I always forget just how amazing panzanella is, but last week while on retreat in Tuscany our amazing chef prepared it for lunch and I was reminded just how much I love this dish.
Panzanella is a traditional Tuscan salad made with chopped salad vegetables, anchovies, and day old bread soaked in a simple dressing. This classic Tuscan salad always seems too simple to be as good as it is. I mean, day old crusty bread, some juicy ripe summer tomatoes with whatever veggies might be in the fridge, all tossed with a light vinaigrette. Sounds too simple, right? But panzanella is not just another tomato salad with croutons, give it a little time to sit and for the flavors to mingle and soak and this bread salad goes from “pretty good” to something you just won’t be able to stop eating.
The most important players here are clearly the bread and tomatoes. The bread needs to be a hearty artisan kind with a crunchy crust- any other type will become too soggy and disappointing. In Tuscany all of our bread is super crusty and normally gets too hard to eat after a day so this dish was developed out of necessity and a desire to not throw out bread. It is not uncommon for us to stop at the bakery daily for fresh bread for this reason alone.
For the tomatoes, I suggest using the most beautiful, juicy, and vibrantly hued heirloom tomatoes you can find. Luckily for us in Tuscany, tomatoes are like candy in the summer time. They are so incredibly sweet and full of juice unlike anywhere else on the planet. So don’t skimp here.. if you must, go to the farmers market and buy a handful of juicy heirloom tomatoes. You won’t be sorry. The tomato juices will blend with the vinaigrette and add a delicious layer of flavor to the dish.
You can leave your salad just like this or you can add fresh veggies you have on hand. For example red onion, cucumbers, peppers, etc.. I also love adding some anchovies and capers. But really you can get creative here and add your favorite veggies.
Try it sometime and let me know what you think. Or come visit me in Tuscany and I’ll make it for you.
Next yoga retreat in Tuscany is scheduled for October 5-9, 2017. And registration is now open (wink).
- 6 large slices firm (stale, 2 to 3 days old is perfect) Tuscan-style bread
- 3 tablespoons wine or apple vinegar
- Half a cup good extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and chopped medium
- 1 lb juice ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped medium
- Half a small, sweet red onion, very finely sliced
- Cherry tomatoes to decorate, halved (optional)
- handful of capers
- handful of oil soaked anchovies, finely chopped (optional)
- EITHER: Soak the bread in water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar for 10-15 minutes. Squeeze out the water very, very well and crumble. Place in a large serving dish (traditional Tuscan method, giving an almost tabbouleh-like texture)
- OR: Cut the bread into small (1/2 inch) cubes. Place in a large serving dish (modern method that works well with all kinds of bread and gives more bite to the texture).
- Add a pinch of salt, some pepper, another splash of vinegar, and half the oil. Mix well.
- Now add the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, the chopped basil, and the rest of the oil.
- Cover well and chill for at least an hour before serving for the flavors to blend well.
- Decorate with cherry tomatoes if you like.