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Panzanella (Italian Bread & Tomato Salad)

Panzanella salad is a simple salad made with stale bread and tomatoes as well as other delicious fresh vegetables. 

It is originally from the Tuscan region of Italy and is what would be considered “una ricetta povera” or a “poor man’s recipe”. It was created as a way to use stale bread and make a simple salad a little more substantial. 

This dish is a summer delight that you should absolutely try at home! It is fresh, crunchy, and full of flavor.

colourful italian bread salad in bowl with golden fork beside on counter.
Panzanella salad is not only delicious but a great way to use old bread.

Ingredients

ingredients to make italian panzanella salad on counter with labels.

To make this Panzanella salad recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Stale sourdough bread – The original recipe calls for Tuscan bread, but it can be made with many other types of bread. I recommend sourdough bread or any crusty, rustic bread. Traditionally it is made with white bread, so I don’t recommend using whole wheat bread. Also, avoid sandwich bread or any bread that might be too processed and soft. Day-old bread is perfect for this recipe. 
  • Water – Used to soften the bread slightly. The exact amount you need can vary.
  • White wine vinegar – Adds a nice touch of acidity without adding much flavor. If you want to use other vinegars I recommend either apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. Avoid using any balsamic vinegars. 
  • Tomatoes – Any juicy, ripe tomatoes will do. I like to buy those that have the best aroma and look plump. Do not peel them.
  • Red onion – Red onions are a traditional ingredient, but some people find it too intense. You can substitute spring onion or sweet onion if you prefer.
  • Cucumber – You can use Kirby cucumbers, garden cucumbers, or English cucumbers. Some people add celery or carrots instead, but I highly recommend adding cucumber for freshness and crunch. 
  • Fresh basil – The other star ingredient in this recipe – it really makes this salad taste amazing, so don’t skip it if possible! Always use fresh basil.  
  • Olive oil – Use good quality olive oil.
  • Salt – To season the salad; add to taste.
  • Black pepper – Preferably freshly cracked black pepper for the best taste.

Recipe Tips

  • If you can, make the salad a few hours ahead so the flavors will meld better. Otherwise, let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  • By salting the sliced tomatoes and letting them rest while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, they’ll release some of their tasty juices which are perfect to add to the stale bread. 
  • Incorporate the water slowly – adding a little, mixing, and then adding more if needed – to avoid the bread from turning to mush. 
  • If you prefer less vinegar, adjust to your taste, but keep in mind that panzanella salad is traditionally a bit sour. 
  • If the red onion is too pungent, you can put the slices in a bowl with cold water and gently massage them. Place the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes, then drain the water completely and add the sliced onion to the salad. 
  • Do not cut the basil with a knife but tear it with your hands. Experts say it releases more of its flavor this way. 
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How to Make Panzanella Salad – Step by Step Instructions

If you want to make this Panzanella Salad and like visuals, have a look at the recipe process photos in this section.

Alternatively, feel free to skip to the detailed recipe card (without photos) at the bottom of this post.

tomatoes diced on wooden cutting board with knife beside.
clear mixing bowl of diced tomatoes with golden spoon sticking out.

First, rinse the tomatoes and cut them into cubes.

Then place the cubed tomatoes in a bowl, season with a pinch of salt, and mix well. Let the tomatoes sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.

stale bread diced into cubes on wooden cutting board with knife beside.

Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and set aside.

cucumbers chopped into pieces on wooden cutting board with knife beside.

Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, and then into slices.

red onion cut into slices on wooden cutting board with knife beside.

Peel the red onion and cut it into thin slices.

hand pouring ramekin of liquid into bowl of stale cut bread.

In a large bowl, add the cut bread as well as the white wine vinegar and a bit of the water. Mix well.

bowl of cut bread and tomato mixed together with counter around.

Now add the tomatoes along with any juices they released to the bowl with the bread.

Mix again and, if necessary, add a bit more water until the bread is slightly soft and crumbly, but not mushy.

white mixing bowl of chopped vegetables with gold spoon sticking out on counter.

Add the sliced cucumbers and onion to the bowl.

chopped basil on top of panzanella salad in white mixing bowl.

Tear the basil leaves with your hands and add them to the salad as well.

Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste, and mix everything well.

serving bowl of panzanella salad with smaller serving bowl in front on counter.

Allow the salad to sit in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld. Then serve and enjoy!

Storage Tips

Panzanella salad is usually made in the morning to be eaten for lunch the same day, so I recommend letting it rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

If you can make it a few hours in advance, even better, since the flavors will meld better.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in a sealed container. 

Related Recipes

Here are some other classic Italian recipes you can also make right at home:

colourful italian bread salad in green bowl with golden fork beside.

Panzanella Salad

Italian Panzanella Salad is a bright, colourful, and delicious creation that makes use of stale bread. With tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and a simple dressing, this salad is the perfect summer recipe!
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Resting Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 12 ounces sourdough bread, stale
  • 3/4 cup water, approximately
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, more or less to taste
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 small cucumbers, or 1 large
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Rinse the tomatoes and cut them into cubes. Place the cubed tomatoes in a bowl, season with a pinch of salt, and mix well. Let the tomatoes sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.
    4 large tomatoes
  • Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and set aside.
    12 ounces sourdough bread
  • Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, and then into slices.
    2 small cucumbers
  • Peel the red onion and cut it into thin slices.
    1 red onion
  • In a large bowl, mix the cut bread with the white wine vinegar and a bit of the water. Mix well.
    3/4 cup water, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • To the bowl, add the tomatoes along with any juices they released. Mix again and, if necessary, add a bit more water until the bread is slightly soft and crumbly, but not mushy.
  • Add the sliced cucumbers and onion to the bowl.
  • Tear the basil leaves with your hands and add them to the salad as well.
    1 bunch fresh basil
  • Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste, and mix everything well.
    2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, black pepper
  • Allow the salad to sit in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld.

Notes

  • If you can, make the salad a few hours ahead so the flavors will meld better. Otherwise, let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  • The original recipe calls for Tuscan bread, but it can be made with many other types of bread. Sourdough bread or any crusty, rustic bread is great. Traditionally it is made with white bread, so I don’t recommend whole wheat bread. Avoid sandwich bread or any bread that might be too processed and soft. Day-old bread is perfect for this recipe. 
  • By salting the sliced tomatoes and letting them rest while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, they’ll release some of their tasty juices which are perfect to add to the stale bread. 
  • Incorporate the water slowly – adding a little, mixing, and then adding more if needed – to avoid the bread from turning to mush. 
  • If you prefer less vinegar, adjust to your taste, but keep in mind that panzanella salad is traditionally a bit sour. 
  • If the red onion is too pungent, you can put the slices in a bowl with cold water and gently massage them. Place the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes, then drain the water completely and add the sliced onion to the salad. 
  • Do not cut the basil with a knife but tear it with your hands. Experts say it releases more of its flavor this way. 

Nutrition

Calories: 353kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 538mg | Potassium: 687mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1679IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 85mg | Iron: 4mg

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Salad
Cuisine Italian, Tuscan
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This recipe was contributed by
Alba Luna Meyer
Born and raised in the Southeast of Spain, Alba is a photographer and a foodie. Always hungry for new flavors and recipes, but with a big passion for traditional recipes that speak about roots and family. You can always find her talking about food, photographing it, or cooking! Obviously, she is team “tortilla de patatas con cebolla”.

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