Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad)

I should be back in a week, maybe two. Nothing’s wrong, just taking a bit of a staycation while I work on some new projects and recipes.

This post is from August 2009 and is one of my favorite summer lunches once tomatoes are in season. My Tuscan friend tells me that the bread should be ground, so for that authentic, traditional flavor, send the soaked bread cubes through a grinder fitted with a coarse blade before putting the recipe together. For another Tuscan’s take that’s super-easy and doesn’t need a grinder, see the comments. Traditionally, this seems to be a pretty soft salad, even if I do like a bit of crunch in mine!

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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