Ideal dinner for a hot summer night, this Panzanella Toscana Italian Bread Salad combines fresh tomatoes, stale bread (yes really!) & basil to make the most delicious salad. Dairy & egg free, this moreish salad can easily be adapted to be gluten free too.
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I have started a little herb garden in a pot in my back garden.. I love the amazing aromas of fresh herbs and the way they can elevate a dish or even become the star of the show.
In this Panzanella Toscana Italian Bread Salad, alongside the ripe, juicy tomatoes the fresh basil aromas bring this dish to another level.
If you are having a BBQ and looking for a few side dishes, why not also check out my Chorizo & Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad & Fried Aubergine With Honey.
What is Panzanella?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary the official definition is
“An Italian salad made with stale bread in oil and tomatoes and often other vegetables”Cambridge English Dictionary
Panzanella salad is believed to have come about in the 16th century. The artist & poet Bronzino wrote a poem about his love of a salad with bread, onions, oil and vinegar which was later interpreted as Panzanella.
The stale bread was soaked in water and then wrung out, chopped and mixed with the other ingredients. Back then, the main ingredient to accompany the stale bread was onion not tomatoes as these hadn’t yet been discovered in Italy!
The recipe has evolved over the years and I’m excited to bring you my take on it!
- Stale Sourdough Bread - The staler the better, however toasting the bread in the oven also helps. If you do not have any sourdough, any crusty bread like a focaccia, French stick or ciabatta would work
- Mixed Baby Tomatoes - Buy the best tomatoes you can, I like mixed baby tomatoes as the different colours and tastes add to the flavour of the salad. After all they are the star of the salad!
- Fresh Basil - The second star of the Salad! Beautiful, fresh and herby! Why not grow your own in a herb planter?
- Red Onion
- Green Olives
- Capers - Brings a lemony, tartness to the dish.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Mixed with the red wine vinegar to make a dressing for the salad.
- Red Wine Vinegar
How to make Panzanella Toscana
- Toast The Bread - If the bread is really stale you can skip this step, however I feel baking the chopped bread in the oven with some garlic and olive oil brings it to a whole new level! Cook at 180° / gas mark 4 for around 10 minutes - ensure you mix the olive oil and garlic into the bread well prior to putting in the oven.
- Make The Salad - Chop the tomatoes in half, try and buy the best, ripest tomatoes you can, this will make such a difference to the flavour of the salad, I have used a punnet of mixed baby tomatoes as I love the variation of colour you get in the salad, however large, juicy, ripe beef tomatoes will work just as well. Chop the cucumber and red onion, pick the basil leaves from the stems and mix these in a large bowl together with the tomatoes.
- Make The Dressing - Combine the extra virgin olive oil with the red wine vinegar and garlic and shake well. Use the best quality extra virgin olive oil that you can.
- Assemble - Once the bread is ready, mix it into the bowl with the other ingredients, add the capers and olives, pour on the delicious dressing and give it all a good stir.
- WAIT! - This is the important bit! Leave the flavours to infuse together for at least 30 minutes before eating, this allows the juices from the dressing and tomatoes to really soak into the bread - believe me, its worth the wait!
This salad is so flexible with options to suit a variety of tastebuds!
- Slice an avocado and add this to the salad for some extra creaminess.
- BLT - Grill some crispy bacon, chop and toss through salad with some fresh rocket leaves.
- Cook some green beans and add to the salad along with some flaked cooked salmon.
- Stir through some fresh dairy free pesto.
- Sprinkle some dairy free mozzarella on the top.
This Panzanella Toscana will keep in the fridge for up to two days, the bread may be a bit soggier and the basil wilted a little, but the taste will be just as flavoursome.
Ensure you leave on the side for 30 minutes to bring to room temperature before eating.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing this recipe.
Traditionally, Panzanella is made with an unsalted Tuscan loaf, but the golden rule here is to use a crusty loaf, white sliced supermarket bread will not cut the mustard!
I have used sourdough in my recipe, but ciabatta, focaccia or a country loaf will work just as well.
I toast the bread in the oven in my recipe, this crisps it up nicely and is especially important if the bread is not stale as the crispiness will soak up all the flavours beautifully and won ’t leave you with a soggy mess!
I mean, this salad is totally good enough to eat on its own, however if you are looking for something a bit more substantial you cannot beat a simple nicely roasted chicken shredded and tossed through the salad.
It also pairs nicely with a grilled steak, a piece of pan fried fish or with any BBQ’d meat.
Simply swap the bread for a crusty gluten free tiger loaf like this one.
I’d love to know what you think of the salad - leave me a comment in the box below!
Love this? Check out my other recipes
Hidden Vegetable Tomato Pasta Sauce
Vegan Creamy Mushroom & Broccoli Pasta
PLEASE DOUBLE CHECK ALL PACKAGING FOR ALLERGENS
Panzanella Toscana (Italian Bread Salad)
- 150 g sourdough bread stale - chopped into 2 inch cubes
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 300 g mixed baby tomatoes
- 100 g cucumber sliced, then chopped into quarters
- 10 g basil picked leaves
- ½ red onion thinly sliced
- 55g green olives
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Preheat oven to 180° / gas mark 4
- Chop bread into 2 inch squares and place in roasting tin
- Crush the garlic and mix in a small bowl with the 2tbsp of olive oil. Pour over the chopped bread and toss together
- Bake in oven for 10 minutes until crisp
- Chop the tomatoes in half, slice the cucumber then chop the slices in quarters
- Slice the onion thinly and pick the leaves from the basil
- Mix the olive oil and red wine vinegar
- Add all the salad ingredients to a serving bowl, along with the toasted bread, capers and olives
- Pour over the dressing and mix well
- Leave to sit for 30 minutes before serving
Let me know what you think of this recipe!