzarella balls, all tossed together in a simple vinaigrette.
Fun Facts About Panzanella
Panzanella predates the arrival of tomatoes in Italy! The year 1548 marked the first record of tomatoes in Italy, while the first written record of an early version of Panzanella was in the fourteenth century by the writer Giovanni Boccaccio.
The 16th-century artist and poet Agnolo di Cosimo wrote an entire poem about a Panzanella-like salad featuring chunks of crusty bread, onions, purslane, and cucumbers.
Traditional Panzanella recipes in Italy do not toast the bread. It’s simply day-old bread that’s rehydrated. Most American versions of the recipe, mine included, call for lightly toasting the bread cubes.
Ingredients for Panzanella
Here’s a run-down of the main ingredients you’ll need for this recipe, with a bit of my thinking behind each item. Obviously, for the exact measurements see the full recipe below.
- Bread – Day-old bread is what you want here. More specifically, you want crusty loaf bread like baguette or ciabatta.
- Cucumber – Gives a nice refreshing crunch
- Tomatoes – Any ripe tomato will do. I mostly grow cherry tomatoes so that is what I used.
- Red onion – Gives a nice bite to the salad
- Fresh mozzarella – Adds a nice creaminess to this very crunchy salad. I used bite-sized mozzarella balls called perline because how cute is something in miniature! However, you can use regular mozzarella diced into bite-sized pieces.
- Fresh basil – An aromatic flavor boost
- Garlic – Another flavor boost that pairs perfectly with the rest of the salad ingredients.
- Red Wine Vinegar – My go-to vinegar for most salads. It’s tangy without being overpowering. Balsamic vinegar would also work very well in this salad.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – The peppery and fruity flavor of high-quality extra virgin olive oil brings it all together.
Let the dressed salad sit for 15-20 minutes, but not more, before serving. This allows the bread to soak up the dressing without getting soggy. However, don’t wait too long, otherwise, the bread will get soggy. This also means that it does not hold up well as a leftover. It is best to eat the salad within a couple of hours.
This salad works well with so many main dishes. For something light, try it with Grilled Fresh Striped Bass or Lemon Curd Grilled Chicken Skewers. For a more American cookout-style main dish, try it with Dry Rub Grilled Ribs.
Rustic Panzanella with Mozzarella
- 1 day old baguette cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp olive oil for toasting the bread cubes
- 2 cups cucumber slices
- 3 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup sliced red onion
- 8 oz perline fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
- 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 426 degree Fahrenheit.
- Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet, toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, and season with salt to taste. Bake in the oven until lightly golden, about 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl toss together the toasted bread cubes, cucumber slices, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion, perline, and shredded basil.
- In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Pour dressing over salad. Toss well. Let the dressed salad sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.