Panzanella is a rustic tomato and bread salad which originates from Tuscany in Italy. The origins of the salad are thought to date back to the 1500s when a Florentine poet named Bronzino first described the merits of a dish of onions, oil and vinegar served with toast. It was not until the 1900s that the onions were substituted with tomatoes as the main ingredient.
Panzanella is best made in the summertime with the ripest tomatoes you can find. Although the recipe itself is very easy, it does require a little planning to buy a loaf of country bread a day or two in advance, cut it into bite-size pieces and allow it to dry out at room temperature for a day or two.
(Serves 4-6 as a side salad)
4 cups dried breadcubes (cut a baguette into bite-size cubes and leave to dry on a tea-towel overnight)
2 cups / 300g ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces (with the seeds and skin)
2 bell peppers (preferably yellow or red), deseeded and cut into bite-size pieces
3 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp red onions, finely diced
Half a medium cucumber, diced (optional)
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
freshly round black pepper, to taste
- To make your breadcubes, it is best to use a baguette or a rustic white bread loaf. If you have bought fresh bread, you will need to cut it into bite-size cubes and leave it to dry out on a tea-towel or kitchen-towel overnight. If your bread is already a little stale, you can use it the same day. The breadcubes need to be dry so that they can soak up the juices in the salad.
- Wash and cut your tomatoes (include the inside of the tomato), red peppers, basil leaves, red onion and cucumber (optional). Toss them all together in a large salad bowl.
- Add the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and black pepper to the salad bowl and gently toss.
- If you are serving straightaway, add the breadcubes, toss and serve. If you are not serving straightaway, refrigerate the salad (not including the breadcubes) for upto 12 hours. Half an hour before serving, remove the salad from the fridge and add the bread cubes. Toss and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.