Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad)

Panzanella

Occasionally, I’ll buy a baguette at the store to have with a meal. Sometimes it’s a whim, sometimes I forgot to take a ball of dough out to make my own, sometimes I just don’t feel like baking it myself. The only problem is, there’s always some left over, even after snacks and lunch the next day. It doesn’t take very long for a baguette to go stale unfortunately.

There are a lot of things you can do with stale bread, making bread crumbs is the first that springs to mind for me. But the tastiest I’ve found is panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad.

It’s simple to make and throw together and makes an excellent lunch, even in the winter. While it probably tastes best with fresh, ripe tomatoes, it can be made with a decent brand of canned tomatoes (and always, of course, with your own) in a pinch. Though this recipe came about as another way to use up stale bread, I like to take fresh bread and toast it up into garlic bread just for this salad. Yum.

Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad) [printable recipe]

Serves 2

  • about 4″ to 6″ stale or fresh baguette or french bread
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes or 3 Roma tomatoes1, chopped
  • 2 – 3 tbsp fresh basil2, sliced
  • 2 slices turkey bacon or 1 thick slice bacon, cooked crisp and chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp capers3
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • salt, pepper

If the baguette or french bread isn’t too stale, slice it up and toast it. I like to spread butter or olive oil on top followed by a sprinkling of my garlic bread spice mix (dried parsley, granulated garlic, salt) before toasting. Let cool enough to handle, then chop up into bite-size pieces.

If the bread is already nicely stale, chop it into bite-size pieces. If using canned tomatoes, drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid. Toss the bread cubes with the liquid in a medium bowl so they’ll begin to soften. If using fresh tomatoes, chop tomatoes then toss with the bread cubes.

Combine drained tomatoes (if using), basil, bacon, capers and red onion with the bread. Drizzle over with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste, then toss well.

Notes:

  1. I don’t bother peeling fresh tomatoes, but if it bothers you, blanch them and peel them before chopping.
  2. Any fresh herb will do here. I like basil for its peppery tanginess, but fresh oregano, thyme or marjoram would all work well, as would parsley.
  3. Adding a chopped roasted red pepper or some minced anchovy would also be good.

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4 Responses to Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad)

  1. kim says:

    I’ve to say yours is much better than the one I had at a restaurant yesterday. Mine only came with halved grap tomatoes, green beans, and red onion. I’ve a question – do you have to put olive oil on the bread? Is that the tradition? I find it a bit heavy for me.

    Lovely site you’ve here. :)

    • Cori Rozentāle says:

      Thank you for the compliments! :)

      While olive oil is traditional, tradition is no reason to eat something you don’t care for. Sometimes I drizzle just a teensy bit of extra-virgin over it myself. If you find the oil too heavy, leave it out or cut it back to the barest drizzle if you miss the flavor, but don’t omit the balsamic.

  2. Oriana says:

    another tuscan friend butting in…bread must be placed in cold water, in chunks, you should then use your hands to crumble it – it shouldn’t however end up too crumbled! Normally the bread is almost the same size of the vegetables..
    there are very simple rules that make the difference. Love your picture!

    • Cori Rozentāle says:

      Oriana: It seems everyone has their own ways of doing it! I like yours better than his, I think, since I don’t have to dirty up my grinder. :) Thank you!

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